Last Monday we sampled beer from the Franciscan Well Brewery in Cork, Ireland. We return to test their cask ale.
A week ago in Dublin, we tried their Purgatory Pale Ale from cask at the Bull and Castle. I got a touch romantic: “Franciscan Well’s ‘Purgatory’ is hardly hell: it is beguiling, a bit sarcastic, and very good (4 of 5): like a first date who clearly is over you by the end. I suppose we should stop by Cork after all.”
Oh, how naive.
So, how does a tank, at home, compare to a cask in Dublin?
PURGATORY PALE ALE (TANK):
Straight off, it feels far colder than the cask. It is still a hazy gold, but without the sediment. My nose picks up a slight funk, with strong apple pie, nuts, and floral whiffs.
Acid, tannin, and body all arrive amped up. Flavors of lovely tart apple skin and classic cascade hoppy pine dominate. Gone are the “drizzled honey, warmed by an oaky vanilla.” The length is medium plus. Purgatory ranks at very good (4 of 5), even from tank. It just lacks the softness and complexity that the cask version brought. The cask’s “smirking hops” taste louder, pine-like, and tart.
Then we notice a cask behind the bar. Luck smiles. Time to test their tank Rebel Red against its cask-aged brethren.
REBEL RED (TANK):
Cold again. The glass is dressed in an extra dark copper red with a 2cm cream-colored head. Powerful aromas remind me of toffee, malt, wheat, and caramel. Tannins and body are up. It tastes of charred bread crust, malt, and red apple. I try the cask and go back. The tank tastes far toastier and edgier. The length lasts an extra long while. Very good (4 of 5).
REBEL RED (CASK):
This feels warmer. I can’t see through its hazier, darker, red amber. Less fizz and less head survive. Aromas smell a tick less strong but throw up caramel toffee, raisins, and a clear pine hop. Odd.
The structures are mellowed here. The body is still big. But flavors have side-stepped. Up front that red apple before now tastes dried. Moodier notes of vanilla oak, toffee, and barley have moved in. A quiet bit of pine and grapefruit from the hops build into a finish that delicately holds the end. The length is also medium plus. The cask Rebel Red is very good (4 of 5). Oak time has made it mellow, more complex, and oddly, noticeably hoppier. Just like me after a few. Weird.
I love beer from cask (probably because I still prefer wine). Wood mellows out beer’s bitterness and acid, while layering in toast, vanilla, or cedar. Meanwhile, beer from these gleaming copper tanks retains more vibrancy, structure, and life. You want protein and fry to deal with their intensity. Cask beer delights alone (or maybe with a soft, aged cheese). Really, both have their place.
- Sunday School: Firkins & Cask Conditioned Beer (sarabozich.com)
- Three Beers You Need To Try (jacamoblog.co.uk)
- Blarney Castle, the Franciscan Well Brewery: Cork, Ireland Part 1 (waywardwine.wordpress.com)
- Fresh Cask (widdershinslit.wordpress.com)
- Irish microbreweries on the rise says Doolin Craft Beer Festival (irishcentral.com)
- Fire Island’s new owners are self-confessed ‘beer geeks’ keen to expand worldwide (walesonline.co.uk)