STOP THE PRESS. Someone else has attempted to brew a legit IPA in Ireland.
This time it’s those stalwarts of the Cork beer scene, Franciscan Well, who may or may not be craft brewers anymore (they were recently bought out by those international conglomerate big boys at MolsonCoors). Craft? Not craft? Kraft?! Who gives a toss.
So, Cork/Canada’s own have recently brewed a 7.5% ABV India Pale Ale (single hopped with Citra) which they’ve released in a limited amount of just 1,200 50cl bottles. Why? I just don’t know. In my mind, a beer such as this should be a staple in a brewer’s arsenal, produced on a constant basis to satisfy the country’s growing demands for local hoppy beer. Hopefully they’re just releasing this ‘special’ as a bit of a prototype, in order to get some feedback and tweak the recipe as required before releasing it on a larger scale…well, here’s some feedback, lads.
There’s something ever so slightly charmless and corporate about the bottle. Like signage directing you to a board meeting or the label on a box of printer ink. Don’t judge a beer by its label though…
Franciscan Well’s IPA pours a deep copper colour with a pretty impressive and lasting amount of white foam – looks pretty good – plenty of thick lacing throughout, which tends to be a good sign. The aroma gives a big chunk of caramel and nuttiness first up (not ideal territory for an IPA) but then there’s some definite hop character coming through as well, albeit in a muted way: tangerines, light tropical fruit (think pineapple and a bit of mango), and a bit of citrus zing are all there, but more as an afterthought to the maltiness.
This particular flavour combo actually works much better upon tasting – it’s a pretty well balanced beer; both malt and hops are there and are working together to produce something decent. All of that sweet caramel and slightly chewy nuttiness is there alongside the almost-floral tropical fruit (definitely more mango going on), a limey citrus bite, and sweet sugary tangerine notes. There’s a bit of herbal stuff happening (gets up into your nose via the back of your throat) which is often one of the hallmarks of the Citra hop: interesting. The caramel malt dominates as the beer warms, getting a bit too sticky for my liking (although I’m of the school that says caramalt should be excommunicated from IPA brewing, so take that with a pinch of salt). There’s a touch of bitterness, but nothing overpowering – some herbal earthiness and a touch of citric bite lingers into the aftertaste.
Well, this can certainly be described as a subtle affair – nowt too shouty or ‘out-there’ at all. No problem with that. Pretty surprising that this is a 7.5%-er to be honest – this could easily pass for a fairly hoppy sessionable American Pale Ale in the 5% bracket. My only gripe comes with thinking about what this could have been: Citra is one hell of a hop, especially when used as the sole player in a 7%+ IPA (check out The Kernel’s mind-blowing Citra IPA to see what I mean) and I just get the feeling they could have used more. This isn’t the first Irish beer I’ve said this about and it sure as hell won’t be the last. Franciscan Well’s offering is certainly getting there though, there’s no doubt about that, and with a bit of tweaking it could be something really interesting.
Being a limited edition, you might find it tricky getting hold of a bottle of this, but I do know that Probus Wines in Dublin just received a couple of cases of it – it retails around the four and a half quid mark for a half litre bottle. Worth a go if you can get hold of it.