Sunday, June 6, 2010

Something for the (Longest) Weekend...

I've always been a big fan of the Good Friday drinks ban, it has many advantages, not least of which is the slightly counter-intentional effect of promoting the day as one of the most important drinking days of the year. There's no other day that you can combine having a few beers at home with a very civil civil rebellion. I always make it a point to make sure that Good Friday stands for "Good Number of Good Beers Friday" in my house. So this year I was expecting that having a brewery full of beer that I might be able to avoid the pre-prohibition enactment in every off-licence in the country on Maundy Thursday. It didn't quite work out as I'd expected. Rather counter-intentionally having a brewery full of beer meant that it proved to be the soberest Good Friday I can remember, that is, it was a Good Friday I can remember. In the end I had one token pint of beer, before a very early night, the reason for this was the day was spent preparing for the Franciscan Well Easterfest in Cork.

We'd signed up to be at the Easterfest a few weeks earlier, despite the fact that we still didn't have a functioning brewery, though we were nearing completion. We figured that it was just about possible that if the beer gods smiled upon us (i.e. worked our arses off) that the first batch would be ready just in time. So we'd presented ourselves with a deadline, and as every college student knows, there's nothing like a fast approaching deadline to get you motivated. So we got the brewery completed, roughly on time, got it cleaned up, did our initial test, and completed our first brew day, all with enough time to let the beer ferment and condition. Though we barely had time for a hearty round of "hurrahs" and "jolly good show chaps", (we'd chosen "international-pretend-to-be-upper-class-English-day" for our brewing), before having to sort out all the other festival related paraphernalia needed. So while the beer fermented, which is fortunately a labour diffuse process as we also had to get a bar built and source the bar taps and fittings. Not to mention ordering a big orange banner and lurid orange t-shirts.

All of which brought us to Good Friday, the day that we had precisely timed the beer conditioning to end, and one day before the festival started. This meant that the pre-festival rush to get the kegs cleaned and filled, and the van loaded and driven to Cork was on. Not overlooked was the fact that we had our very first taste of the finished beer ourselves, for if that went badly we'd be making a very forlorn and apologetic call to the Franciscan Well and probably going home to hide in the wardrobe for the weekend instead. But fortunately we didn't have to deal with this eventuality and we were off to Cork to set-up stall. All of which meant that by the end of Good Friday bed beckoned rather than the now traditional session.

So by the time Saturday rolled 'round we were ready for our first taste of beer festival life on the other side of the bar, but only after we'd unloaded the van, set-up our bar, made sure the beer was pouring properly and got the little light in the bar tap to illuminate. And naturally we also had to introduce ourselves to the other breweries who were in attendance and who were all very welcoming especially since we were the new kids on the block, in the non rubbish-80s-boy-band sense. It wasn't long after that the doors were opened on the festival and we sold our first ever pint of beer, which we'd named "Ór" from the Irish for gold, it being after all, a golden ale. The Franciscan Well wasn't long about filling up either, so throughout the day there was a steady stream of customers curious about our new beer, with plenty of questions that we were happy to answer. Not forgetting to mention plenty of pints being poured and drunk too. Though there was a good deal of halves being served as well, clearly with so many beers to taste at the festival a lot of people were having a half of each, obviously overlooking the fact that we'd created a session beer.

The Sunday was more-a-less a carbon copy of the previous day, with the work behind the bar consisting of serving thirsty beer drinkers, making sure the beer was pouring correctly and lugging about kegs of beer as they emptied and needed to be replenished. And full kegs are heavy, heavy things, so after all our efforts to get the beer into them in the first place, I was more than happy to see them empty again so soon. Mainly because it meant that people had been happily drinking "Ór", but also because empty kegs are a lot easier to lug about.

And even though our drive home following day was before the opening of the new motorway and we got stuck in Abbeyleix as expected, it was a very satisfying weekend where we got to meet loads of beer enthusiasts and have a few sneaky halves of not only our own beer, but some of the other breweries beers too.