It’s been a minute, and while we have no new Weirdo Dublin Pub this week, thanks to an epic period of work/kid/theatre/music travel that isn’t quite done yet, I did get to indulge in one of my favourite things a lot last week – cask ale! Just, well, not in Dublin.
The first bit of cask enjoyment was not unexpected: I was on one of my regular work trips to the office in London, and finally managed to squeeze in some evening theatre with Sondheim’s Old Friends* and a Mandy Patinkin** concert, so stopping off at The Harp in Covent Garden was a no-brainer, even it was for just a brief pint. But I have also finally discovered what feels like my Work Local in The Dean Swift – it’s a short walk from the office, beautifully renovated, and it had a well-curated list of craft and craft-cask options, as well as some excellent food (gorgeous pumpkin ravioli!). Having an Irish nod in the name is a nice bonus, and I will most certainly be stopping back in regularly, now that I’ve properly discovered it. I also saw that Whiplash will be pouring their Slow Life stout there, so it’s nice to know there’s an interest in Irish craft beer in the Big Smoke. I’ll be back again in a few weeks…just for a bit of quality control, you see.
But I also enjoyed that rarest of rare events – a cask ale festival, in Ireland! We used to go to regular cask fests in both Philly and Seattle, and had plenty of good options for local and imported cask, so it was a bit of an adjustment to have essentially none available locally when we moved here (though initially, both The Underdog and The Black Sheep had regular cask offerings – it’s been a very slow return) – but this is old news to any semi-regular readers. Fortunately, the team behind the Mullingar Wild Ale Festival decided to organize a cask festival as well…and a good time was had by all. I think Simon’s write-up is an excellent place to start – he was much speedier than I ever manage to be, but he has some useful insights into why cask just isn’t much of a thing here, as well as some great photos; I neglected to take many myself (and not for any ‘living in the moment social media break’ reasons – just pure laziness).
But it was a really lovely little festival – all out the back of a pub in Mullingar, but sheltered from the elements. I’d never previously been to Mullingar and cannot claim any real familiarity with it now, but it was a convenient location – on a direct train line from my local station, so a very short walk on both ends. And, perhaps even more crucially, space to sit down and relax, and a generally unhurried pace of events. The only urgency was around grabbing a glass of the Dead Centre Sham Maths, which was correctly predicted to run out early, so after making that my first pour, all was well (and it was delicious on cask, as amber ales should be).
And while I adored having the chance to try some of my usual go-tos on cask – special shout-out to Ballykilcavan’s Bin Bawn Pale Ale – the overall ‘best of the fest’ for me was from Third Barrel, whose Afternoon Delight was a joy – a hoppy stout, very much in the vein of my inaccessible Pennsylvania fave, Troegs Dead Reckoning Porter; I may have gone back for a few. The tiny dimpled mugs were a nice touch, too.
So while I have some cask-adjacent trips planned in the lead-up to Christmas – back to London a few times, and up to Belfast for Uncanny Live – It was so pleasant to have a cask-filed afternoon out that required only minimal travel. Yes, it’s a bit annoying that cask is rare here, but it also makes finding it a bit of an adventure, and that’s never a bad thing.