Saturday 23rd August 2014
Initially I thought this pub was in a somewhat unusual location to have its own brewery. That was of course before I visited the hostelry. From the outside I could see this was a very well presented watering hole. It has a corner situation in the suburb of Mayfield and it is large. On the main road it has its own attached off-licence, not uncommon in Ireland. The door I entered through led to the public bar with a pool table. There were two taps dispensing home-brewed beers.
I ordered a half of their lager as I wanted to finish on the stout. After mentioning this to the barman he said their there were more beers available in the lounge and took my beer through to that bar. Here I could see that there were four beers on offer and he explained that there were three regulars and one seasonal available. Not only that, he actually offered me the other three as a free sampler set.
I am aware that there are no cask beers offered; it is not the norm in Ireland. Yet I found that only the Lager had excessive gas, presumably that is the style that most of its regular drinkers prefer. The true tastes of the ales shone through and I could tell that they were well crafted indeed. I was particularly struck by the Stout, which was not soft as the typical Cork style. It was a robust interpretation of the Irish dry Extra Stout type and was absolutely delicious. It is now my favourite Irish stout and naturally it is served by mixed gas.
These were the beers offered:
Lynch's Stout (4.3%) is made with 5 malts and flaked barley. The main brew uses US and New Zealand hops with a Kentish aroma hop added in the last stages of the boil. It is matured in old oak Jack Daniels casks.
Mayfield Lager (4.2%) is made with 100% malted barley farmed and kilned in Co. Cork. The initial boil uses Columbus and Galena hops from the USA with Hersbrucker, Perle and Halletau from Germany added last.
Kerry Lane Pale Ale (5.0%) is unfiltered and uses US Cascade as its main hop.
The final offering was Indian Summer Ale (4.6%). I'm not sure, but it could be their first seasonal offering. It uses Lager malt with a small amount of Crystal malt along with US and New Zealand hops. There has been considerable investment in this brewery and it shows. The first beer was offered at a brewery opening on 25th January of this year (2014). Its capacity is 5 barrels. This is measured in brewer's barrels and I would class this size as a typical small brewery.
A better idea of the output is to look at the size of the fermentation vessels which consist of four ale fermenters of 800 litres capacity. These handle stouts and ales using top fermenting yeast. There are also four upright conical fermenters of the same size for the lager, using bottom fermenting yeast. There are another two distribution tanks, also of 800 litres used to hold beers ready for kegging and bottling.
Well, that's what brought me to the pub, yet I was surprised to find out that it has a long and interesting history that deserves to be mentioned. So often when researching these articles I discover so much more than I expected. This pub has been in the ownership of the Lynch family since 1874 and the current licensee, Jack Lynch is the grandson of the founder and his son Humphrey is one of the two brewers.
As far as the pub is concerned the story begins with the birth of Humphrey J. Lynch in the village of Ballyvourney, Co. Cork, in 1841. This was a time of enormous deprivation in the Irish countryside and as a result, at the age of 15 he emigrated to America.
Once there he worked on a farm at Byfield in New England that was owned by Joseph Longfellow, cousin of the famous poet. After two years on the farm, a time he acknowledges as the most formative in his life, he got a job in the shipyard of Charles Currier at Newburyport.
After a year this was the place he was to enlist into the US Army's 4th Regiment of Light Infantry. The reason was of course, the outbreak of the Civil War. He rose from Private to Sergeant and was eventually discharged in 1865 after considerable action, mostly on the Mississippi.
Then, for the next 14 years he worked in a cotton mill in Newburyport. At the very end of the 1870s he returned to Ireland as his wife was not too well. Here he purchased a pub in the village of Baile na Mbocht on the outskirts of Cork. Looking at the building of the pub I would guess it was built about this time, possibly replacing an older structure.
Because of his previous working experiences in America the pub was named the Cotton Ball. Later, when the pub was well established, the village was renamed Mayfield in recognition of a town he lived in whilst in the USA. There is another wonderful connection with that country, as on his return he brought an American flag with him which has 39 stars on it.
Yet, never at any time have there been 39 states in the Union. It is believed that the manufacturer of the flag thought that the next state to be admitted was to be Dakota, which actually entered as two states, North and South, so the total went up from 38 to 40 with there never being 39! Another artefact from the past in the pub that interested me was an invoice from James J Murphy of the Lady's Well Brewery in Cork, dated 1896. The pub purchased Porter from them. They could have had X or even XX. I would guess these were Stouts.
Back in the pub I found the Lounge to be very comfortable. There are prints and photographs displayed all around the room. Part of it is in a raised level three steps up. There is a lot of varnished wood all over the place with there being a very large bookcase at one end of the room. There are a number of polished upturned barrels that are convenient for resting a pint on.
The brewery has come a long way since it was established just eight months previously and their beers are finding their place in other outlets. They can be imbibed in the following pubs and bars: The Abbot Ale House, The Crane Lane Theatre, The Friary, and the Bierhaus, all in Cork, and also at the Mad Monk at Midelton. Soon to be stocking their beers will be Crostigan's and Ziggy's in Cork and McDaid's Bar in Midelton.
Despite this greater availability the best place to drink the beers are at the Cotton Ball and it almost certainly has the best selection. It's well worth the short trip out of the city centre.
The Cotton Ball, 18 Old Youghal Road, Mayfield, Cork. Tel: 021 450 3096
Open: Monday-Thursday 10.30-23.30; Friday-Saturday 10.30-00.30; Sunday 12.30-23.00
As I arrived at the railway station I caught a taxi out to the pub. However, if you are in the city centre there is a very efficient way of getting to the pub and that is the 208 bus. It runs along St Patrick's Street in the centre and operates every 10 minutes, every 20 minutes on Sunday.