In the week running up to this year’s event I had heard misgivings from ‘industry insiders’ and one online punter mused that he couldn’t see the festival being sustainable in its current form. The fact is that, just a few years back The Irish Craft Beer Festival was THE ONLY show in town. Now, The Great Irish Beer Festival in Cork is giving it a run for its money and you also have the option of attending smaller, more local festivals like Yeast Meets West which also took place this weekend. Or you could hop on a short flight to Beavertown’s bash in London. Those events give punters and brewers an awful lot more choice. So yeah, there has been a decline in the number of breweries taking part in the festival from what I perceive as a high point in 2014.
On the flip side, one of the brewers I spoke with said that takings were well up on the previous year. So he definitely saw the positive in having less breweries in attendance. I went in to the hall with somewhat lowered expectations coupled with the usual fear of missing out. One tip I had heard was to make sure and try the Epic Big Bad Baptist which was on the American Brewers Association stand. So I made my way there first. Always start with the strongest darkest beer possible. Isn’t that the rule of thumb at these things? This lived up to its name, big, ballsy, viscous, chewy, caramel, deliciousness. And I was lucky enough to bag some of the last bottle!
I strolled down to Boyne’s bar and picked up a few pals along the way. I tried their pilot Old English IPA. It ticked the ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’ box. Flying in the face of the current trend for American Style IPAs this one packs in English hops instead. Fair play Boyne Brewhouse.
By contrast Western Herd’s Cliff Road was very much in vogue. It’s not hazy enough to be a New England Style IPA but when it smells as tropical and tastes as good as it does, who cares?
Larkin’s only started brewing in May and it was great to be able to try out some of their beers. The Czech Amber Lager was ‘on point’ as the young folk say.
Then it was across the hall to try the Flanders Red Ale from Lough Gill which came highly recommended. It was indeed a tasty drop. They are also making mead which was delicious and quite different to everything else pouring at the festival.
I was delighted to see the collaboration with Stillwater sitting waiting for me on Trouble Brewing’s bar. It’s a sour, brewed with hibiscus. Dry, refreshing and interesting.
Next I had Eight Degrees Monsoon. It’s a fruity IPA but for some reason it didn’t tickle my tonsils. It is the 445th IPA I’ve checked in on Untappd and I’d say a fair few of those were from Eight Degrees and I have enjoyed the vast bulk of ’em but you can’t win ’em all! By contrast I loved The Grainfather Stout aged in Pinot Barrels with cacao husks. That’s one for sipping of a winter evening.
My penultimate beer of the festival was a well crafted Blond from Bridewell Brewery. Another newcomer, taking the well worn path of starting out with a Blond and a Red, not very original, but, well executed in fairness.
The very last beer of the afternoon was a mighty fine IPA from O Brother called The Rainmaker. Those lads are fierce handy at the IPAs and this was a juicy banger.
On the whole, I have to say I enjoyed the event, there was a nice crowd and a pleasant atmosphere. It isn’t perfect and we all want to drink from real glasses. But it was good to see some new brewers coming along and to try new beers from the more established breweries. See you there in 2018. Sláinte!