Brewing up a storm – Irish craft beer goes from strength to strength
From a Belfast Blonde to a Troubled Hooker to a White Gypsy – Festival Fit gets bogged down in brew
Beer bunnies at the Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival in Dublin’s RDS
Many of the festival adventures that have shimmied and skipped across this section of these pages have been steeped, soaked and stewed in beer suds.
I’m not saying you need drink to enjoy yourself, I’m saying that I need drink to enjoy myself. Not all the time but there are certain situations where a social lubricant enriches my experience; the liquid equivalent of an Instagram filter. Too much Instagram image enhancing chicanery, though, can suck the life and energy out of a photograph, making it seem jaded and over-aged. The application of alcohol filters to my festival adventures can have similar effects on me. I may finally have hit the beer wall.
Last week saw the purveyors of the finest ciders, stouts, ales and brews the island has to offer, set out their stalls inside the RDS in Ballsbridge, Dublin.
It was awfully cruel that during the first two nights of this beer bonanza, there were students corralled in the hall next door, repeating college exams that may have been scuppered first-time around due to distilled distractions.
The Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival poured out nearly 100 different brews from all over the country; gallons worth of tastings to slurp through. It would have been negligent not to arrive early with a thirst. Many of the brewers worked tirelessly in the run up to this festival of fermentation, creating brews specially concocted for the event. The Dungarvan Brewing Company bubbled up a Belgian farmhouse Saison delight that I was assured had hints of cumin and orange peel. I supped deeply and often, purely to educate my palate.
I flitted from a Belfast Blonde to a sweet, smooth Troubled Hooker to a White Gypsy, stopping to spend some time with an intoxicating Mountain Man. I was like a calf in a teat shop. The lads from Franciscan Well impressed me greatly by rinsing punters’ glasses with beer before refilling the festival embossed jars with wonderful elixirs of their own design. Their Jameson Stout has created a buzz amongst aficionados of ól. The stout is aged in Jameson casks, and as a result has a warm whiskey finish and a little more punch than your average porter. Jameson’s casks are in high demand and the Franciscan Well crew are doing very well to get their hoppy hands on them.
Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale is an American twist on the same technique. The innocent looking rich ruby-red brew, decanted by happy helpful hosts, belies a beer that kicks like Bruce Lee’s ginnet. Pearse Lyons started his career brewing Guinness and Harp, picking up skills that eventually saw him ending up in Kentucky, working in the bloodstock industry.
Lyons still had a love of beer and brewing and eventually he reopened the doors of the Lexington Brewing Company, where they now brew a whole stable of Kentucky kickers.
The business of craft beer is booming, sales in the sector rose by 42.5 per cent last year and Bord Bia predicts they will rise by a further
35 per cent next year.
The guild of grog warriors have already launched some attacks on the gates of our large-scale festivals. Vantastival offers some of the best value beer on the circuit and this year they tapped into casks of Irish craft beer. Indiependence not only had a Craft Beer Hall featuring brews from Franciscan Well and Full Moon Brewery, there were also free beer tasting sessions run by the Craft Beer Collection.
Chipping away at the monopoly that the beer behemoths wield at our biggest festivals is a welcome turn of events for folk who enjoy a slug of barley pop at a gig.
A BYOB policy is utopian, but increased competition and choice is a heartening happenstance for the partying proletariat. Viva la bevolution!
Safe travels, don’t die.