I attended two sunny beer festivals this summer. The first was Hilden in August* which started out a little questionable (cloudy) before clearing up nicely with the sun beaming down on people.
|This is from the 2011 festival, I did not take enough pics.|
A short video of the festival.
I had a lot of beer at Hilden but I think the two that stood out most for me were both from the Ossett brewery. Hop monster was just a fantastic topical and summer fruit IPA with a superb bitter finish and possibly even better was Dirty Rat, an unassuming and obscure hand written label with no info. It was only after some enquiries that we found out that it's brewed by the Rat brewery, owned by Ossett and possibly using the same brewing equipment. It's a 3.5% dark mild, bordering on porter that's packed full of flavour. I could have consumed vast quantities all night but I had to head to Belfast to have an anniversary dinner with my wife, who had spent the day relaxing at a spa.
Incidentally we went to Molly's Yard which is owned by Hilden. I wanted Barney's brew but some feckers from Hilden had come in and taken it all for the festival which left me with headless dog. Ah well, the food was excellent and there is little wrong with headless dog anyway.
|Beer bloggers & Beoir members manning the ticket desk.|
The other one was in Dublin, the second All Ireland Craft Beer Festival was the big one and I was very much looking forward to it especially after missing last year due to being in Australia. I arrived on Friday evening for hour while I was waiting for Steve (BeersI'veKnown) to arrive. We were both spending all day on Saturday at the festival. The weather was good all weekend but Saturday was just glorious.
On Saturday we arrived about 1pm, which as it turns out was an hour after Steve's shift started so he was straight on the desk (pictured above) while I had 2 hours to kill before my shift. It was pretty empty at this point which was great for wandering around.
I decided to start with some cider because if I didn't, I would end up not bothering later. Mac Ivors dry cider was lovely. I'm not a cider drinker any more but I was able to finish most of my half pint before it was time to hit the beer.
Hilden was down sporting their new branding but with the exception of Down Pilgrim, there was nothing else I did not have a few weeks before at Hilden. That did ot stop me from having the likes of Barney's Brew and Twisted Hop on Friday. Down Pilgrim itself was a lovely session quaffer.
Just before lunch I grabbed a half of the new Octoberfest Marzen from 8 degrees and I am of the opinion that this was the beer of the festival. It was not a hugely complex oak aged imperial stout or any other type of fancy brew. This was a simple lager brewed to perfection. Tonnes of Munich malt for a full body and the noble hops providing a strong peppiness that was a delight to the senses.
|Festival entrance as seen from the lawn & food area.|
Myself and Oblivious from Beoir had lunch in the sun, drinking our Octoberfests and talking about beer to three lovely American girls over here studying. We recommended the Octoberfest as well as a number of other beers.
Another beer that stood out for me was from Carlow, the Oak aged Leann Folláin (my second favourite at the festival) on cask was just pure heaven and far superior to the Kentucky Bourbon Barrel beer that Carlow are importing at the moment. I was less impressed by their new Winter Star which just did not seem to do anything for me. I only had a sample though as I will wait to see it in winter.
Franciscan Well were on top form with not only a lovely dry hopped rebel red on cask, there was a double dry hopped version which I missed out on (gone in 23 mins I heard) but most impressive of all was the new Mi Dazza stout (third favourite). There is nothing wrong with their regular Shandon stout but Mi Dazza is something special. As soon as I tasted it I told them that this is what I wish the Porterhouse Wrasslers XXXX tasted like. A proper old-mans stout but oh so downable at the same time.
Dungarvan had a few new beers but I only got their IPA which I recall being very good. I missed out on their RyePA though. Their dry hopped Copper Coast however was a little off I think.
White Gypsy had their Russian Imperial stout and Dopplebock in bottles (as well as the regulars on tap) and I was very impressed with both, especially the stout.
Metalman was a big hit for me with their Moonbeam stout. I had a lot of that on Sunday. Lovely on tap but even better on cask I thought. There was also a few of their beers with fruit added like Moonbeam and Chameleon Ginger. I don't think I had the special moonbeam but the Chameleon Ginger was great on cask.
One brewery I never made it to was Bo Bristle, I meant to try it on Sunday but got caught up so something far more important. What you ask? Well it's simple and it's the reason I missed so many beers.
Saturday was the day I was working. It was from 3 till 8pm. I did a few hours on the desk and then the rest of my time was served on the 8 degrees beer where I watched with fascination as the Octoberfest kept going until I at least poured the last one. I filled some sample glasses with the dregs for those who would miss out.
A little later that night I jumped on the White Gypsy bar to help them, even though my sift was well over.
On Sunday (was not working) I arrived at about 7pm after a pub crawl around Dublin with Steve. I intended to go to Bo Bristle but first I went to Metalman and then decided that no one had given Grainne and Tim a break so I spent the rest of the evening pouring pints until next thing I knew it was kicking out time.
So I missed out on a number of beers because of my willingness to lend a hand and you know what? I would not have changed a thing because standing behind those bars and talking to people about beer while pulling pints was so satisfying and so much fun that I could not care less about missing out on the odd beer that I will surely get to try at a later stage. The fact that I could pour free beer for myself was also a bonus of course.
I drank a lot more beer than I mentioned and I took notes for none of them because note taking at beer festivals can be unflattering to the beer I find, except the first few while it's quiet. I will certainly be looking forward to next year, though of course there are a few during winter to come.
* Technically August, and indeed September are Autumn in Ireland