On the 5th of September, the doors opened for the third Irish Craft Beer and Cider Festival. OK perhaps not with the same name, it used to be the All Ireland Craft Beer Festival but since we wanted to make it more obvious that we also have an emerging Craft Cider scene, the name was changed to suit. 7,500 people were expected over the 4 days but it became clear that we would likely exceed that number and the total was a little over 10,000.
The festival opened on the Thursday evening at 5 and got quite busy considering it was a week-night. Friday was even busier as you might expect but it was Saturday that took us by surprise. We knew it would be busy but we couldn't imagine just how many people would show up. There was barely a moments peace for those working the door. For clarification, the event was staffed by Beoir volunteers. We staffed the door and the information/merchandise stand as well as other jobs like helping behind the bars where needed.
At one point, there was a 10 minute queue outside and the merchandise stand had to be closed and turned in to another check in desk for about an hour, thought that big queue got cleared in about 15 minutes. The queue for the beer tokens however was stretching the whole length of the hall about the same time. Only two people asked for their money back and left. That's encouraging as it seems people were happy to wait for their craft beer. While the token queue was being dealt with, we encouraged people to go around and ask for some samples for 20 minutes, then they would know what they want when they get their tokens. People seemed happy with that arrangement.
The mechanise stand was a little haphazard but it went down very well. By the time we got to Sunday evening, we (Beoir) had sold our last packets of Keogh's crisps (potato chips) and the T-Shirts started selling a lot better on the Sunday too. One thing I should say is that once you were in the door and paid your €10, everything good value from there on. Pints were €5 which is cheaper than many pubs in Dublin. More importantly, half pints were €2.50 and since half pints are generous, it was more economical to get half pints, which often approached two thirds of a pint.
Also excellent value was the food. Everything cost between €6 and €8 for a meal. For instance, the pieman sold his €6 pies with two sides for €8 and it was a full meal. On the Friday, an excellent fish and chip stand arrived outside to join the wood fired pizza and burger/hot dog grill. You could also get a cheese plate for €5, always a great thing to have at a beer festival. We sold the crisps for €1 which is either the same as the shops, or a little cheaper. The point is, this wasn't a money grabbing festival with inflated prices. It was excellent value.
In terms of beer, there were some fantastic beers available, some of which I missed, even though I was there all 4 days. I was simply too busy working. As usual, I was scheduled for only one day but I ended up working almost the entire time I was there. I will mention some of my favourite beers in a moment but it you take a look at the O'Hara's stand and all the beer they had available, you get the idea of just how much beer was available. The only issue with the beer was that the West Kerry casks didn't survive the summer heat and were undrinkable.
Tim O'Rourke launched his book at the ICBCF on the Saturday and Sunday. The book is called The Good Craft Brewery Guide - Ireland and is available to purchase on the Beoir website here. One thing to mention is that Beoir members get €2 off the RRP. Postage and Packaging for Ireland/UK is included by the way.
|Yours truly pulling pints: Picture by Seán O'Reilly|
Other beers of note was the Kinsale Pale Ale on the hop randall. For those that don't know, a hop randall is a device that you pour the beer through. It contains fresh hops so you get a super fresh hop flavour and aroma. Sam altered the hops in the randall throughout the festival. This was a great idea because it kept people coming back for more to see what the different hops did for the beer. I suspect there will be more randalls in use next year.
Also in fantastic form was an old favourite of mine, Purgatory from Franciscan Well. Showing that they are not going to bow to any corporate pressure since becoming part of the Molson Coors family, their beers were in superb form. Purgatory was available in both regular kegged version and a double dry hopped cask version but it was the triple dry hopped cask version that stood out. It was outstanding and one of my beers of the festival. It was like there was equal hop to beer ratios in that cask. Fresh hop goodness.
Dungarvan's citra dry hopped Helvick Gold went down very well. I missed their IPA though, that's also a tradition now, myself missing one of the Dungarvan festival specials.
There are simply too many favourites to list, as a result, I have no specific beer of the festival, there are too many to choose from and since I did more working than drinking, I wasn't on the lookout for a festival beer. Don't worry, I got plenty of beer both during the event and when all the punters had left.
It wasn't perfect, no event ever is but we made notes for the organisers to help it run a lot smother next year. There really isn't much room for improvement, just some tweaking I think. The only question is, will the RDS be big enough? There are about a dozen breweries opening up between now and then so next year should be interesting.