When The Franciscan Well offered ICB the opportunity to stage a live event in its back yard, the membership leapt at the opportunity. Five months of planning ensued, and at 2pm on sunny Saturday 18th April the doors opened on Ireland's first homebrewing exhibition.
Volunteer members of Irish Craft Brewer had travelled from as far away as Dublin to spend the day sharing their knowledge and their beer with anyone interested in making their own quality brews at home.
It goes without saying that the main attraction of the day was the homemade beer and cider available for sampling throughout the afternoon. As well as the variety of bottled ales and stouts, Ale Man brought along his handmade home bar set up, offering two of his beers on draught from the corny, plus another "pseudo-lager" made by Sbillings. A_Friend_In_Mead and Taf both brought ciders, demonstrating respectively that homemade cider is extremely easy to make, and can be of a very high quality.
Visitors to the stand were kept well lubricated as they discussed the finer points of beer making with the staffers. The crowd was a mix of would-be brewers looking for information on where to start, those with several beers under their belts who were seeking feedback on what they'd made or information on how to take it to the next level, plus a surprising number of retired home brewers, interested in picking the hobby up again. In front of the main stand, N1mbus and Silenus continued the educational outreach programme with a display of brewing books and specialty grains.
We were very pleased that attendees were able to leave, not only with the know-how they needed to get brewing, but the equipment as well, thanks to ICB member Bugno whose Homebrew Company had its own stand next to the main ICB one. As the day progressed, the wall of beer kits gradually reduced in size while there was brisk trade in equipment and ingredients as well. The van was a lot lighter heading back to Mountmellick the next day, and only part of this may be attributed to the dispatching of many excellent beers brought by HBC wingman Kitoog.
Of course, it wouldn't have been much of an exhibition without some live brewing, and thanks to a generous donation from The Homebrew Company, BeerIsTheReason was able to mash, boil and rack the beginnings of a brown ale. Our hosts also did a small batch on the day, a special high-gravity edition of Rebel Red.
So, between the equipment, the ingredients, the methods and the finished results, ICB had the world of amateur brewing covered. By 7pm the crowds were thinning out, and shortly after 8 it was time to adjourn to the bar for a well-deserved pint. This was followed by a number of other pints in The Bierhaus and The Abbot's Alehouse, each one as well-deserved as the previous.
On behalf of ICB, I'd like to thank all those who made the event possible: those who worked behind the scenes in the run-up, those who helped out on the day, and everyone who came along to show their support. The generous sponsorship of the Bull & Castle allowed us to get the word out further than we otherwise would, but the biggest note of thanks goes to Shane and the rest of the gang at The Franciscan Well, not only for coming up with the idea in the first place, but also for their cooperation and generosity on the day.
Amateur craft brewing has never been more popular, and ICB's first foray into the real world has shown that there is much to be gained from bringing brewing to the people.