Friday: It starts with a trade session. A good number of people come through the door. Many are pubs looking for new options for their customers. They've picked the right place to come. With the major exceptions of Hilden, Dingle and Clanconnel, almost all the Irish Craft Breweries are here. Hilden, just having finished their Hildenfest have run out of beer; Dingle Brewing are at the Dingle Foodfest and don't have enough people to cover both festivals; Clanconnel are moving into their new premises. So all can be forgiven for not making it.
4pm, the doors open to the general public. As can be expected the footfall was a little slow to start but by 8 o'clock the hall was well filled. And a word about the hall. It's a great venue with a lot of character: old Victorian Ironwork posts which break the space up nicely. The breweries are placed on both sides of the hall and all of them have bars set up. Attendance was decent; though it was competing with Culture Night, the kickoff of Octoberfest and the Arthur's Day hangover. Talking to the brewers afterwards, they certainly seemed happy with the footfall. The comedian Joe Rooney was a no show (he demanded more money at the last minute) but the final set from Jerry Fish was fantastic - worth the entry price alone.
Beerwise there are some cracking beers, some specially brewed for the festival. Metalman launched Alternator, their witbier. There was some discussion of which was better: that, or the Windjammer on cask. Trouble Brewing brought along Raspberry Ór (which Stephen seemed a little worried about). O'Hara's have a Smoked Ale, one of two smoke beers at the festival, the other being Raven from White Gypsy. Unfortunately 8 Degrees Porter didn't make it to the festival though I think this was partly due to Scott's wife just giving birth in the last couple of days.
Messrs Maguire have brought along their Doppelbock (I'm pretty sure we had drunk it all on the night of Mel's leaving). Franciscan Well have a treble hopped Barrelhead IPA (I was told that it was the most expensive beer that they've brewed). Dungarvan have Challenger bitter. Whitewater have Copperhead on cask. And BrewEyed had a vanilla amber ale.
As for non-beers, DJ's Cider have a really good festival cider as well as a cider that they've blended with strawberries. And the girls from Slane Castle were knocking up some seriously nice (and lethal) whiskey cocktails.
Saturday was the day everything ran out; Okay, not everything. Windjammer on cask was the first to go, followed shortly after by the special edition of Barrelhead. Then one by one, all the festival brews emptied. And by 5 o'clock we had run out of Beoir flyers.
As suspected Saturday was by far the most busy of the 3 days. There were over 1,000 people through the door by 5pm. At one point the security guards were warning that if anymore people came they would have to start turning them away as the venue had reached capacity.
Sunday started with a vendors' session to discuss the beerfest and see where it could be improved. In no particular order:
- Music too loud. While it was agreed that music improved the atmosphere, the acoustic/quieter sort was preferred, with something a little louder later on.
- No comedians. Period.
- Revisit the free beer tokens thing. It was considered a little too complex to balance everything out over all the brewers.
- More varied choice of food.
Beoir was singled out for praise by all the breweries for our input into the festival. But most importantly when asked whether the festival should return next year, the answer was an overwhelming 'Yes' from everyone involved.
And it may be coming back sooner: there's an idea in the air to have a 'Paddyfest' on St Patrick's weekend, in the IFSC.
Anyway, back to Sunday. A good buzz all day but quieter, like Friday. The music choice was a bit better too. Though I do have to say the closing acts on all 3 nights have been excellent. Jerry Fish on Friday, Oona and The Pavement Kings on Saturday and Paul Crean and the Changing Band on Sunday.
I will have to say that all the brewers were extremely generous; I had to force some of them to take my Beer Bucks at the end. I even had one of the brewers show me how to pull a pump properly, mainly so I could go and help myself to more beer when I wanted it and he wouldn't have to keep running back to serve me (this was after closing time).
So, all in all a great weekend. I look forward to the next one.