Thirds of a pint are the way to go at the Great British Beer Festival. The huge number of beers available puts pay to your dreams of trying them all, but a well thought out strategy and a third of a pint measure can help you make the most of your time there. Saturday is a very different event to the trade-only day earlier in the week. Firstly, and sadly, a lot of the more intriguing beer is gone, but don't worry: for the real ale starved beer lover there is more than enough to keep you busy and contented. Secondly, the crowd is no doubt a different one. For the most part it resembles a normal modern day pub crowd. There were of course a number of impressive beards and bellies on show, but frankly I'd be disappointed if there wasn't. With respect to food available at the venue, you can't argue with the fact that it is really bad for you, which of course means that it tastes bloody good. Pies, pasties, hot dogs and cured meats are but some of the delicacies you can indulge in, and indulge you will because the beer just cries out for something savoury and cardiovascularly unsound to be partnered with.
Having read a couple of nightmare accounts of the Great British Beer Festival I hadn't been planning on going any time soon. CAMRA's headline event is held in the vast Earl's Court exhibition hall and the sessions closer to the weekend are famous for being packed full of sweaty-beardy-farty Real Ale aficionados mixed with loud groups of younger men and women whose behaviour would put a Temple Bar stag or hen party to shame. The queues for both imbibing and expelling liquids are uncomfortably long and, worst of all, many of the most popular beers have already sold out. I've no first-hand evidence of the truth of this, but understandably wasn't in a rush to change that. However, when it was suggested that I ask CAMRA for free tickets to the opening trade-only session on the Tuesday my interest was piqued. Doors for this open at noon, and until 5pm the festival is open only to brewers, publicans, journalists, exporters, distributors and anyone else who thought to ask CAMRA nicely if they could get in. I'll give that a go, I thought.
As usual, Beoir members receive a 50% entry discount at the door with a valid, in date membership card. If you want to try and win tickets to the event, keep an eye on the social media. The Beoir Twitter and Beoir Facebook accounts will have a competition each weekend for a pair of tickets. That's a chance to win on both Facebook and Twitter so keep an eye out on Friday to Sunday for details with the winner on each platform announced on Monday. We will run the competition this weekend and next weekend.
If you wish to volunteer, check the Beoir Member forum for details.
Tickets are available here for non Beoir members. Beoir members wanting to avail of the discount, do so at the door.
Kentucky-based brewer and distiller Alltech returns to Dublin this February for a second beer festival, following the first last July. Once again, Convention Centre Dublin is the venue and once again an international competition will be held to find the best beer in show, to succeed Hilden Brewery's Twisted Hop as the holder of the Dublin Craft Beer Cup.
For the consumer there will be beer on offer from new Irish brewers such as Rascal's, Stone Barrel, Black's of Kinsale, Brú, Mountain Man and the Independent Brewing Company, as well as several familiar favourites plus a range of international beers. Sheridan's cheese, Keogh's crisps, Bretzel bakery and the Burren smokehouse will be among those providing food matching options.
There will be live music, talks, tastings, and of course the rugby will be shown on Saturday afternoon.
The event is split over two public sessions, on Friday 7th from 5pm to 9pm and Saturday 8th from 12pm to 9pm. Admission to each costs €15 which includes a festival glass and 4 beer tokens. Click here to buy tickets.
For full details and updates, see the festival website.
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.