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.
Coinciding with the growing number of microbreweries in Ireland, and the pubs that serve their beers, there’s also an increasing number of special events around the country where Irish craft beer can be tried. Often, the brewers use these to launch special edition beers that can’t be had anywhere else.
Several of the specialist beer pubs also run events during the year: both the Porterhouse and Bull & Castle have special Irish beer promotions in March, plus an Oktoberfest in the autumn, as does the Bierhaus in Cork. You’ll also find Irish breweries represented at food and drink events like the Waterford Festival of Food (14-17 April) and the Belfast Christmas Market (19 November - 18 December [TBC]). This article, however, is about the full-sized festivals where you can have a day out and sample the best our native brewing industry has to offer.
Cuilan from White Gypsy is not what I would picture as a champion of fair-trade eco-aware local produce. But behind the Munster jersey is a very clear vision of where Irish brewing should go. And I mean vision. Here is a brewery that avoids the target-marketed focus-grouped inanity that infests our age. White Gypsy's stated aims are for a good beer brewed with local ingredients bought at a fair price and drank by people who actually care what they drink.
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.
Last weekend I jetted off to Munich for various reasons one of which was to attend the Stark bier festival. This is the strong beer festival and is a fairly hush-hush affair (see how few hits on Google). We landed Saturday morning and after visiting friends in the sleepy suburb of Dalfing we had a few Franziskaners in the typical Bavarian local bar / restaurant to wash down our schnitzel and fried potatoes.
Next was off to the Irish Folk Pub off Leopoldstrasse to watch the rugby. Here we were jammed like sardines into what claims to be the oldest Irish pub in Germany. Not bad for an Irish pub and it isn’t actually that tacky. It doubles as HQ for the Munich GAA team. Here we had the obligatory one pint of Guinness which was actually good (but one of my rules from day one when travelling is drink local, eat local). The rest was pints of Spaten (served in manky stackable pint glasses).