Darragh and I met at the pub at 9am. He started to keg the beer, I ordered our breakfast. No beans on mine, extra sausage for Darragh. Our mission was simple, get a keg of YellowBelly beer over the border in time for the evening session of the ABV beer festival in Belfast. Bossman Lambert and Head Otter had brought up the rest of the beer on Thursday but had left one behind. Cue Danny and Darragh to the rescue! We had been studying our Northern Ireland phrasebook all night and drinking bottles of ‘Football Special’ all week. We stocked up on Gaviscons, and Rennies and we were ready to rock.
We hit the road at 10am, the precious cargo lying in the boot of my Peugeot 407. The cargo in question was ‘For whom the Sour Trolls’, YellowBelly’s latest kettle sour. We don’t like taking our beer out of cold storage, so we knew we had to move fast, while keeping within the designated speed limit of course. Music was an early issue, I only had 2 CD’s in the car, a rookie mistake for such a long journey. We put it down to experience and threw on the first of our options. A Toots and the Maytals compilation. An excellent album, but coming in at just 56 minutes and 36 seconds it was never going to satisfy our musical cravings over a 4 hour journey up north. Next up was Belle and Sebastian and their seminal album ‘Dear Catastrophe Waitress’. A beautifully melodic album which drew many influences from 90’s indie and Britpop. Darragh wasn’t impressed, he was too nice to say anything and he never would, but I knew.
Radio filled the gaps, Darragh took on the role of changing stations as I kept both hands firmly grasped on the wheel. We knew we were getting near our destination as soon as the signs changed colour and the roads became smoother. Our destination was the Carlisle Memorial Church, the venue of ABV16. Initial issues with parking were easily resolved by ignoring the parking attendant and making our way inside, clutching our single keg.
We were met with a beer lovers dream. 30 taps, beer cocktails, Munich beer hall style bench seating, tasting events every half hour and really helpful festival staff. All housed in the most beautiful setting I have ever come across. Almost too good for a beer festival.
Keg dropped and familiar faces greeted with a knowing nod. Mission completed, but the fun was only just beginning. We booked ourselves into our first beer tasting. A barrel aged beer tasting with Marble brewery’s head brewer/rockstar Jonny Read. Jonny was a bit worse for wear from Friday night’s festivities but soldiered on and took us through Marbles barrel aged offerings. It was 2.30pm and we were already tipsy.
We hit up a few sneaky pale ales after this to allow our bodies to catch up. My personal favourite was ‘Verdant Lightbulb Pale Ale’ a super juicy pale ale from Cornwall.
But as we are all sour beer fiends these days it wasn’t long until the Rennies got their first outing. They were matched firstly with a surprisingly nice Pineapple and Jalapeno Sour from Alphabet Brewery. It had just the right amount of chilli heat and didn’t take away from the other subtle flavours of the beer.
The afternoon session wrapped up at 4pm and we were probably un-wisley let loose on to the streets of Belfast. We had 2 hours to kill and we killed it drinking whiskey in ‘The Duke of York’ with the Galway Bay boys and girl. This is where things start to get a little hazy.
One of the last things I remember is the distinct lack of sub 8% beers on the evening session menu. What I do remember though is attending an excellent talk on spontaneous and mixed fermentation hosted by the ‘Belgian Beer Smaak’ and drinking a hape of Russian Imperial Stouts at the bar afterwards. I’m assured we were very well behaved and represented the YellowBelly brand excellently! Here’s some pictures of beers that I can’t remember.
But in all seriousness I want to thank everybody involved with ABV16 for putting on an amazing festival and for being so helpful for its duration. I can’t wait for ABV17 and our next mission.
If you want to check out our festival antics live and in the flesh then get down to ‘The Great Irish Beer Festival’ in Cork city on the 23rd,24th and 25h of September. Check out our website http://www.yellowbellybeer.ie for more info.