The 12th Annual Belfast Beer & Cider Festival
November 23, 2011
Surprisingly I’ve never been to a Beer festival before. But I did go this year. I went to the 12th Annual Belfast Beer & Cider Festival held in the Ulster Hall. I really didn’t know what to expect, so I thought as long as there’s no Harp it’ll be fine. I’m pleased to report that there was no Harp.
I went on the Saturday (with my brother), which was the last of 3 days that the festival was on, arriving at 1pm. We paid our £3 entrance fee and £8 for tokens and 1 souvenir Pint Glass and program later we were in the main hall of the Ulster hall.
The first thing that greets you right in the middle is a massive rig about 20ft high containing about 100 Bizarrely named beers, it was easy to see why it’s billed as the biggest bar in Ireland.
The rig had 4 Bars, each bar was named after a white start liner –Titanic, Olympic, Britannic and Nomadic and each of the 4 bars housed beers from a different region of the UK. For instance the Titanic Bar was for Belfast Beers from N.Ireland, Wales and the Isle of Man. There was a stall with traditional Pub games, a CAMRA (Campaign for Real ale) stall and cider corner. A corner devoted to Ciders, there were about 20 in all.
For the benefit of people who haven’t been to a beer festival before, I’ll explain the system shall I? Basically you buy a sheet of tokens for £8. This has 4 x £1.60 tokens and 16 x 10p tokens, when you buy a half pint (we are trying to taste as many as possible after all) depending on the strength, you pay anywhere between £1.60 and £2. The stronger the beer the more expensive. So my first half pint, the wonderfully named Bucking Fastard, being only a 4% beer cost £1.60. But my last Pint, Diablo(6%), was £1.80. I wanted a Pint of the (whisper it) SKULLSPLITTER at 8.9% but alas even at 5:50pm it had sold out.
So my brother and I sat down and enjoyed a few half pints – Bucking Fastard, Ginger Tosser, 99 Red Baboons, Becon buster’s Broomstick. At 2pm the Band Hot whiskey Came on and the place started filling up, all the tables where full and I decided it was time to sample the Cornish Pasty’s I had eyed on the way in. The stall manned by the Cornish Pasty Trading Company who’s shop I’ve walked past a few times on Church street, had an array of different Pasty’s on offer. In the end I opted for a Steak and gravy and a traditional. It came to about a fiver for both and I have to say they were really delicious and the perfect accompanying food to a half pint of Ginger Tosser.
At 3pm we had to leave the merriment and music of the main hall and we were whisked to the upper echelons of the Ulster hall for a tutored tasting session. Helmed by 2 very knowledgeable gentlemen whose names elude me they took us though a history of beer making and gave us 9 different beers to sample. From ales to porters it was a walk through a wide array of different types of beer form the deathly black to the apple juice clear. They talked us through the flavours and aromas in a very similar fashion to wine tasting. They answered any and all questions that where thrown at them. Also thecraic was great between the 15 or so that where at the session. I guess people tend to be quite relaxed at a beer festival, who’ve thunk it! It was a great way to spend an hour and well worth the £10 fee. I would recommend it as a must do for anyone visiting next year.
When we left a short time later the hall was getting really full, so I can only presume it was a massive success. I thought it was a great way to pass an afternoon or even an evening, though I must try and arrive earlier next year to try for a pint of the elusive Skullsplitter!