Well, now that the dust has settled, and the body is mended after what was simply a great event up in Ballymote this past weekend to celebrate White Hag’s Third Birthday.
The format was simple, get breweries and beers pouring that the Irish beer drinking public wouldn’t be previously exposed to on our native shores, and get 1000 of those beer lovers to descent on sleepy Ballymote on a Saturday in July. So in numbers, 22 breweries, 60 beers, and 1000 people. They’re pretty nice numbers to look at aren’t they?
Guest brewers from around the world, who White Hag have met on their travels while increasing their export sales, quickly showing that not only were they off showing how far the Irish beer scene has come, but making connections that make events like this possible.
Janice and I were guests of White Hag on the day, and sadly we couldn’t make the barrel tasting as we drove up from Navan on the day. By all accounts that was a very informative session with Joe and Alex.
Despite a snaffu with the chillers, meaning only three beers were pouring at the start time, it gave me the chance to try the MacIvors / White Hag collab which had been aged in a barrel. Really impressed and gave a lovely zing on the palate.
There were so many great beers on display, and it was particularly great to get to taste some from White Frontier, who many people will know Chris Treanor (ex Galway Bay) is their head brewer. It would be impossible to name all the ones that were drank, however, i can say it wasn’t close to 60! I really enjoyed the variety of styles on display, it wasn’t all just IPAs and super hoppy stuff. Stand outs for me were the two brett beers by Irish brewers. Kinnegar’s Phunk Bucket Brett Pale Ale, and White Hag’s Olcan Barrel Aged Brett IPA were both really well made beers, and very different.
It was great to bump into Rick from Kinnegar, and i’ve long been saying I need to get up and visit K2, Rick politely reminded me, that every time I see him I say I must pop up, so we’ve a gentlemans bet that if I don’t make it up before the end of the year, I will make a charity donation to a charity of Rick’s choice. So I guess i better get planning.
Obviously White Hag have learned some tricks attending other festivals around Europe, where they’ve implemented a sensible pricing structure for tokens and measures of alcohol. Tokens were €2.50. Giving a glass glass, also gets a big thumbs up from me. This isn’t the first festival on the island to do this, that falls to ABV Fest. But it’s nice to see a change from the usual, buy tokens, Q at a brewers stand, drink, rinse repeat.
There was ample pourers working behind the bar, and I don’t recall ever having to wait too long to be served. Another huge positive was a proper rinse station, that had brushes to clean, then rinsers too. Meaning your glass was sparkling clean after washing and ready for the next beer.
There was also great entertainment in live music put on, which was just right for the mood of the event, if it got too much you could go outside. But even then, the music came out too sometimes!
It’s fair to say this was a significant step up from last years edition, but there were one or two issues the lads themselves would hold up their hands and say “It’s a fair cop guv!”
- Lack of free drinking water – I understand that this was planned originally but unfortunately wasn’t implemented, you’d to buy from one of the food stalls
- Given the pre fest announcement that card payments were preferred, it was surprising to see only one card machine on the day itself.
- Lack of toilets, the Queues were quite bad at times, perhaps a urinal circle could be added like concerts it would help alleviate the crush, and save the poor bushes.
- Pour sizes, while it was great value, I do wish that the bigger beers 8% + were served in 1/3rd measures as opposed to 250ml, if you’re a taster who wants to get through as many as you can, this might cause you some problems. It wasn’t too big an issue for me, as I only finished with a couple of strong ones.
- Seats outside, while there were plenty of seats there could have been a few more,but most made do sitting on the concrete in the sun
However the whole experience was a really positive experience, with the great and the good of the Irish Craft Beer community being there, and it really highlights the potential there is from a beer tourism point of view. The atmosphere was great, and everyone I encountered was in great form. It was also great to see the mix of demographics, that it wasn’t just as much as I hate the term, Bearded Hipsters there in their droves. This really was an event for everyone. It was great to share beers with so many folk that we’ve gotten to know online, and to meet people behind the pseudonyms! A big cheers to Paul who was being a beer fairy giving people a taste of Alechemist Heady Topper! Bravo sir! How could I forget those amazing Black Boar truffles by Kate O’D! DELISH!
The added bonus of a train back into Sligo was a great touch, and it’s safe to say The Swagman was bouncing with punters and brewers alike, until the small hours.
Well done to all of the team in White Hag for putting on a great event, and of course all the brewers who sent beer to the festival, we’re really looking forward to the 2018 edition.