Firstly what hit me what how better laid out everything was. I missed last years festival and noticed a big improvement on two years previous. There was considerably more seating, most noticeably benches in front of the stage/big screen which were full all day so obviously appreciated. Picnic style tables were located out in the foyer of the centre also with a massive screen projected onto the white wall for the match. This would be perfect for people wanting to get away from the madness to watch the rugby! Very impressed
Pool tables, giant connect 4 and the like were scattered around the venue which added a bit of extra fun to the day. The food vendors (such as Mr. Donut, Barry John Sausages and Keogh's crisps which were all sampled with delight) were located in an L-shape along the side and back walls. This made more sense than being interspersed around the venue haphazardly as I remember from before. Keogh's chorizo and cherry tomato crisps are amazing by the way. Finally, although not a new addition to the Alltech festival, I have to say the glass rinsing stations are a God send. Other beer festivals really ought to take note here!
First up for me was to pop by Eight Degrees to chat to my mate Derek and as I had had a Touching The Scald (Whiplash/Galway Bay collab) smoked porter in The Brew Dock on my way up I was happy out to see their Bandit smoked brown ale. Good choice for my first beer of the festival! I would stop by Eight Degrees later on in the day to sample their latest IPA offering - Trans Pacific New World IPA. As we have all come to expect from the Mitchelstown gang, this is a nice bitter but citrusy IPA. Combination of Aussie and US hops make a tasty tasty beer. Can't wait to pick up some bottles to see how they measure up.
I had great plans for the day, loads of beers I planned on trying but I can't say I got to them all unfortunately. Of the ones I had ear marked, I got to try 2 out of the 3 'beers that sound like desserts' - the Strawberry milkshake from Rascals and Trouble Brewing's Hard Candy rhubarb custard and vanilla cream ale. Both of these had the potential of being genius or down right awful! I was pleasantly surprised by both of them! For starters they tasted like what they were named for which is tricky enough to get across in a beer. But also neither were sickly sweet or cloying. I tried the strawberry milkshake ale first and the two friends I was with were very dubious. All tried and enjoyed with one of the more sceptical of the lads buying a half pint of it after tasting mine. Trouble Brewing's Hard Candy left a bit of a sharp after taste in my mouth so of the two, I preferred Rascal's beer.
Fellow blogger and Rye River Brewing's beer guru Simon Broderick gave me the heads up when the much anticipated Brewdog v Cloudwater New England IPA was tapped. I got to try a very small taster of it and it was very fresh and fruity. Very low to no bitterness in my opinion, I enjoyed how soft and fruity this was. I did hear some were underwhelmed by it however.
Stone Berlin had a stand next to these and I know several people sang praise for their Woot Stout. Didn't get a chance to try myself. Among the other non-Irish breweries were Barcelona Beer Company, St.Austell's, Shipyard and Schneider Weisse. I bought a pint of Proper Job from St.Austell's and got a free beanie hat!! Inner hipster satisfied for the day! Great to see some other breweries there that you may not get to try beer from otherwise.
The beer highlights of the day for me were probably Hope Brewery's Oatmeal IPA and Lough Gill's Mac Nutty - macadamia nut brown ale. Both of these are relatively new breweries releasing some exciting new brews. Can't wait to try more from both. But aside from the obvious beery highlights, the great thing about Alltech is it's a fantastic social event. There is always a really friendly atmosphere at this event and it was such a pleasure to catch up with fellow bloggers and some brewers I've gotten to know. Also a great opportunity to meet new people and it can feel like a networking exercise at times. I may try in future to pop along on the opening evening for blogging duties and leave myself free to socialise properly on the Saturday! I found myself talking through most of the rugby even though I really wanted to watch it.
The trouble sometimes with these things is you can't find time to do everything you'd like to and you certainly can't try all the beers you would want to. I tried a good few and tried to make sure overall they were beers that wouldn't be readily available elsewhere. That's what I love about this festival, there are so many one-off or hard to find beers and it provides that opportunity to the punter to taste beers they otherwise may never get to. Once again Alltech you have impressed me and proven to be the best organised festival of the year. Roll on next year, I can't wait to fill my boots already.
Cheers - TBH