Craft beer: All hail the ABV Fest in Belfast's Carlisle Memorial Church

Evil Twin’s imperial stout Even More Jesus was a big hit
Paul McConville

CHURCHES are often a place where families come together so it was perhaps fitting that I bookended my night at the ABV Fest in Carlisle Memorial Church with the offerings of the Bjergsø siblings.

Another dazzling array of beers awaited us on Saturday night of the festival, which is now in its third year, its second in the ecclesiastical surroundings of the Antrim Road venue.

Evil Twin's imperial stout Even More Jesus was a big hit, with many pouring up to altar to sample this sumptuous stout. At 12 per cent, a third of a pint is more than enough to enjoy those intense flavours of coffee, molasses and dark fruit.

Evil Twin is based in New York, but was created by Danish brewer Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø, who is the twin brother of Mikkel Borg-Bjergsø, the man behind Mikkeller. Their Acid Trip sour was sampled too, a funky departure from the stout with a sharp citrus taste and a lovely vinous tang.

The great thing about rocking up with a handful of friends is that you can sample a wider range of beers by taking a sip of each other's and pull either an approving face or a look of ‘Why the hell did you that to me', as when I tried to give one of my friends a crash course in lambics with a little mouthful of Our Beersel's Ouse Vieux Lambiek.

Every beer I've mentioned so far has been north of 6 per cent, but there were some lighter, yet no less flavourful offerings. Zwalau from Siphon – which I learned is pronounced Sea-fawn (thanks, Gaz) – was refreshing and grassy with a slight hint of spice. Mourne Mountains' latest creation Wee Binian was a hit-the-spot wheat beer which served as the perfect accompaniment to the now famous and delicious ABV burger from Farm & Food. Both beers came in at under 4 per cent.

The Festival beer Screaming Trees, a collaboration between Land and Labour and White Frontier, wet the whistle nicely at the start of the night, and the Brett IPA from Land and Labour was beautifully floral and juicy with a dry finish.

Of course, it was also good to have a good natter with some brewers to see what exciting things they have in the pipeline and reaffirm my belief that Irish craft beer stands its ground against whatever the rest of the world can muster.

There's something very simplistic about long tables and benches and a row of taps forming the bar at the aforementioned altar, but the organisation of this great event is anything but.

Immense work went into sourcing top quality beers, enlisting volunteers and keeping thirsty punters happy. A great big cheers to the ABV folks. See you next year.

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