Life

Craft Beer: Pete Brown came across as a kind of John Peel of beer at ABV Fest

I raise a glass to the organisers and volunteers of this year's ABV Fest
Paul McConville

SO BEAVERTOWN'S Smog Rocket smoked porter is best enjoyed with Jimi Hendrix on the stereo (ask your parents) while a rich, dark Belgian ale is the perfect accompaniment to a bit Claude Debussy (ask your grandparents).

Just when you thought you had looked at beer in as many different ways as you could, ABV Fest pops up with a new view.

This year's festival in Carlise Memorial Church in Belfast was another triumphant celebration of beer, but as well as trying to get through as much of the dazzling array beers as I could, my curiosity brought me to a tasting session hosted by beer writer Pete Brown in which, with an endearingly self-deprecating delivery, he advanced theories on beer and music pairings.

Pete came across as a kind of John Peel of beer, with a little bit of Dr Brian Cox thrown in, and as much as the whole thing owes a fair bit to suggestion, there was a revealing bit of method to the madness. If you don't believe me, get your hands on a bottle of La Trappe Witte and whack on Harvest Moon by Neil Young.

My evening started with a dive into a couple of local breweries – an intriguingly sweet and sour effort from Lacada in the form of Cab for Casky, a 6.9 per cent black cherry and honey Belgian ale and then Boundary's Mutual Feelings, an 8 per cent oatmeal raisin cookie milk stout which was all sorts of sweet, sticky, cakey wonderfulness.

After those couple of heavy hitters, I was in need of something light, fresh but no less flavourful. That brought me over to the cask area where I snapped up a glass of Marble's Lagonda IPA. Now cask beers can sometimes get a bad rap, and to be far can be a bit hit and miss. Much of that can be down to an uneducated bar staff or how they are transported, stored or poured.

Luckily, we were in good hands here with Conor and Gaz who manned the cask and cocktail station with welcome expertise. Lagonda was floral, a little bit peachy with a refreshing bitterness. I also had a taste of Otterbank's Saison BA Chardonnay on cask, which, unsurprisingly had the taste of a dry white wine with a little hint of banana and spice.

Then it was back on the heavy stuff and, for many, the beer of the weekend – Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout, making a more than welcome appearance on these shores. Bourbon-aged, with rich sweet and coffee-like flavours, it was a lovely way to round off another belting ABV Fest.

A brand, spanking new ABV glass is raised to the organisers and volunteers who once again beavered away to deliver a great festival. Next year I'm buying a weekend ticket and bringing a camp bed!

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