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Craft Beer: Raising a glass and wishing a happy fifth birthday to Belfast's ABV fest

Steven Barr of The Belfast Beer blog pays homage to ABV 2019 which took place at the city's Carlisle Memorial Church

Sampling some of the treats on offer at ABV19
Steven Barr

OVER the course of last weekend, I spent an unholy amount of time in a church, though, contrary to what you may be expecting, it was for this year's ABV fest.

In the past five years, ABV has grown into one of the must-visit festivals in Ireland. Since its inaugural year, it has become a staple in the city, introducing a new approach to the stereotypical beer festival. It continuously provides an exceptionally diverse range of beers, exquisite tasting sessions and an all-round feel-good factor. This year was no different, another sell-out congregation, with an absolute wealth of new treats to indulge in with friends.

There was, as ever, a wide selection of local breweries represented with the likes of Boundary, Beer Hut, Lacada and Bellaghy's finest, Heaney's among those showcasing their beer.

Did we ever think we would see a local rosemary IPA? Hey Rosemary! Join our Club, a collaboration between Heaney's and Wexford's Yellowbelly, was one of the first beers I sampled. It was a well-balanced IPA with a herbaceous sweet twist and reminded me more of an orange soft drink, rather than a 5.7 per cent IPA.

A new addition this year was the bottle shop, which was arguably where I spent most of my time, sipping the likes of Oud Beersel's Green Walnut, a delicate Lambic and De Struise's Black Damnation XXVI Foggie, a Bordeaux red wine barrel-aged imperial stout.

At this point, some food was needed. I opted for The Hatch's burger and loaded fries which were delicious. However, I was rather envious of Man Made's s'mores which caused a furore around the church, with patrons attempting to find the perfect beer pairing for these sweet treats.

What sticks in my mind, though, is what happened on the Sunday morning following the weekend festivities. Picture an empty church, early morning sunlight and witness the heart of collaboration shine through, with many ABV patrons returning to help with the clean-up.

I'd like to raise my fifth ABV glass to the organisers, who I know put everything into creating such an event, focusing on the finer details so we can enjoy the festival; and to the volunteers who give up their time to help make the festival what it is.

A beer for everyone, as well as a festival for all, ABV has really hit the perfect combination of offering a diverse range of wares, with a historic location and good company. Until next year, Cheers.

@belfastbeerblog

:: Paul McConville returns next week.

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