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Belfast prepares for double round of beer festivals

By John Mulgrew

Published 19/04/2016

Seamus O’Hara of the Carlow Brewing Company and co-founder of the Belfast Craft Beer Festival
Seamus O’Hara of the Carlow Brewing Company and co-founder of the Belfast Craft Beer Festival
ABV Festival organisers Darren Nugent, Matthew Dick, Michael Kerr and Felicia Matheson, who have a new location after last year’s success at the Harland & Wolff drawing offices
Harland & Wolff drawing offices

You wait around for a new beer festival - then two come along at once.

Northern Ireland's thirst for top-end craft brews shows no sign of slowing down, with another major beer festival in Belfast this weekend.

The Belfast Craft Beer Festival in Custom House Square, from Thursday to Saturday, is the brainchild of co-founder Seamus O'Hara.

He's also the man behind the Carlow Brewing Company and the Irish Craft Beer Festival in Dublin.

"We have been doing the one in Dublin for five years and there have been more and more breweries travelling to Dublin," he said.

"We were looking at markets, Galway and Belfast, and it seemed to point to Belfast."

There are now around 25 breweries in Northern Ireland, more than 80 across the island.

And the festival will showcase around 25 breweries, cider producers and distilleries from across Ireland.

"We are hoping for around 4,000 to 5,000 people," Seamus said. "It's the first year, so we don't know. We are hoping the buzz is also interesting for the breweries and an opportunity for the trade."

Some of the breweries showcasing their best beers include the Hercules Brewing company and Knockout, from Belfast, and the Mourne Mountains Brewery, located outside Warrenpoint.

Of course, there's also the city's long-running Belfast Beer Festival, which takes place in the Ulster Hall each November.

And the ABV Festival is also returning for its second year. To beer fans, it's regarded as a bit different, bringing some of the world's best and brightest breweries to beautiful and historic buildings and backdrops.

Last year, around 1,500 enthusiasts sampled some of the best beers the UK, Ireland and further afield have to offer, in the surroundings of the former Harland & Wolff drawing offices.

But one of the organisers, Michael Kerr, is keeping this year's location under wraps - while the details are finalised.

However, he said the September festival would be located in another "wonderful, historic and old Belfast gem".

"We were absolutely blown away by the support last year, and also by the anticipation of the public on social media this year," he said.

"ABV is trying to get some of the best beers in the world, from small committed producers, and quality is at the centre of what we are doing. We will be working with some of the same food producers as last year, and some of the same breweries, but we are planning to diversify, too. Essentially, last year's was so well received, we don't want to deviate from the plan too much."

Some of the same top producers will be back. They include Belfast's Boundary, Mad Hatter from Liverpool and London's Beavertown - a brewery owned by Logan Plant, son of Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant.

The first ABV event at Harland & Wolff drawing offices last year - the final event before work begins to turn the building into a hotel - also drew brews from across the UK, with a number of special beer tastings also taking place on the SS Nomadic. The festival is organised by Michael Kerr, Co Tyrone brewer Darren Nugent, distributor Felicia Matheson and Belfast brewer Matthew Dick, co-founder of Boundary Brewing.

ABV is taking place in Belfast between September 1 and 3

Belfast Telegraph

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