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Belfast Beer and Cider Festival goes flat for drinkers as ale pumps run dry

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 23/11/2015

A row has been brewing over the lack of beer at a real ale festival in Northern Ireland
A row has been brewing over the lack of beer at a real ale festival in Northern Ireland

A row has been brewing over the lack of beer at a real ale festival in Northern Ireland.

Four thousand revellers attended the Belfast Beer and Cider Festival in the Ulster Hall which finished on Saturday.

The three-day annual event has grown massively in popularity since it started 16 years ago, and may have become a victim of its own success.

Some visitors this year spoke of their disappointment at the number of beers that had run out during the event.

Among the concerns raised was a "massive underestimation" of the sheer volume of beer needed.

One drinker requested a refund from the festival held at the Ulster Hall.

Writing on Facebook, Norman Hayes said: "Very disappointed with the festival this year. Virtually every ale that we asked for was already finished by 7pm on Friday.

"Had to ask for a refund on the way out.

"Great to see the popularity and support even on a miserable winter's night but clearly massive underestimation of quantities required. Glad I'm not going on Saturday."

Trevor Burton of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said its local branch had faced particular challenges this year unique to Northern Ireland as they sought to promote the growth of local cask conditioned real ale.

"We have a small but rapidly growing number of independent brewers who offer real ale in cask form and they are unable to offer large quantities of beer on a sale or return basis if at all," he said.

"This is coupled with the inability to buy beers from the UK mainland on a similar basis once their beer has crossed the Irish sea. These two factors limit the amount of beer we can hold in reserve to cover popular demand for certain beers and have all beers available during all three days we are open."

More than 100 beers were initially on offer, although most strong ales sold out on Friday.

Elland 1872 Porter sold out on Thursday night due to heavy demand as it was festival champion.

Saturday morning saw 80 beers left, but this dropped quickly.

Mr Burton said only one person complained and was given a full refund.

"As festival organiser I spent much of my time mingling with our customers to gain feedback and never once received critical comments about the beers or lack of choice.

"Rather the opposite, and they are looking forward to our next festival in November 2016," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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