In our lifetime, Northern Ireland has never had as many microbreweries as now.
I’m not saying I’m eleven years old but in 2011 there were five breweries on the go. Today the figure stands at thirty and in a couple of weeks time it’ll be thirty one.
So how could an intrepid local beer blogger who rides a motorbike keep up to date with all these breweries while at the same time doing something good for other people?
Here’s a crazy plan. Why doesn’t he set himself the challenge of riding to every brewery in just two days?
At the same time he can post social media photos of his ride at all the stops, promoting the breweries, and maybe raise a few pounds for the DEC’s Ukrainian Humanitarian Appeal.
That’s exactly what he did, or I should say that’s exactly what I did.
30 breweries. 450 miles. 2 days.
It was dry when I left home in Carrickfergus on Monday at 8am. The sun shone as I stopped at breweries in Counties Antrim and L’derry but at 2.30pm while in County Tyrone, it started to rain.
I say rain but it was more of a monsoon. The Tyrone monsoon turned into a Fermanagh monsoon which then became an Armagh monsoon. 2.30pm became 9.30pm – still raining as I pulled up at the B&B, 280 miles into my charity caper. The latter half of that day wasn’t the most enjoyable time I’d ever had on a bike. I was a saturated mess. My gloves were like sponges and my boots were squelching. Thank goodness I’d brought a showerproof biking overall or my jacket and trousers would be 100 times worse than they were already.
Day 1 was always gonna be a ballbreaker. 280 miles through five of NI’s six counties is hard enough but with ferocious, pounding rain coming at you from all angles for 7 hours, your energy is sapped much quicker.
Thankfully Day 2 was a completely different affair. The sun shone intensely and at one point it was so warm I even removed my jumper! Enjoying the beautiful views of Carlingford Lough at Warrenpoint were a particular highlight as well as the coast road round to Kilkeel and Newcastle. I’ll also throw the Newtownards to Greyabbey road into the mix. Northern Ireland is a beautiful part of the world when the sun shines.
The miles were crunched, breweries visited and the craic was mighty. I just wish I could have stayed longer in every place but before I knew it, I was heading into Belfast for the final few stops.
And then, at 7.40pm, there it was – The Deer’s Head pub, home to Bell’s brewery – my number 30 of 30.
How was I feeling? Relieved, elated, proud, very tired and screaming for a beer! JOB. DONE.
I have so many thanks to mention…
Thank you to all brewers who replied to my emails or social media messages.
Thank you to everyone I met along the way. Each and every one of you were so kind in giving up some time to listen to my rubbish. You all smiled. You all wished me well. You all spurred me on.
Thank you to every brewer who arrived on site earlier than usual, stayed after hours or opened up because I was there. I can only apologise to those brewers who were on holiday, I’m really sorry my planning meant we didn’t get to chat.
Thank you to those who donated beers – you did it without me asking and I’m very, very thankful.
Thank you to Kim at Fastway Couriers for arranging the transportation of larger donations – you’re a wee gem.
Thank you to everyone on social media who liked, commented on, shared and retweeted my progress over the 36 hours.
Thank you to Thomas from Kinnegar who came to see me in Derry.
Finally thank you to all of you who donated to the JustGiving page. Over £1,000 has been raised for the DEC’s Ukrainian Humanitarian Appeal and I’m blown away, not to mention extremely humbled, at your generosity. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Beer people really are great people. ❤️