A wee trip to the world famous, beautiful north coast of Northern Ireland is welcome at any time of the year but it’s a complete no-brainer when there’s a two-day beer festival in the area. Portrush to be exact. It’s a place I’ve enjoyed since childhood and if you live in the same part of the world as me, you’ve undoubtedly had the same experiences there. Now though, the Portrush Beer Festival is one of the highlights of my beery calendar.
Held in the town hall over a windy Friday and Saturday at the beginning of October, the festival is a gathering of some of Ireland’s best breweries and a few of the most incredible food vendors you could wish to encounter. It’s a cosy event as it’s a very small venue. It’s probably a victim of its own success as the festival could be double in size if there was a suitable place in which to hold it. At one point on the Saturday afternoon, security staff had to temporarily close the entrance doors such was the demand to drink quality, Irish, small-batch beer in a seaside town.
Once you’re in, a beer smorgasbord awaits you. What’ll it be? Lager from Kilkeel, IPA from Dublin, coconut ale from Letterkenny, witbier from Randalstown, imperial stout from Portrush or a bramble sour from Belfast? Not sure? Maybe a Turkish delight flavoured cider from Lisburn is your thing instead? Have a wee taster – or two – of something before you commit. But don’t ask for fifteen tasters all one after the other, the brewers have seen your sort before.
The festival’s craic is mighty, the beers are great and the views from the town hall looking over the West Bay are impressive, more so if it’s not dry outside. If you’re one of those smart people who pace themselves when on a day of drinking and manage to make it to closing time at 10pm, the fun continues at Kiwi’s Brew Bar below The Playhouse on Main Street.
A favourite this year was Lacada‘s imperial stout Psychic Beer Overlord, a festival-only experimental blend of a big chocolate stout and what was left of their whisky imperial stout Jonesy’s Locker. Put the two together and the result was a hugely smooth 11.5% ABV blueberry/chocolate ice cream stout. Psychic indeed, who’d have seen that coming?
Also up there, and thankfully lower in ABV at 4.2 was Bullhouse’s Big Fish Small Pond nitro stout. This has been on the market for almost two tears and it’s everything you want from a nitro. It’s smooth, unctuous and delicious – a little bit roasty and a little bit dry at the back end. Quality stuff.
Thanks to festival organisers for their hard work and all the gang are looking forward to next year’s event. Here’s a top tip if you plan to attend on the Saturday afternoon. Get there early if you don’t wanna freeze your bits off while standing in a queue in the welcoming north coast weather! Sure, where else would you rather be?