Back for a fifth year – Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair

The Alltech Craft Brews & Food Fair is coming back for a fifth year. How time flies! This festival has undergone a remarkable evolution since the first event held in the summer of 2012. Forget Paris in the springtime. February in Dublin has become synonymous with rugby and this beer festival. The folks at Alltech even try to combine the two. Visitors will once more have the opportunity to sample more than 300 of the latest craft brews while watching Six Nations Rugby on three if the biggest screens in Dublin.

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The festival takes place once more in the Convention Centre Dublin from Thursday 23rd – Saturday 25th February 2017 and tickets are on sale now from Eventbrite. The event runs over three days, and opening hours as follows:

  • Thursday, 23rd February: 5pm – 11pm
  • Friday, 24th February: 5pm – 11pm
  • Saturday, 25th February: 12.30pm – 11pm

The Dublin Beer Cup will also be awarded during the weekend. Will anyone be able to take the mantle away from McGargle’s Francis’ Big Bangin’ IPA? Can the Kildare brewery follow Coisbo completing a two-in-a-row? We will just have to wait and see.

The full line-up of music and exhibitors will be announced in the New Year. If anyone doesn’t believe the organisers have big, big plans – think again. Last year, they only went and beat the previous Guinness Book of Records’ mark for the world’s largest beer tasting.

For further information visit alltechbrews.ie or join the conversation on Twitter by following @alltechbrews.

Political realities built to fall

These are strange and uncertain times. First Brexit. Now Donald J. Trump. A sleepless night was spent recently watching the improbable become reality. It was early projections from Florida – a ‘must win’ for ‘The Donald’ – which set alarm-bells ringing.  At election time, the Sunshine State has an uncanny knack of often leaving a bitter aftertaste.

Seeking a brief respite from the impending result, I turned to my recent tasting notes. As it happens there’s many a beer on which I have notes taken but have not gotten around to blogging about.  Marble Brewing’s Built to Fall is one such beer.  Brewed in Manchester, this 5.6% abv American pale ale is part of the brewery’s ‘metal’ series and is named after a song by Trivium, a heavy metal band from Orlando. So it was a case of bitter + Florida + result = new blog post.

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I knew nothing of the band but as I looked into them and the song Built to Fall in particular, I found plenty of parallels with the new world (orange) order. The song’s lyrics describe someone who’s “selfishly unaware” so “monstrous” and is built to fall. Remind you of anyone?  I’d say following the election, a few fans could be found muttering: “I don’t want to hate you, but how could I not?”

The beer itself pours golden with hints of orange and it has a head that can I can best describe as the aftermath of an explosion in a candy-floss factory.  Coincidentally, all of this could also be used to describe the president-elect. There is plenty of zesty and citrusy tropical fruit on the nose. It drinks smooth with a refreshing creaminess; flavours of mango predominate with a dash of pine thrown in for good measure.  There is also just the right amount of bitterness in the finish.

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Forget my over-worked political analogies for a second. This is an IPA named for a heavy metal band. IPA doesn’t automatically mean metal. Think Mmmhops by Hanson. Anyway, surely beers for moshers and thrashers should be closer to the darker and heavier side? Iron Maiden has followed up on the phenomenal success with Trooper by releasing a first stout, Red & Black.

Built to Fall has been delicately and deftly crafted by the brewer. It’s fresh and bitter but not overpowering and its sole connection to head-banging is perhaps only through imbibing one too many.

Or is it? I’ve learnt from a music geek (so says this beer nerd) that Trivium have toned down their more extreme edges and become more radio-friendly via slicker production. Given that, this beer sounds like it’s not wide of the mark at all.

As for US politics, we don’t know what’s going to happen over the next four years. But let’s hope that the beer produced over this period continues to be amazing, tremendous, huge, terrific and most bigly of all, great again. And that if a wall is constructed along that country’s southern border; it too finds inspiration in Trivium’s oeuvre and Marble Brewing’s beer and is built to fall.

Is time being called on the Guinness Series?

The Guinness Series 2016 kicks off today. Just how long will Irish rugby’s home autumn internationals will be associated with the brewery or any other drinks company remains to be seen.

An outright ban on alcohol sponsorship is on the cards thanks to the Public Health (Alcohol) Bill, 2015. Rugby has had a long and lucrative relationship with drinks companies. For marginal sports, the ability to tap serious sponsorship money is an important lifeline.
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The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) will fight this part of the bill. However, it has yet to mobilise the ground game that successfully fended off proposals for rugby to be shown on free-to-air TV only. They couldn’t live without money coming from Sky Sports and others.

Alcohol sponsorship is important for the IRFU. But it is not the only source of sponsorship revenue. Like the GAA, it has diversified its relationships. Liberalisation of telecoms and other utilities has generated a number of companies all vying for the attention of consumers. The IRFU have Vodafone now, following a similar deal with Three/O2. They’ve also accessed sponsorship from financial institutions in the past too. Their stadium is named for an insurance company.

A proposed ban is likely be more of a headache for the likes of national associations. So who would be hurt most from it coming in? The Pro12 springs to mind. Of the three title sponsors, only one was a non-drinks company and that was all too brief. Of course Guinness could still sponsor the league, it just couldn’t be referred to the Guinness Pro12 in Ireland. Why would they bother? They won’t be happy to have the league known as G-Pro12. Besides sounding too much like a digital camera, the pulling power of the Scottish, Welsh and Italian teams isn’t there. It’s not the same as the Heineken Cup being billed as the H-Cup in France. The other markets still justified the financial outlay.

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Worringly, the big losers will be clubs of various codes across the island; those that rely on small sponsorship arrangements to keep afloat. This could come in the form of advertising hoardings to jersey sponsorships to kit bags. It’s not just by the big drinks companies either. Some craft brewers sponsor their local teams in some form or other. A ban could also be extended to include a prohibition on pubs supporting their local teams. The money may be small but it helps cut the grass, mark out the pitch and even put jerseys on the players’ backs.

There’s little doubt that more than a few politicians supporting a ban on alcohol sports sponsorship will be in attendance at one or more matches in the Aviva Stadium this November. Some may pay for their tickets and others may get them for free. It’ also possible that more supporters of the sponsorship ban in Leinster House have no interest in sport. I don’t know what’s worse, potential hypocrisy or out and out ignorance.

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Political expediency will no doubt play its part. We can already see this in one of the proposed amendments to the bill. They want it to be introduced on a phased basis until 31 December 2023. In other words, they’re fearful of any negative backlash it may have on Ireland’s bid to host the Rugby World Cup that year. In effect, they’re looking for the ban not to enter into full force until after the William Web Ellis trophy has been raised in Croke Park. Of course, a full ban may come in sooner if we are unsuccessful in our tournament bid.

Whilst restricting alcohol sponsorship seems to be the order of the day, it needs to be seen alongside the prohibition on TV advertising outside of the watershed. Companies sponsor events and then spend even more telling people they sponsor it. Take this away and you limit the attractiveness of the sponsorship. Never mind that there’s little talk of improving grants to clubs to plug the loss of revenue. Sure why would anyone care about the grassroots? It’s not like they help bring players through and support communities.

Calling time on alcohol sponsorship may not be all that it’s cracked up to be.

Divided we stand, united we fall?

Those who follow me on Twitter may be puzzled by the occasional tweet about Belgian football. It’s a result of having lived in a Brussels suburb and my local pub was a lively spot during league matches. The Belgian Pro League was simply referred to as the Jupiler League. The AB InBev mass produced, cheaply sold and even cheaper tasting lager has become synonymous with football. Jupiler has also become the title sponsor of the Dutch second division (no doubt to annoy Heineken).

This is a country where it used to be joked that the only Belgian was the King. But recently more and more Belgian flags can be seen. The current public displays of affection for the tricolour stem from a period spanning 2010 & 2011. For a world record 589 days, Belgium was without government. Once the initial hilarity had worn off, frustration and fear for the country’s future set in. A great many people took to hanging Belgian flags from their balconies or outside their homes.

Always check the hashtag to ensure that it doesn't say something else
#ALLINRED or FALLINRED – Always check the hashtag to ensure that it doesn’t say something else

Many of the flags, however, were Jupiler-branded. This is thanks to the beer’s lock on sports sponsorship. It can be hard to source an unadulterated flag. This has only been compounded by two Olympics and two major international football championships. The beer’s association with Belgian national football team has definitely capitalised on the recent patriotic trend. This has been in a similar vein to Budweiser renaming itself ‘America’ in the US over the summer.

Its recent promotion tying-in with the 2016 European Championships hits a little too close to home. The #ALLINRED campaign was stamped prominently on all its material. Unfortunately, the font left it reading a tad too close to FALLINRED. That’s precisely what the over-hyped and definitely under-performing de Rode Duivels, les Diables Rouges or die Roten Teufel (take your pick) did. The team flopped in the tournament that many tipped them to win.