The Society for The Preservation of Beers from the Wood
Northern Ireland Branch
The first of the SPBWNI Jubilee Ale was served in the Sunflower Bar, Belfast. Next came the Bridge Bar, Belfast, for our second cask. It was great to see a good
turnout of members. Such a shame the Central Bar in Carrickfergus made such a mess-up of so simple a thing. The Tuesday Bell more than made up for it. That is the end of
our one-off Jubilee Ale. A big thank-you to Owen & Lisa at Hilden Brewery for their support in 2013.
We got an section printed in the Belfast Community Telegraph. Nice to see our name in print.
Sheelin Brewery Visit
We made a good start on the Tuesday and got to the Belmore Court Motel just after noon. Then a short drive to Ballinaleck to meet Dr. George Cathcart of Sheelin Brewery.
He led us to the brew-house at the back of the quaint thatched roof cafe owned by the family (and across the road from the family garage/shop). George is a pleasant guy,
keen about his products and their potential, really an easy guy to get to like. He is quite multi tasked really, brewing his beer, growing his own hops, keeping bees and
prizewinning Koi - they are huge by the way and are in a tank of water seven feet deep.
He was in the middle of a new brew but was able to crack a sample cask to let us taste his Blonde beer (4.5%). Still slightly hazy, it was in excellent form. After a tour
of the premises we returned to sample a bottle of his IPA (more a continental style lager, light and summery). Susan is fussy when it comes to cask ales and there are
few to satisfy her palate. However, both beers from George got the full thumbs up, so he must be doing something right.
We met his wife Vicky and their sound asleep baby, so we headed off to Enniskillen and let George get on with his brew. We were to meet later that night in the JDW's
Linenhall Bar but it was not to be - the brew needed some extra work and that comes first. Still, George plans a trip to Belfast someday and we will meet again. Susan and
I had an excellent evening meal, a relatively early night and drove back to Belfast the next day. For us it was a good mid week break and good to meet some new and
Belfast Pub Crawl.
We started at the Botanic Inn where I met Ian, a barman from way back in the days of the Donnelly/Devlin Linenhall Bar, who has been working in the Bot for eleven
years now. A good pint of Belfast. The rain had eased as we made our way to Ryan's and met Matthew. A really excellent pint of Belfast. Sadly my friend Joanna left her
management job here and moved on to a couple of other ventures. From there it was to the Bridge Bar and a late lunch washed down with a good Maple Moon (J. Holt).
We walked through a slight drizzle and made our way to the Crown to meet Mr. Dean (he of two names) and had a great conversation with Will the manager before heading
onwards to the Sunflower and a pint of Hilden's Twisted Hop. It was now after 5pm and the group split up. Susan and I wander towards the City Hall and a bus home, but not
before stopping off at Hudson's. My manager friend was not there for a chat so I stayed long enough to try Caesar Augustus (Williams Bros), an IPA/Lager style beer. Not
bad for keg.
Finally , home and feet up. It was a marvellous day, I met old friends and really nice people and I was able to top up all the membership holders
or add new ones. It would have been better if more people could have come along - maybe next time.
On the banks of the Foyle
A really bad start to the day. The traffic in Belfast was horrendous and we missed the train by minutes - not to worry though, we got a bus some 15 minutes later and
it was actually quicker than the train, and we had just a short walk. Just as well as it started tipping down. We met Jo & Connor (who started us off with a good
breakfast). We had a few samplers while waiting for the photoshoot. After that it was some more ales, a big thank you to Connor and all the staff for their
hospitality and a walk in the rain to the Ice Wharf to meet Nuala and have a great chat with her staff. As we were not subject now to the limited train service we just
stayed there and got a later bus, arriving at the Bridge house for some snacks, some more ales and the bus home. A really brilliant day trip - and a big thank you to
everyone from JDW's.
The Liberation Brewery Tour
A welcome break to Jersey and a visit to the Liberation Brewery in St. Helier where we were regally entertained. We also did an Ale/Walk pub crawl to get our card
stamped for the free T-shirt (It finally arrived and while a suitable size, sad to say, it did not survive the wash unlike other brewery shirt I have had for many years).
The Great British Beer Festival
An excellent time for catch-ups and meeting old friends, plus great ales, ciders and snacks. It was a sad occassion though now that our Chairman, Mike Hall, passed
The John Hewitt Beer Festival.
We were there on a few accassions to sample the ales. Not such a good selection as times past, but some nice pints.
The real thing this time. Good food & better company. A small pin of ale from Hilden certainly washed down the food excellently cooked and served up
by our volunteer chef of the day, Joseph.
Sunday, 2nd June.
The Chairman's House Party. This was to be called a BBQ but with the weather being unpredictable we decided it was safer to eat indoors. The
available beer turned out to be a 36 pint polypin of excellent Hilden's Twisted Hop. The party ran from the early afternoon into the small hours and everyone got safely
home. Besides the SPBW people we had the great company of a couple of Philipino girls who brought along a brilliant sense of humour. All in all, an excellent day.
Thursday, 16th May.
We took an early train from Belfast to visit the Courthouse (Coleraine) for lunch, then on the bus to the Spinning Mill (Ballymena), and
finished up at the Bridge House (Belfast) for snacks and more beer and chat. A really worthwhile day out.
Tuesday, 21st May.
A visit to the newest NI brewery, the Red Hand Brewery, Donaghmore. A long drive but excellent to meet Ciaran and Simon and see their
brewhouse - albeit the basis for a much bigger set-up coming soon. Their enthusiasm is great to see and we look forward to the public launch of their beers this August.
The "Summer Wine" Visit
Braving the cold we set off for a long weekend around Leeds to tour the town and countryside of Holmfirth ("Last of the Summer Wine" country) and sample
the local pubs. We met up with our ever faithful guide, Andy Whitley, who took us on a taxi tour of some new establishments on the Friday night and arranged a meeting and
pub crawl with members of the local SPBW branch, most notably the Brew Dog with its very high alcohol beverages.
National AGM, London
We attended the National SPBW AGM, meeting up with some old friends and trying to stay inside. The wind was bitterly cold and it is the
first time ever I have seen snow lying in central London. We did brave the elements after the AGM to visit the Harp Bar in Covent Garden for a fine selection of several
London Pub Crawl
This started in the Princess Louise where we met a couple of the SPBW members and progressed in and around Holborn and ending up in the
Calthorpe Arms where, of all people, we met John Cryne (ex Chairman of CAMRA) and had a pleasant chat.