28th August 2016
Hilden Brewery

The sun shone down on the grounds of Hilden Brewery as the final day of the 2016 beer festival got underway. Friday and Saturday had already seen crowds flock to the County Down venue from across Northern Ireland.

David C Clements, Brash Isaac, and Jamie Neish were among the songwriting talent on the Tipi acoustic stage. Indie folk stalwarts Emerald Armada and Rackhouse Pilfer were making noise over on the main stage.

Brash Isaac at Hilden Beer Festival

We’ve hit quite a few festivals this summer, but Hilden’s been one of the best. An astounding array of cask and tapped beers. Stouts, IPAs, lagers, something for everyone. There are even summery cocktails and tropical flavoured ciders.

There’s a huge emphasis on family this year and the Gourmet Garden provides an ideal place for all sorts of kids’ fun and games. We’re with the big kids over at the acoustic stage for most of the day.

Brash Isaac opens proceedings with a full band ramping up the sound and giving his tunes a little more bite. Jamie Neish follows in a similar ilk. The songwriting’s earnest and confessional, stories well spun and nicely played.

There’s a brief break for steak sandwiches before Malojian takes to the acoustic stage. Stevie Scullion’s outfit have impressed at many festivals this year. It’s no different at Hilden. Kids are dancing to ‘Bathtub Blues’ and the elder amongst us tap toes to ‘Calling Borneo’. Mike Mormecha on drums and Joe McGurgan on upright bass add more beef than was present in that aforementioned sandwich.

There’s been some great trad, blues and all-out hillbilly fun over on the main stage so far. Maybe it’s the sun, maybe it’s the 6% brews but there are big smiles and a few early afternoon dance moves thrown on the cobbles. Fiddles, banjos, killer harmonies and big choruses are the order of the day.

Emerald Armada at Hilden Beer Festival

A few more half-pints lead into an Emerald Armada set with a few new tunes and a plethora of big hits. There’s a maturity to the new material. This is a band who’ve really grown into themselves over the last six years. ‘Everywhere’ is still hands down the best set closer going though.

The party continues apace into the night with Rackhouse Pilfer. They’ve taken the Emerald Armada model, ramped up the pace, thrown in a few covers and generally delighted the biggest crowd of the day. An up-tempo rendition of Ryan Adams’ ‘New York, New York’ makes for a pleasant surprise. Feet have been stomped, songs have been sung and many, many beers drank.

And if that’s not the sign of a great music and beer festival then I don’t know what is.