Hilden Beer and Music Festival
Sunday is family day at the Hilden Beer & Music Festival. It’s a Bank Holiday eve and there are fine vibes about this beautiful place.
On the edge of Lisburn, tucked away like a secret treasure trove, is Ireland’s oldest independent brewery. There are tours and tastings all year round, but since 1984 the family-owned and run business has hosted the Hilden Beer & Music Festival. That’s 33 years – making it Northern Ireland’s longest running small festival.
Walk through the ivy rimmed Gothic arch doorway into another world. It almost feels magical – the old courtyard makes a perfect location for the main stage. On the other side of the Tap Room, bordered by the herb garden is the Tipi – the singer-songwriter stage.
Freshly face-painted children run free-range. Finely brewed beer flows freely – looking around, breathing it in, everyone seems so happy. The whole place feels happy. It’s warm, balmy, overcast – a perfect, hazy lazy Sunday afternoon. If they could only bottle this fine feeling.
Or maybe that’s what they’ve already done – and creatively christened the results with names like Belfast Blonde, Headless Dog, Barney’s Brew, Hilden Halt, Twisted Hop. On tap or bottled, labeled with love. There’s a whole menu from other small breweries to sample or select. I sample Porterhouse Red – “fruit filled characterful mouth with caramel notes”. Very nice indeed.
There’s a sensible token system for beers and food. At the entrance, visitors are given their personal Hilden branded pint glass or goblet-style glass – for “keepsies”. It’s a nice touch – there’s even a place to rinse the glass between pints or at the end of the day. It’s the little things that count.
The Tipi stage is well covered in the event of rain, or just to give a special low-key atmosphere. Leather armchairs and sofas make it cosy and comfy; loads of paper lanterns hang from the roof, glowing red, orange, white like dangling planets jostling for space.
Sunday’s Tipi line up included Nathan Regan and band, Tony Villiers and the Villains, Larks, Augustus Allen and the very talented Owen Denvir.
On the main stage through Sunday were the Hillbilly Biltong Band, The Holy Innocents (it is Sunday after all), to counteract that there was The Unholy Gospel Choir, and once more onto the breech, Tony Villiers and the Villains – who played a blinding set lasting around an hour and a half. I have to say the highlight for me was their cover of the Velvet Underground’s ‘I’m Waiting For The Man’. It sounded so good – and of course, with the excellent ex-Xdreamysts Doc Doherty on lead guitar the riffs throughout the set were exceptional.
Beer, cider, long communal wooden picnic tables, al fresco, a gourmet garden of food stalls, all sorts of delicious aromas, fresh aromatic herbs, the warm balmy scents of a late-summer, early-autumn evening – and no work on a Monday morning. It’s what perfect days are made of.