Tag Archive: Festival


Bristol Beer Festival 2015

Malt Musings: I’m Not Bitter, and Neither Are Fucking They.

Few weeks back I hit the CAMRA Bristol Beer Festival for the first time. It is slightly crazy that thing, it sells out remarkably fast and had insane queues for the early tickets. So, I tried it for the first time and…well it is pretty much similar to most fests, a big bunch of beers, but not much else. In fact a lot of the issues I listed with the Bath festival back in 2009 are still present in festivals today, which is a pity.

But that is not what I’m talking about today – what got me was when I saw a beer – that listed IPA in its name, was categorised as a bitter by the label on the cask. They knew IPAs existed, other beers were marked as IPA, but this one was not. So my friend and I started perusing. Basically it seemed any beer they were unsure about was listed as a bitter, no matter how little it matched that category. The term “Golden Ale” did not appear once best I could tell, despite a couple seeming to fit that nicely – most tellingly Oakham’s Dolphin Dance, No sign of an American Pale Ale, probably therefore shoved under bitter as well.

On dark beers they did better, Stouts, Porters, Milds and Black IPAs all get their turn. Lighter beers – fuck it, probably a bitter.

Maybe most of them were bitters, I didn’t try all of the beers, but based on the blatantly misidentified beers I did see I am wondering, At a beer festival, a collection of massive beer geeks – labelling a beer called “IPA” as an IPA should not be too much to ask. I know there is often debate over the lines of various beer styles, but this seemed to just be half arsing it.

When you have fifty, a hundred, or more beers to choose from, basic information like that is vital to help you make a choice at a glance. The guide book they gave you did better, but still this is basic stuff here. Lots of people don’t like bitters – and, at a glance, there were very few beers for them to enjoy it seemed. Because so many beers seem to be mistyped.

Help people enjoy beer. You are a beer festival. It is pretty much your entire purpose.

Please.

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Drinking in the Shadow of the Five Rings

The Great British Beer Festival. Usually the highlight of the year for London beer drinkers, where they would congregate at Earls Court. This year, well someone decided to run some small piddling athletics thing called the Olympics in there so we got shunted over to the Olympia.

Seriously I’m fairly sure there are more people who have a pint once a week than there are people who do exercise one a week. That’s all I’m saying.

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The Single Malt Of Scotland: Anniversary Selection: Glen Grant 45 Years(Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 45 Years:42.6% ABV) (Bourbon Single Cask)

(Note: Due to being tried at the whisky show, these were smaller measures done in a packed and friendly social environment, so are not as full notes as normal, however the chance to tasting note such a range of high quality whiskies was not to be missed)

Visual: Light clear gold.

Viscosity: A small number of fast streaks.

Nose: Sweet vanilla and toffee. A touch of wheatgrain and oak intrudes on the creamy nose, almost baileys like creaminess. Slight floral and lime mix in.

Body: lime touches, in a quite light and sweet whisky with a touch of wheat grain evident amongst the syrup trails. Quite a call to floral styles.

Finish: Charring, slightly more alcohol than expected. The flavour comes back into play here with vanilla yoghurt and toffee, and slight malted barley.

Conclusion: A light and sweet bourbon single cask, which plays smoothly.  Its not got a wide range of complexity on the body, but sooths nicely.  Lots of floral influence is evident.  An enjoyable entry, that suffered due to being compared the extraordinary range of the show.

Johnnie Walker: Blue Label (Scottish Blended Whisky: No Age Statement: 40% ABV)

(Note: Due to being tried at the whisky show, these were smaller measures done in a packed and friendly social environment, so are not as full notes as normal, however the chance to tasting note such a range of high quality whiskies was not to be missed)

Visual: A light clear grain and gold mix.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose; Dry initially with a hint of smoke. The dry oak is prevalent.

Body: A mix of dry meats, a solid sweet syrup back, surprisingly a slight amount of peat and some cherry comes through.

Finish: Black cherry, charring and a light alcohol air mixing with light chocolate.

Conclusion: Once this was the rarest whisky I had tried, and it’s interesting to go back to it with a more experienced pallet.  It was said by the promoters that this whisky needs a lot of time to expand, so unfortunately the small measures at the whisky show worked against it in that regard, as I got the feeling it hadn’t quite opened up by the time the sample was finished.

From what I got it has a nice whisky, adding in a surprising touch of peat and smoke to the Jonnie Walker range, though hardly enough to shift its mainstream aimed style. It’s a decent enough whisky, but doesn’t really compare well to its bedfellows

Oddly I remember reading that this was the only whisky  one of the higher up people at Enron would drink, which does nothing to disabuse me of the notion that Enron was run by a bunch of know nothing crooks with more money than sense.

It’s got a well put together and inoffensive style, and I get the feeling the range of play has a bit to go if you take a larger measure, but for the price you can get so much more.  Decent but far from fantastic.

Glendronach Grandeur (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: Sherry Cask: 31 Years: 45.8% ABV)

(Note: Due to being tried at the whisky show, these were smaller measures done in a packed and friendly social environment, so are not as full notes as normal, however the chance to tasting note such a range of high quality whiskies was not to be missed)

Visual: Very dark sherry red amber. Very rich and inviting.

Viscosity: Very slow and thin puckering.

Nose: Surprisingly floral for the colour, with light wheat and lime, hint of raisin and other dried and sherried fruit. Slightly dusty

Body: Slick textured, the flavour of the  first sip is nigh lost in the shock of how smooth the feel is.  Second sip brings toffee and vanilla a slight malt like edge. Shortbread dryness gives the needed back to a custard like element. Very sweet.

Finish: The sweetness lightens with raisins and light chocolate. Slight dusty then into a familiar bitter chocolate until just bitter touches remain.

Conclusion: A very sweet and smooth whisky.  The body is remarkable in being possibly the smoothest textures whisky I have tried.  Very well balanced, and shares a similar chocolate finish to the Dalmore 40 I was comparing it directly against, though this is not quite so creamy.

The huge advantage this spirit brings is that mentioned smooth as silk body.  The texture gives it a soothing feel so you are never competing with it to find the flavours.  That said the finish couldn’t quite manage the luxury feel to the same extent.

Due to a bit of friendly rivalry between the two stands this was going head to head with the Dalmore 40, and the Damore wins on the nose easily, however unlike the slightly weaker body of the Dalmore this is the real deal.  A wonderful counter, and for all they were in competition I found they complement each other better than they fight.

A Celebration of Whisky: A Counterpoint On Festivals

Whisky Shows and Beer Festivals can be a bit hit and miss, with my current view that they too often lean towards the miss category spelt out here.  However there is one show that has hit the mark every year, even if by that I mean only the two years its been going. The show is London’s Whisky Show.

Last years show came just after I had finished the aforementioned article and came as perfectly timed counterpoint. So what makes it so special?

Partly is the location, whilst not as amazing as the Guildhall last year the Brewery still lends a distinguished air to the proceedings, but that just sets the feel for the events within.

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Springbank 15

Springbank 15 Year (Campbeltown Scottish Single Malt Whisky:15 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Dark bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Quite a few thick streaks, moderate speed.

Nose: Madeira. Raisins. Grassy. Caramel. Light smoke and a touch of salt. Brown sugar. Peat. Stewed fruit. Water adds vanilla notes.

Body: Smooth. Stewed apricot. Vanilla. Madeira soaked raisins. Grassy. Light oak. Water adds toffee and more vanilla. Light spice. Light cherries and treacle.

Finish: Light oak. Grassy. Smoke. Water adds raisins, Madeira and brandy cream.

Conclusion: Why, hello again Springbank 15, a full measure this time you say? A full double in fact for delectation? Oh my.

With more time to examine this whisky, I find it to be a real full bodied feast, yet you still have that native grassy Springbank character. What comes out more, however, is deep stewed fruit and Madeira notes – you get a huge chunk of dark fruit complexity, and slow subtle layers of spirit and wine influence. It all combines to crate an appropriately timed Christmas feeling delight of a whisky. Everything that was hinted at in the tiny sample I had before is now magnified at least tenfold.

You have but to breath open mouthed over the glass to get vanilla toffee and brandy cream rising up. You have but to sip to add peat and grass to that, a lovely mix of slid base and sweet ageing.

This the slightly salted and smoked whisky that manages simultaneously to be a Christmas pudding accompaniment to said whisky. An absolutely lovely, rich, layered and complex whisky. A brilliant dram to let slip back and warm you with strength and flavour.

Background: I have previously reviewed this at a whisky show (Original review left below) – however as a Christmas gift my parents gave me a miniature which gave me a chance to give it a proper going over, so I decided to do a full review. Hope you enjoy.

Springbank 15 Year (Campbeltown Scottish Single Malt Whisky:15 Years: 46% ABV)

(Note: Due to being tried at the whisky show, these were smaller measures done in a packed and friendly social environment, so are not as full notes as normal, however the chance to tasting note such a range of high quality whiskies was not to be missed)

Visual: Light clear gold.
Viscosity: A few thick slow trails.

Nose: Light peat and smoke with grass blended in. Quite meaty and almost chewable. Field and hay touches, rounded off with full oak and a touch of old books.

Body: Surprisingly sweet with a touch of honey mixing with the lightly done peat. Then smoke and syrup intertwined. Roast beef again and a slight salt touch.

Finish: Grassy, with a touch of charring. Light grain into growing peat and then smoke mixes in alongside bitter chocolate.

Conclusion: A smooth extension of the already complex Springbank style. The main body is similar done to its younger cousin, but smoothes out remarkably.  This is most notable in the delicious chocolate finish that adds a remarkable bitter touch which complements the smoother main body.  I always liked the grassy, yet balanced peat and salt from the Springbanks and this places a decent richness on top. I have the feeling I’m going to have to get a full bottle at some point to give it a proper range of experimenting.

Moor: Peat Porter (England: Porter: 4.5% ABV)

Visual: Very dark ruby red with a dusting of off white head.

Nose: Chocolate, smoke, coffee granules and kind of peat like I guess, maybe. Milk and more smoke.

Body: Bitter chocolate, dry malt, chalk. Gritty taste. Sour towards the swallow. Blackcherry. Slight touch of the promised peat.

Finish: Growing charring and bitterness. Slight medicinal at the very end. Lots of dusty elements in the finish, dry and chalky. Treacle and somewhat earthy. Slight sweetness.

Conclusion: An intriguing concept which, unfortunately, leads to a mediocre ale. It plays the range, but feels slightly too gritty to catch the imagination.

The peat styling of the name can kind of be found on examination, but its so fleeting that it could easily be psychosomatic.

A few nice elements, but it comes together in unrewarding ways. Not terrible, but considering what you can do with a porter this doesn’t excite.

Salopian: Blackwater: Psychedelic (England: Golden Ale: 4% ABV)

Visual: Pale gold, almost lager style but without the carbonation. Medium just off white head.

Nose: Lime, subtle hops and wheat. Smooth and slightly creamy. Tart lemon and squeezed orange. Light meringue nature.

Body: Wholemeal crackers, lime brown sugar and buttered popcorn. Tiny amount of strawberries. Lots of jiff lemon freshness. Sparkling feel, syrup touches mixes in with the lime. Light ginger.

Finish: Dry hops, wheat and popcorn. Drying dusty texture, yet not flavour. Slow growing bitterness that hangs around well. The hops grow to be equally as powerful. Still slight lemon fresh, treacle toffee touches.

Conclusion: A beer recommended highly to me by the serving staff. They advised that it packed a punch well above its abv, and I have to say that they weren’t lying.

Fresh and the lemon/lime punch really does well enough, however what really sells it is the slow growing finish that adds a significant bite without making it an assault ale.

Well done session ale, its not quite outmatching I Beer, but it carries a touch more bite. A great beer for refreshing and great beer for biting finish. So the first beer of the festival is a success.

Dark Star: Hylder Blond (England: Golden Ale: 4.2% ABV)

Visual: Hazy amber fold with a rim of light bubbles.

Nose: Light dusty hops, smooth but with a dash of wheat grain Light glucose sweetness. Grapefruit and elderberry.

Body: Grapefruit that’s slowly growing throughout the pint. Light wheat grain. Medium hops. Slight custard sweetness and sharp sour touch.

Finish: More grapefruit that hovers in the air, hops but with only slight bitterness. Toffee.

Conclusion: Normally I would be giving this beer a rave review, it’s a refreshing mix of elderberry. grapefruit and hops, not complex but flavoursome.

Today it finds itself being tasted directly after two stonking beers of a similar take and tasty as it is it cant compete, and I cant help but view it different in light of that..

Stull don’t let that put you off, A grapefruit refresher done well is usually worth a try against most things on tap.

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