Tag Archive: Festival


Nobbys T’owd Navigation (England: English Strong Ale: 6.1% ABV)

Visual: Quite dark, semi opaque brown red beer with a thin shimmer of bubbles.

Nose: Dry mocha and ash.

Body: Great dose of liquorice and bitter chocolate. Burnt wood. Semi sweet lime at the back. Treacle, marzipan and old style hard sweets.

Finish: Black hard liquorice bits and bitter chocolate. Wheat at the very end.

Conclusion: More than it seems at first sip. I was ready to slate this beer initially but as the pint progressed the flavour slowly built up, and lighter elements shimmered though the back.

Feels a very old style beer with a lot to recommend it, the streets of beamish museum and pealing black and white photos come to mind.

Surprisingly good with a wonderfully treacherous streak of bitterness.

Boggart Brewery: Rum Porter (England: Porter: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Very dark chestnut brown with a thin bubbly brown head.

Nose: Luxury truffle chocolates, touch of cherry and rich chocolate cream. Tiny coffee comes out but mainly rich delicious expensive gift wrapped chocolates.

(Alternate nose from Will: Toffee Ice Cream)

Body: Gorgeous chocolate with slight bitterness behind. Slight rum spice and spiced fruit punch. Sweet caramel. Raspberry and raisin with a touch of orange.

Finish: Light and dry, goes into a good long lasting bitter streak. Touch of rum in the aftertaste.

Conclusion: Whilst not as jaw droppingly awesome and luxurious as the nose would suggest this is still a damn fine beer.

It could do with just a bit more punch behind the flavour but it has great nuance and a spicy kick.

It doesn’t quite make it to the top of the mountain but it gives it a damn good try.

Bragdy’r Nant Winter Ale (Wales: Porter/Ale?: 4.8% ABV)

Visual: Dark hazy red with a medium off white head.

Nose: Light oats, feed bag and coffee. Burnt oats.

Body: Alpen (the cereal). Roasted nuts. Smoked tricks come through. Touches of slight wood and malt chocolate.

Finish: Dusty and roasted nuts. Touch of burnt caramel/ treacle. Very light.

Conclusion: Not a very assertive beer. It has reasonable flavour but does it in such a mild fashion that it doesn’t really stand out.

Unobjectionable and nice nuttiness but not particularly great.

Saltaire Hazelnut Coffee Porter (England: Porter: 4.6% ABV)

Visual: Light brown red with a small bubbly head.

Nose: Shockingly hazelnut (Hazelnut coffee cake to be specific) Coffee and malt chocolate.

Body: Light malted milk, chocolate, slight bitter chocolate back. More nuts

Finis: Hazelnut again, roasted this time. Open fire and more malt.

Conclusion: An easy going malted milk of a beer. A nightcap and relaxer with lovely hazelnut coffee cake feel.

Probably the most relaxing beer you will ever drink.

(Note: This beer gets full thumbs up from Tanja)

Palmers: Tally Ho! (England: Strong Ale: 5.5% ABV)

Visual: Dark cherry black with a thin bubbly head.

Nose: Sour cherry and coffee. Bitter chocolate.

Body: Sweet, black cherry and bitter. Tiniest hint of cream and alcohol raisins punch in. Tart and sharp.

Finish: Sour black cherry, airy raisins and sultanas, again spirit soaked. Malt chocolate.

Conclusion: A sour sharp beer that excites. Punchy, not a beer you could have many pints of but it refreshes amazingly and awakes you once more

A good wake up call, its sharpness and sourness matches well with its darker elements for an enticing beer.

Well worth a try, possibly with dessert or in place of wine to see how it goes.

Wirksworth: Cruckbeam (England: Bitter: 3.9% ABV)

Visual: Clear varnished mahogany brown red with no evident head.

Nose: Wood, burnt sugar, nail varnish. Dusty cellars.

Body: Bitter and hoppy, oaky, dry bread, eggs, slight sweet butter.

Finish: Cheese puffs, mothballs, dry and dusty. Slight sweet caramel.

Conclusion: A boring beer. It has bitter and hops yes, and even some sweetness but it is a by the numbers beer. Unobjectionable and dull. Really not worth paying attention to.

On the upside its not Tescos value lager.

Derby Brewing: Spookylicious (England: ESB: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Dusty ruby cloudy ale with no head.

Nose: Light – treacle and orange (Terrys Chocolate Orange?) Brandy cream, somewhat sherried.

Body: Sweet chocolate – strawberry cream centre from a chocolate sweet. Hint of bitter chocolate to match. Touch of coffee, raspberrys. Creamy and caramel.

Finish: Bitter back, airy dusty, wood shavings and coffee.

Conclusion: Not bad at all, takes a bit of time to open up but fascinates the palette when it does.

Not as world shaking as the notes may make it seem, but it has got a decent amount of play in it, with a very spirit like body.

Proved very popular at the beer festival and would match Halloween drink up well into the night as you tell tall tales of terror.

Very nice, sweet middle and its chock full of tricks and fun.

A Celebration Of Ales: On Beer Festivals and the Bath Pavilion Beer Festival 2009

It is an odd state of affairs that a good beer festival must be simultaneously about the Ale, and yet also must not solely be about the ale.

The first part is the easier to comprehend. Without the beer, a beer festival is destined to be nothing more than a gathering of oddly thirsty individuals and so it is the second part of that statement that I shall expound upon.

If a beer festival concentrates purely on putting on a selection of ales, it will find itself lacking despite whatever wonderful range it puts forth, for, especially in this day and age, the beer fan can find hundreds of world beers with nary but a willingness to type words into google. A good festival will have advantages in economy of scale in that they can present beers that would be difficult for an individual to gather without excessive overheads, and keg and cask ales can often taste significantly different to their bottle cousins that are more easily available, but still a beer festival is no more just a collection of drinks that a good tavern is.

A beer festival should not only provide the ales, but an area for enjoyment that is more than not only a home drinking session, but also more than would be available in a decent tavern.

On that note I shall move to look at this years CAMRA festival at the Bath Pavilion. Its selection of ales from around the UK was significant and well ranging, with over 70 ales, and a smattering of Belgium and world beers, plus some ciders.

In previous years there have been problems with security preventing people sitting on the floor, which when combined with the lack of seating available meant anyone with any disabilities or medical problems that made standing for long periods painful found the event less that hospitable, with little comfort shown by the staff and security. Thankfully this year, several chairs spread across the floor became evident, making for a much more hospitable environment.

This however did bring into focus the issue, that for a beer festival there was little in place to encourage and interaction between the many people who came here with a common passion for ale. Whilst, with effort or just by unusual habits (yet again, the taking of beer tasting notes sparked several conversations, including some friendly discussions with the somewhat bemused security staff) conversations could be sparked to discuss preferred ales, mostly the usual circles remained together.

However nothing seemed organised by the festival to help encourage this discussion of drinking habits. The festival would have benefited by maybe an area set for shared tasting of the same ale where drinkers could compare notes and thus help break people out from their usual discussion groups.

The beer program given on entry provided a nice guide to the beers, but in many cases failed to even list the style of the beer – which would seem, even more than ABV, to be the most important information to give.

Also with so many beers being local, getting some people capable of giving more information on the beer would have helped elevate the festival above being just an extra large drinking session.

Any representatives of the Breweries should surely be interested in promoting their ales to such a receptive public, and the information they could give on choices made in developing the beer, its brewing methods, and information on their smaller breweries, would have added a context to the ales that would have surely encouraged a more meaningful sip. Even the organiser giving information on why the chosen beers were ordered for the festival would have given an appreciation of the selection that was unfortunately lacking.

Aside from that even just charts showing what hops were used for which beers, to allow you to see trends between favoured ales or to compare when you find similar notes would add to the joy, and provide a single point to meet and encourage sharing of your newfound knowledge.

It is these lacking details that I referred to in the early paragraphs – without these, or other similar additions, we have but an overly large and less comfortable drinking establishment. Which, whilst impressive in its range, does little to add to the experience of the ale.

Similarly the provided music, which whilst perfectly placed on the first night – proved to drown out conversation on the second night, reducing, rather than enhancing the atmosphere

The festival itself was enjoyable more than this discussion would suggest, but in many ways it was a festival that only gave back to you if you pushed it to do so. Without such prodding it would not open up and become sociable, and thus remained just a collection of ales rather than a festival.

And thus is the crux of an issue, why does so often the ale festival forget that amongst the ale one should find some festivity?

So now I throw the discussion open here on how can these festivals become more, and provide more than just alcoholic refreshment?

Springhead: Goodrich Castle (England: Tradition Ale: 4.4% ABV)

Visual: Off yellow and slightly cloudy with a frothy but thin head.

Nose: Peppermint; crushed roses (possibly the promised rosemary?) fluoride. Slightly medicinal like cough syrup. Crushed seeds.

Body: Honey and paprika. Chives and cloves. Ginger, elderberry.

Finish: Minty – toothpaste. Slight dry wood, quite light. Some hops.

Conclusion: A very different beer; a taste refresher. It makes your mouth feel sparkling, Very much odd tastes and great outdoors elements. It is a bit too medicinal and not recommended as your main drink. Its odd and rather mouth refreshing style makes it a good half between two heavy pints.

Dark Star Oktoberfest (England: Oktoberfest: 5.2% ABV)

Visual: Honey/orange with a bubbly white head.

Nose: Light lime and vanilla, some malt.

Body: Very grainy and wheat bails. Citrus – lime jam. Slight sweetness, lots more grain like wholemeal bits in white bread.

Finish: Dry and hoppy, bitter initially then airy vanilla and sugar.

Conclusion: A Sussex Oktoberfest? Surely not! A bit too string on the lime elements which hides the other notes, carries through as a refreshing beer however. It tries for sweetness but ends up more cloying.

A very wheat filled experience, almost like an alcoholic representation of a farmers gathering – very Sussex character.

It’s not a bad beer but its not a patch on most Oktoberfests

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