Peterborough Beer Festival 2011

I don’t know why I’d never got round to going to the Peterborough Beer Festival before. I religiously attend the Cambridge Beer Festival, and I managed to make it down to Earl’s Court in London to the Great British Beer Festival earlier this month. But for some reason I’d never made the effort to take the 50 minute train journey to Peterborough. On Wednesday it was time to put that right.

Lonestar TPA

Lonestar TPA

The Peterborough Beer Festival, with over 350 real ales plus cider, wine, and bottled world beers, is the second largest CAMRA beer festival in the country. When I saw the beer list a week before the festival I was excited by the selection, with some breweries present whose ales I really wanted to try. Already I could see that this festival was going to be more exciting than the Great British Beer Festival (US cask beers aside). But at the same time I knew there was no way I could try all the beers I wanted to try in just one session; if they served third pint measures like at the GBBF I might be in with a chance. Come on all CAMRA beer fests, serve third pint measures; I can’t drink much but I want to try lots of different beers!

After a pleasant train journey from Cambridge in a wonderfully sparkly train (why can’t the trains to London be as nice as these?) and a 15 minute walk from the station we arrived at the Embankment, the site of the festival. It was 5.15 and the sun was shining, but the gates were closed. We joined the growing queue and waited in anticipation. The gates opened at 5.30 on the dot, so we all filtered slowly through, with CAMRA members paying £4 and non-members paying £8, which includes the £3 glass hire fee.

Table footieThe festival is located in large interlinking marquees. The floor is grass as opposed to the plastic flooring that is layed out at the Cambridge festival. The breweries were listed alphabetically through the various marquees in an L shape, which should have been straightforward – shouldn’t it?  Not for me – I still managed to get lost and ended up walking backwards and forwards several times trying to find T. Hmm. I blame the beer. They also have a live music marquee (which I am not particularly keen on at a beer fest, preferring my drinking and chat not to be drowned out by live music, despite the fact I do generally love to watch a good band) and a cider bar, wine bar, fairground rides, food stalls and shops, and pub games such as table football and Northamptonshire skittles (my personal favourite, as a girl who hails from that county).  There is a small grassy area outside around the food stalls where we sat, but I missed the open expanse of grass of the Cambridge Beer Festival – that’s what makes it so special in my opinion. There is plenty of grass on the Embankment – I am sure a large grassy space could be created for drinkers to sit and chat. Then it would be perfect.

Brewery bars

Brewery bars

So, onto the important bit – the beer. The Lonestar TPA (Texas Pale Ale) 5.8%, was first up; it had been recommended to me as it was a festival special but also because it has a great story. It was a collaboration between Hopshackle brewery and Steve Saldana, the festival cellarman and a Texan; the beer was brewed according to an ancient Texan recipe. Check out the full story (page 9), it’s fascinating 😉 The result is a beer loaded with hops, but not overly so; it’s wonderfully balanced and has the most gorgeous floral aroma. Very nice indeed. It didn’t disappoint (thanks for the recommendation Karl!)

Next up was Magic Rock High Wire, 5.5%.  I had been wanting to try their beers for a while but hadn’t managed to get hold of any. Here was my chance. Wow. Overwhelming tropical flavours and smells, mango, passion fruit, citrus. Incredibly rich. I could’ve sworn there were Nelson Sauvin hops in there, but when I asked them they said no, just loads of ‘C’ hops!

Tintagel Brewery is a relatively new and fantastic little brewery; the beer is brewed in an old milking shed on a farm just outside Tintagel, Cornwall. The Castle Gold was fantastic; bright yellow, floral, honey notes and very sweet. This went down a treat and was a pleasure to drink. Tintagel Harbour Special was a favourite after having drunk this in Tintagel this summer, with its caramel malty notes with citrus and dry hopped flavours.

I then went for Summer Wine 7 C’s of Rye, a beer containing 7 types of hop beginning with C (Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, etc). At this point the guys at the bar tried to warn me off the stronger beers, asking if I knew that my beer of choice was 7% and should I maybe try something weaker so as not to end up in a heap on the floor by the end of the evening? I explained that this was a brewery whose beers I had to try, that everything was fine and I knew what I was doing (didn’t I?). So they sighed and poured me a half. (The bar staff were so very nice and helpful at this festival, the nicest I have come across to be honest, nothing was too much trouble and they all were so enthusiastic about beer and wanted to share their enthusiasm).  Well the beer certainly tasted its strength. It was similar in a way to the High Wire (as in lots of tropical hop flavours) but it was deeper, creamier, much heavier and resinous. But I could have done with a 3rd pint to be honest, a half was too much for me as it was so rich.

Tydd Steam Stargazer was a beer that I wanted at the CBF but it had run out. It was a delicious golden ale; so easy to drink (after the 7 Cs’!) and full of wonderful American hop flavours.

I tried several other beers and had tasters of others, so here are some in brief – Oakham Dream Catcher, 6.9%: deeply hoppy and resinous, fruity, red, very nice. Oakham Green Devil, 6%: very tropical (there’s that word again) – lots of grapefruit, peach, similar to a very strong Thornbridge Kipling. Leeds Samba, 3.7%: quite pleasant, hoppy, light and refreshing. Mallinsons Peter-Beer, 4.6%: full of flavour, golden and hoppy with a lovely aftertaste. Le Brewery Mysterieuse Lady from Normandy, France, 4%: a wheat beer with an unusual aroma but very delicate with elderflower and grassy notes. Brodie’s Hackney Red IPA, 6.1%: deep ruby colour with prominent US dry hopped flavours.

It was time to leave to catch the train home. A pleasant walk back to the station through pretty Cathedral Square with its colourful shooting fountains and Butter Cross made for a nice end to the evening.

The festival was fantastic – it runs until Saturday 27th August. Next year I will try to go to more than one session to take advantage of all that is on offer!

The Great British Beer Festival 2011

On Thursday we headed to the Great British Beer Festival in Earl’s Court, London. This is the mother of all UK beer festivals, with over 700 beers on offer as well as a multitude of ciders and perries.

At around 12.30 we emerged from Earl’s Court station straight into the pouring rain. We made a running dash for it over the road and entered the exhibition centre to the voices of stewards shouting repeatedly and urgently to the eager (and sogging wet) crowd ‘Don’t slip on the wet floor!’

I was initially overwhelmed by the size of the place. After grabbing a couple of £3 souvenir pint glass and beer programmes (free for CAMRA members) we had a look around. I found it to be a very confusing layout; breweries were ordered by groups of counties rather than alphabetically, which surprised me. I don’t always know the name of the towns that some of my favourite breweries are from, let alone the county. The bars were all given names and letter, such as P4 Gray, which confusingly had beers from counties H-L (not G, as you might vaguely hope/expect). So really, you would have no idea where to go without your brochure, and would have to aimlessly wander around hoping you would come across a brewery you were looking for – the names are listed on the backdrop behind each bar. But they could make this so much easier by listing the breweries alphabetically like the Cambridge beer festival does, as opposed to regional location – it would therefore be obvious where to go  if you wanted an Adnams beer or a Youngs. In my opinion.

So, rather than trying to figure everything out immediately upon arrival whilst still clutching an empty beer glass, wander we did. Luckily, we soon came across what we were looking for, the Bières Sans Frontières bar, or more precisely, the USA cask beer bar (or W2 Blackwell, if you want to get all technical). This was the reason I was here. I had composed a list comprising of no less than 24 US beers I wanted to try. OK, I knew that I wouldn’t get through 24 strong US beers in one day, but I knew several were bound to be gone already, so I had to give myself a few options, just in case…

Bières Sans Frontières

Bières Sans Frontières

When we got to the bar there were quite a few US beers on, but many had indeed gone already – including, unfortunately, most of the beers on my ginormous list. I was most disappointed to see that Deschutes Mirror Pond Pale Ale was one of them, which was due to be my first beer of the day. Grrr. This beer was going to evoke happy memories of Portland, Oregon, where we drank it in the Deschutes bar (see my US beer trip post). That was the plan anyway. However, the barman informed me that the beer was so amazingly fantastic that he had been recommending it to all his customers the previous few days, and now it was gone. Dammmit. Luckily, Adam managed to find the last remaining bottle of it on the adjacent bottled beer bar, so he grabbed that along with some bottles of Cascade Ale and Green Lakes Organic Ale by the same brewer, both wonderful beers. The great thing about Deschutes is that they don’t overdo their hopping like some US breweries; everything is nicely balanced and just right. However, I do love a massive hop kick too. Any day of the week.

So out of my 24 US beers, I managed to try a grand total of 4. Pah. Here they are:

Country Boy IPA

Country Boy IPA

Everybody’s Brewing, Country Boy IPA (6.2%)  – This wonderful beer from Washington state didn’t taste its strength although you could tell it wasn’t a 4%er. A golden ale with a fantastic hop aroma and citrus flavour. Contains lots of NW hops such as Chinook and Cascade but wasn’t overdone. This incredibly drinkable beer was one of my favourites of the fest and a very pleasant start.

Il Vicino, Wet Mountain IPA (7.2%) – I love the name of this beer – this conjures up for me the Cascade mountain range in Oregon with soaking wet hop fields from the incessant rain and lots of wonderful grassy smells. I had to try this beer from this New Mexico brewery, and it didn’t disappoint. Full of resin from the bundles of Pacific hops such as Cascade and Centennial this beer provided the much loved hop kick. Dark amber and very sweet with dry hop flavours, and tasted its strength. I was drinking 3rd pint measures (which is great about this festival) and glad I was – I couldn’t have survived on larger measures drinking beer this strong. Great beer.

Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA (7.2%) – Oh dear, not another 7.2%er. Again, this tasted its strength, if not stronger, and again very resinous. Not as sweet as the Wet Mountain, but a drinkable beer from this great Californian brewery who were the sponsors of the BSF bar. Their Pale Ale is also superb and ubiquitous in California.

Widmer Bros Okto Festival Ale (5.3%) – This beer hailing from Portland, Oregon, was OK, not bad, but not really to my taste, more malty than hoppy. This amber beer wasn’t very effervescent but it was smooth and drinkable, I just wanted to move onto the next beer though really.


So that was it for my US beers. Onto the UK beers.

To be honest, I wasn’t there for the UK beers, which sounds terrible as this is the British beer fest after all. But I had only drawn up a short UK list; breweries that I wanted to see weren’t there like Kernel and BrewDog, and other breweries that I like only had one beer which I didn’t want, e.g. Redemption only had a porter, Crouch Vale only had Brewer’s Gold, which is a great beer but I drink it all the time and wanted something different, and so on.

Here are some of the UK beers I tried:

Mallinsons Stadium Bitter (3.8) – I really love Mallinsons Simcoe, at almost the same ABV, but this beer was not as good – it was slightly hoppy and pale, but a bit astringent and I found it a bit dull. Or maybe the US beers had mashed my tastebuds by this point.

Moor Northern Star (4.1%) – This wasn’t on my beer list originally but I saw that someone had mentioned it on the GBBF Twitter feed so had to try it. It wasn’t bad, very pale with a slight egg aroma which put me off a bit, but pleasantly hoppy if also slightly astringent; I just would have liked to see more US hops in there. It’s an award winning beer, so must give this another go another time.

Thwaites Triple C (4.2%) – I wanted this beer as it is brewed with US Cascade hops. But I really couldn’t taste my favourite hop. It was pleasantly drinkable but uninspiring. Sorry, Thwaites, I do like what you do (I love your Wainwright ale ). I again blame the US beers for messing with my tastebuds. I will try this another day too.

Arbor Yakima Valley American IPA (7%) – Onto a strong American style ale by a UK brewery as I was obviously not getting on so well with weaker UK beers at this point. I had to wait for this beer to come on, but it was very nice, fruity and literally bursting with hops as they had thrown so many in. It actually tasted stronger than US beers of the same ABV – I would have liked to have done a taste comparison with this and, say, the Torpedo, but by this point I was starting to suffer so that wouldn’t have been such a good idea…


The queue for Oscar Wilde mild

The queue for Oscar Wilde mild

Adam queued in a very long line for some of the newly awarded Champion Beer of Britain: Mighty Oak Oscar Wilde,  a nutty mild beer. This beer was pleasant and easy drinking – maybe that’s part of its charm – but I don’t understand why this beer won the award with so many other amazing beers out there.  Anyway, the queue for that beer  just kept getting longer and longer.

So there we have it. I’d like to have returned for another session, but quite honestly, after the long slow journey home, the painful head the next day, and the fact the US beers had virtually gone,  it unfortunately wasn’t going to happen. It was good fun though, I thoroughly enjoyed it and it was obvious how much organisation and planning had gone into the whole thing. I came away with a couple of good books from the CAMRA bookshop. I enjoyed chatting to various people along the way who joined our table, like Garth and Bob from Devon who were on the darker beers and travelling back to Devon the same evening, a group of older gentlemen from the Kent beer club who were on the Worthingtons and had never heard of a decent US beer, and the guys from Hornchurch drinking Sharps Doom Bar (great beer) whose journey down the District Line almost took as long as ours from Cambridge.

Next year the GBBF will be in the venue of Olympia as Earl’s Court will be used in the Olymics and then possibly demolished. I’m looking forward to it already (more US cask beers please CAMRA!). There are many beer festivals to enjoy in the meantime though, including the Peterborough Beer Festival on 23-27 August. And it’s only a couple of months until the Cambridge Octoberfest 2011 on October 14th-15th…

The 38th Cambridge Beer Festival, 2011

The 38th Cambridge Beer Festival is now over, having run from 23rd – 28th May.  It was a great festival,  but unfortunately I was ill for a lot of it so couldn’t enjoy it as much as usual and couldn’t make it to all the sessions. Also, we didn’t get the weather we were promised, being chilly, grey and rainy for several sessions. I did see a bit of  sun when I was there, but typically the sunnier sessions generally happened to coincide with when I was too ill to go down. Drat.

Buntingford Bravo

Buntingford Bravo

Anyway, all that aside, it was good fun and well organised, with over 200 beers to choose from (plus ciders, perries, mead, wine, cheese, curry, chips, lots of giant hunks of bread, etc) and this year’s theme was the 70th anniversary of Sir Frank Whittle’s jet engine – the noise of the engine by the entrance could be heard firing up every now and again. It was also the 60th anniversary of Cambridge’s city status, so all this was reflected on the souvenir beer glasses.

I won’t talk about every beer I tried, so here are a select few:

Kernel and Redemption No. 2, 6% – A wonderful collaboration between these 2 innovative London brewers.  Full of USA hop flavours, resinous, intense. A very popular ale by all accounts and it didn’t take long to sell out. (Their No. 1 collaboration is a Strong Dark Mild, by the way, which wasn’t at the fest).

Redemption Hopspur, 4.5% – Lovely, like a weaker version of the No 2 but easier to knock back – a hop explosion with a dry hop flavour; reminds me of the wonderful Dry Hopped St Rogue Red by Rogue brewery from the US (check out my USA beers post).

Potbelly Crazy Daze, Tintagel Harbour Special and Redemption Hopspur

Potbelly Crazy Daze, Tintagel Harbour Special and Redemption Hopspur

Redemption Urban Dusk, 4.6% – I am loving this brewery. This is different to their other beers, no blast of American hops, but darker, vanilla/caramel and very smooth. Nice.

Time for more beer

Time for more beer

Tydd Steam Golden Kiwi, 4.1% – A lovely golden ale full of NZ hops, sharp but fruity. Great brewery.

Oakham Scarlet Macaw, 4.4% – Peachy. Quite literally. A new one from one of my favourite breweries, and it didn’t disappoint. Light, fruity, not full-on hoppy like many of their other beers but delicious.

Busy beer fest

Busy beer fest

Buntingford Bravo, 4% – I actually started the festival with this one – Buntingford is a fantastic brewery – and this pale beer was lovely, as expected. Bursting with sherbetty Bravo hops from the US, citrussy and very moorish.

Buntingford Charter Flight, 3.9% – I preferred the Bravo, but this was pleasant and light, creamy, malty with vanilla flavours.

Blue Monkey Ape Ale, 5.4% – An unusual taste, quite grassy, but very nice – dry and full of American hops.

Hopshackle Resination

Hopshackle Resination

Hopshackle Resination, 7% – One of the best beers on, this was actually my beer of the fest. Strong, resinous (funny, that, given its name), hoppy, spicy, intense. Wonderful, had to keep drinking it, and with that ABV it pretty much finished me off.

Other beers I enjoyed that are worth a mention are Humpty Dumpty Nord Atlantic, St Austell Endeavour, Mighty Oak Captain Bob, Milton Proteus, and Northcote Jiggle Juice. And a few I didn’t get on with were Great Orme Celtica (just a bit too lagery for me) and Milk Street Mermaid (too smoky, I poured it away).

All in all, it was a great fest, despite the illness and the rain. It’s just a shame that it couldn’t have been on next week instead, when I will (hopefully) be feeling much better, and when it’s supposed to be really hot and sunny, so they say. But then again, they are always saying that, aren’t they…

By the way, Cambridge Octoberfest is on 14th and 15th October 2011 – see you there.

Everybody out!

Everybody out!

JD Wetherspoon Real Ale and Cider Festival 2011

As I have tried several beers at the JD Wetherspoon Spring Real Ale and Cider festival I thought I probably should write a post about them – it would be a shame if my notes about the beers I’ve tried should get lost amongst a blurry beery haze…

JDW Taster Tray

JDW Taster Tray

The festival started on 23rd March and runs until 10th April and there are about 50 beers to try (they put a selection of about 10 festival ales on at any one time). The great thing about this festival is that if you get a taster tray you can buy 3 third of a pint glasses for the price of one festival pint, around £2.20, so you can try lots of different beer, yay. The bar person also writes the number of your beers (from the taste guide) on the tray mat so you don’t get confused as to which beers you’re drinking! I’ve tried 14 beers so far in The Regal, Cambridge (no cider as yet though..). Here are the beers:

Triple FFF Ramble Tamble, 4.6% – An amazing beer. Lovely and sweet with a subtle sherbet hoppy flavour. Beautiful. One of my favourites. Had a couple of these.

Wychwood Elderwych, 3.8% –  Hmmm, a bit too elderflowery. And I actually do like elderflower. Quite refreshing. But nothing compared to their lovely Wychcraft ale.

Otter Hoppy Otter, 3.9% – This one got better the further down the glass I got. Didn’t really taste or smell of anything initially, but became smoother and sweeter in a subtle kind of way. I like Otter beers generally.

Ballast Point Calico Amber, 5.2% – Oh what a beer. So American, dry hopped flavour and aroma, full of Cascade and Centennial hops and more. So good I had to buy some more.

Shepherd Neame East Anglia Pale Ale, 5% – This was a very pleasant golden ale, full of vanilla flavours, creamy and a nice frothy head. Would drink again.

Roosters Angry Yank, 5% – I didn’t really take to this initially, but the Cascade hops became more pronounced the more I drank and it actually became quite moorish.

Oakham Taipan, 4.9% – What joy. Of course Oakham didn’t let me down. My beer of the fest so far. Citrussy, fruity, Cascadey, light and breezy – my kind of beer. Oakham are great.

Butcombe Mendip Spring, 3.8% – Poured with no head.  It was OK, tastes of the south west and other Butcombe ales (which is always nice) but couldn’t taste the Mount Hood hops disappointingly.

Everards Early Doors, 4.5% – Disappointing. No aroma, no flavour, watery, no sign whatsoever of the Cascade hops. Shame.

Titanic Tug Light, 4% – Pleasant golden mild, lots of rich hoppy flavours. Very nice beer from this great Staffs brewery.

Holden’s April Shower, 4.3% – Lovely, light, hoppy and easy drinking. Even my sister who doesn’t drink real ale liked this one and ‘could actually drink this again’. Praise indeed. A beer from another great brewery.

Acorn Challenger IPA, 5% – An ESB but quite dull and not full of the expected flavour for its strength.

Feral the Runt, 4.7% – An Australian beer. Eggy aroma and didn’t taste much better, quite unpleasant. The worst beer of the fest for me, I couldn’t actually finish it.

Caledonian Doc Kennedy’s Lipsmacker Lemon Ale, 4.3% – Quite sharp and acidic with some honey and lemon. Quite pleasant though.

So that’s it so far – will add more beers onto this if I visit a Wetherspoon’s pub during the remaining few days of the fest!

Cambridge Octoberfest 2010

My Octoberfest did not involve me drinking any German beers.  Let’s get that straight from the start.  Do I feel bad about that? Maybe, a little. But to be perfectly honest I don’t enjoy drinking lager style beers, so however tasty some may find German Octoberfest beers,  I just prefer ale. So read on if you want to hear about a few incredibly tasty English ales present at the Cambridge Octoberfest, but if you are looking for a review on Schlenkerla Marzen or Augustinian beers, then you have come to the wrong place. Sorry.

Onto the Octoberfest, held at the University Social Club on Mill Lane. The event held on 15th and 16th October was not as big as the Winter Ale fest, held in the same venue; it’s small and intimate, and there were about 30 beers available which is pretty good, I think.

Octoberfest beers

First up was Buntingford’s Polar Star, a lovely light and very hoppy golden beer at 4.4%. This beer was a wonderful way to start the afternoon, with its sherbet hop aroma, thanks to the lovely USA hops used, making it very very drinkable.  Next I tried Milton’s Prometheus, but although this was very nice, grapefruity and strong at 6%, I decided to go for another Buntingford, the Imperial Pale Ale. I can’t remember if I have raved about this beer before, but if not, why not?  It’s amazing, incredible, hoppy, and strong, at 6.2%.  I actually had this beer at the Cambridge Blue’s Octoberfest the previous week, and this was the beer of the fest for me.

The next beer was Hop Fest (4.6%) by Hop Back. I was disappointed by this beer, particulary as I am a fan of their Summer Lightning.  It was eggy, astringent, and not quite the ‘hop fest’ that I was hoping for. I don’t actually remember tasting  many hops at all. The aroma put me off immediately, and the guys on the table next to us also bought some and they felt the same way about it. What a shame.

Then I had some lovely Tydd Steam Barn Ale at only 3.9%. Ooh a wonderful beer to finish off with – similar to the Polar Star; light, hoppy, citrussy, and very moorish.

Whilst I am talking about Octoberfest beers, I must add that on a trip to the wonderful Elm Tree, I had some Dark Star Oktoberfest, 5.2%, which was incredible, loaded with hops. Fantastic.  I will also be popping by at the end of the month for Hallowe’en, they do a great job decorating the pub with pumpkins and witches and bats everywhere. I think there will be scary stories too from the Travelling Talesman too on Hallowe’en itself. And most certainly there will be a good few Hallowe’en-themed beers on tap too.

The Cambridge Winter Ale fest is on 20th-22th January 2011 at the same venue. See you there – I’ll be the one drinking the hoppiest beer in the building.

The Kingston and The Cambridge Blue

I have just returned from two of my favourite pubs in Cambridge, the Kingston Arms and the Cambridge Blue. And they are only about 30 seconds apart (if you run, like I did, as it was raining, as it always seems to be this August..)

Kingston Beer Fest

Kingston Beer Fest

The Kingston was hosting its 10th mini summer Monthly Beer Festival. They started these beer festivals last summer, starting indoors with loads of beers – far too many really for a weekend beer fest, and taking up a lot of valuable indoor seating space – and they subsequently moved the festival outside into the cute and secluded beer garden under a marquee, using their own cooling system, and reduced the number of beers on offer to a manageable
amount. These summer mini festivals have been popular ever since, allowing the visitor to vote for the beer of the fest, the brewery of which receives a nice certificate and write-up on the website. Nice.

There were 5 festival beers on offer this month. That’s not many for a beer festival, you say. That’s because it’s  a mini festival, I reply. And if you look at all the beers available at the bar at any one time – about 5 regular ales as well as the 5 or so ever-changing ‘recession beers’ at an even lower price, your biggest problem is trying to decice which beers you won’t try this time round. Plus, you get a discount if are a CAMRA member. So you are always on a winner, I think.

Festival ales

Festival ales

Here is the festival beer list. The first beer I went for was BrewDog‘s Alpha Dog, 4.5%. I may as well say now that this was the beer of the festival for me. I love BrewDog. Their Punk IPA is one of my favourite beers, and whilst Alpha Dog was more chestnut coloured and not as strong, in a blow-your-head-off kind of way, it was also dominated by hops with a honeyish tinge, and was definitely moorish. I was almost sad when I drained the last drops from my glass, but I felt I had to move onto something new.

Alpha Dogs and Harvest Pale Ale

Alpha Dog and Harvest Pale Ale

The next beer I tried wasn’t a festival ale; Castle Rock’s Harvest Pale Ale. 3.8%, was on tap at the bar, voted Champion Beer of Britain 2010 at the Great British Beer Festival, and it was beautiful. If I didn’t know any better I would have sworn this was an Oakham ale, the sherbet hop aroma and flavour produced from using American hops, a sweet and light beer. But it wasn’t a festival ale so I couldn’t vote for it. Shame.

Rooster’s GCB (Good Cheer Beer) was next up at 3.9%, another light pale ale. I have tried this before at The Regal and loved its flavour with its NZ and US hops. But unfortunately on this occasion it was not as tasty, it was slightly tart and bitter and none of the gorgeous hoppy flavours came out. I swiftly got myself an Elgood’s Pageant Ale, 4.3%. This beer actually got better as it went along, becoming more hoppy and less malty, less vanillary, and generally more flavoursome. In the meantime, Adam tried some of Cliff Quay’s Black Jack Porter, 4.2%. It’s described in their own tasting notes as ‘A Marmite beer, you will either love it or hate it’. I love marmite, but I hated this. It’s horrible aniseed taste dominated the next few sips of my own beer. Adam said it reminded him of dandelion and burdock. I never liked that either, but if you did then I am sure you will love this beer.

Some of the beers at the bar at the Kingston

Some of the beers at the bar at the Kingston

After giving the highest number of points on the voting slip to Alpha Dog, we ran round the corner in the rain to the Cambridge Blue to see what beers were on. It was pretty busy with people getting their Sunday lunch (the pub serves good and reasonably priced food, and their Sunday roast is delicious) but managed to find a seat indoors. Their beer garden is lovely, one of the loveliest in town, so it was a pity we couldn’t sit outside – damn this British ‘summer’! Here is the beer list at the Blue:

At this point I couldn’t really drink an awful lot more, but I spotted Thornbridge‘ s Lumford on tap, 3.9%, and being a Thornbridge fan (I love their Kipling and Jaipur) I naturally had to try some of it. It tasted and smelt very dry hopped, was quite dark in colour, and although initially thought it was delicious and reminded me of Stone Levitation, an American ale which I adore, I soon went off the odd astringent aftertaste. This is branded as a New World Beer, with Ahtanum, Nelson Sauvin and Pacific Gem hops, and I really should have liked it, but it was just too odd for me. Shame; I liked the grapefruit flavour but it was just not enough to counteract the bitter ‘oddness’. I can’t be more specific as I don’t know what it was that I didn’t like; I’m sure it wasn’t the hops as I love overly-hopped beers and have never tried a beer that I felt was ‘too hoppy’ . However, Adam had a lovely Lupus Lupus ale from Wolf brewery, 5%, and this was golden and subtely hoppy, which was just right for me at that point in time so I had a fair bit of that.

Lupus Lupus and Lumford Ale

Lupus Lupus and Lumford Ale

So that’s my day in a couple of my favourite Cambridge pubs. Luckily this is a Bank Holiday weekend, so there will probably be more of the same tomorrow. Let’s hope the sun shines for it…

Cambridge Beer Festival 2010

So, the 37th Cambridge Beer Festival is well under way. The weather hasn’t been too bad for it either – you need to enjoy a bit of sun whilst drinking your beer on the grass on Jesus Green, and so far it has been very pleasant. Apart from the night when it rained, but that’s when the marquee comes into use.

Sad Horse beer glass

Sad Horse Beer Glass

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems busier than ever at the festival this year. I left early the other night and there were so many people pouring into the festival that I could hardly squeeze through the hoards to return my beer glass (my favourite sad horse glass). Then I could hardly get out. It was so busy last night that they asked for more volunteers, so Adam offered to help out for an hour behind the bar. It was crazy and hectic – the volunteers all work so hard. I was happy to  continue drinking myself! 😉

Adam at work

Adam at work

So,  the beer. I am pleased to say that most beers I have tried have been great so far. Here are a few of them:

Woodforde’s Game On, 4% – This beer was as expected, an easy drinking brew from this excellent brewery. Hoppy, light, not too strong and citrussy. Not as sweet as the Sundew.

BrewDog’s Punk IPA, 6.2% – OK, this is one of my most favourite beers ever,  but it’s a bit weaker in the bottle and on draft this is waaaaay too strong for me, y0u can taste the strength. But then the hops come through and kick you in the mouth and jump straight through your head.  That’s the only way I can describe it. There aren’t many beers you can say that about! It’s delicious, and very popular.

Buntingford’s Western Champion, 4.2% – A golden, hoppy ale – very tasty, another successful brew from the wonderful Buntingford Brewery.

Hambleton GFA, 4.8% – A gluten free ale that I chose on account of the fact that it is brewed with Cascade and Liberty hops. A disappointment; I couldn’t really taste the hops, and it was flat and I prefer a bit of fizz. It did taste better the longer it sat though.

Enjoying the beer

Enjoying the beer

Nobby’s Guilsborough Gold, 4% – A beer from near my hometown, Northampton. Lovely aftertaste, lots of hop flavour, went down easily.

Allendale’s Curlew’s Return, 4.2% – I didn’t like this one. I had this at a previous festival which I had forgotten about,  and I didn’t really like it then either. It was flat, I couldn’t taste the Cascade hops, and it was just missing something. I poured it away.

Spitting Feathers’ Thirstquencher, 3.9% – I started one of the sessions with this one, and it was a great drink to start with, not strong, full of flavour, bitter and citrussy teeming with hops, it was beautiful. A hint of straw.

Ossett’s Maypole, 4.2% – This one was Adam’s, but I snaffled some. It was refreshing and easy to drink, but compared to my Thirstquencher, it didn’t have a lot of flavour, but it was very pleasant.

Thornbridge’s Jaipur IPA, 5.9% – Wow. That’s all I can say. I remember Oz Clarke saying how wonderful this beer was when he was touring the country with James May tasting beer, so I wanted to try it on draft ever since. It’s delicious. Yes, it’s strong, and you can tell that when you drink it, but I loved it, it reminded me of an Oakham ale, full of hops, honey and citrus. Adam said it reminded him of a Rogue ale. Lovely. And it’s already gone, don’t know if it will come back on…

Beer fest 2010

Beer fest 2010

Tydd Steam’s Roadhouse Bitter, 4.3% – Very nice, one of my favourite drinkable beers so far of the festival, not too strong, heavily hopped, citrussy, really really lovely.

Tydd Steam’s Barn Ale, 3.9% – Even weaker than the Roadhouse, but not that you can tell. Again, Tydd Steam come up trumps, they are a really great brewery, I love their beers. This one is just as nice as the Roadhouse, full of hops…can’t decide which one I like best.

Vale Pale Ale, 4.2% – A golden ale, pleasant and hoppy.

West Berkshire’s Dr Hexter’s Healer, 5% – I was waiting for this one to come on as it has 3 different hops and meant to have an orange and marmalade finish. It just tasted astringent and strong to me. I could taste some hops, but I was disappointed. Maybe it’s just me; it did win bronze at the GBBF last year. I should give it another go really.

White Horse Bitter, 3.7% – A very nice bitter, goes down very easily. A slight eggy smell, but you can’t taste it when you drink, it’s very citrussy and hoppy.

Beer and chips. Lovely.

Beer and chips. Lovely.

Humpty Dumpty’s Little Sharpie, 3.8% – Golden, lots of hop flavour and very crisp and sharp, tasted stronger than it’s 3.8 ABV.

Surrey Hills Gilt Complex, 4.6% – The tasting notes mention the huge hop aroma, and they weren’t wrong! A tasty beer full of hops.

Ufford’s Rupert’s War Dog, 4.2% – A beer that wasn’t on the tasting notes, but has been tweeted about a lot because of it’s massive grapefruit burst. I tasted slight grapefruit and citrus and it was a pleasant and easy to drink beer, and slightly peppery, but that was about it.

Thornbridge Kipling, 5.2% – Now this was a beer full of grapefruit! This was an amazing beer, like Jaipur IPA’s little brother. I compared a Jaipur IPA against this one, and the Jaipur had more flavour and hops; this was a weaker, softer, smoother version, but if you can’t get the Jaipur then this is the next best thing – lovely beer.

Elgood’s Feelgood Fresh, 3.7% – I fancied an easy drinking weak beer to start off a session, but this one was just flat and boring. It might have been OK if it had had a bit of fizz, but its peppery flavour and aroma wasn’t particularly appealing to me. I poured this one away. It’s a shame as I do like their Golden Newt and Straw Beer.

Rogue Brewery’s Dry Hopped St Rogue Red, 5.2% – I was pleased to see this bottled USA beer on the Foreign Beer stand, being one of my favourites (see my USA beer article). This ruby red beer is bursting with hops and flavour, this one is not one to be missed.

And last but by no means least:

Red Squirrel’s White Mountain APA, 5.4% – Wow. Hop heaven. This beer is full of Cascade and Goldings hops, and you sure can taste them! Red Squirrel have been spot on with this American style IPA, and it is incredibly moorish – I went back for lots more, this was the most consumed beer of the festival for me and I voted it my number 1. Wonderful, wonderful beer. Already missing it – where can I find it round here?!?

Beer fest in the sun

Beer fest in the sun

And indoors when the rain came

And indoors when the rain came

So there ends the Cambridge Beer Festival 2010. Another great festival. Looking forward to the Octoberfest in the University Social Club on 15th – 16th October 2010, see you there!

Cambridge Winter Ale Fest 2010

The 14th Cambridge Winter Ale Festival took place between 21st-23rd January at the University Social Club on Mill Lane. It was pretty popular – the beer ran out around 10pm last night! It’s great to see that it was so successful.

We popped down for a few beers yesterday during the day when it’s a bit less busy – the other night it was one in, one out. The venue had 3 bars open – the main upstairs bar, and the downstairs front and back bars (the back bar was where the cider barrels were located, and the heady waft of strong cider was all you could smell when you ventured downstairs!)

Ok, so let’s start with my beer of the fest, which was Harwich Town’s Misleading Lights, at 4.0%. It’s not exactly a winter beer, as in dark, mysterious, and fruity – it’s an amber, hoppy summery ale, with a citrus sherbet taste, and if you have read my blog before, you’ll know that’s exactly the sort of beer I am always searching for! Adam had some of the Buntingford Highwayman Porter, 4.7%, which he quite enjoyed as it was smooth, quite  smokey, and easy to drink. For a porter, which I don’t normally go for, I didn’t find it too bad, but I am a big fan of Buntingford brewery and all their beers are pretty good.

Misleading Lights

Misleading Lights

I decided I would try one of the Northumberland ales, a brewery that I hadn ‘t come across before. It was a toss up between Fog on the Tyne at 4.1% and Hoof Hearted at 3.8% . I couldn’t decide between the two, but when the man at the bar next to me ordered Fog on the Tyne and I watched a beautiful straw-colured, shimmering ale being poured from the barrel to his glass it pretty much made up my mind for me. It was a good choice, delicious, and the more I drank, the hoppier it became. It was another summery ale (yes, I know it’s meant to be the Winter Ale Fest..) and it even tasted of hay and meadows. Oh I can’t wait until I can sit outside in a beer garden, roll on summer….!

I suppose I should try to get back to the Winter beers. Hop and Spicy from the Hopshackle Brewery at 4.5% seemed a good choice. Wrong. We found it particulaly unpleasant. The taste of cloves, cinnamon and spices was overwhelming, and the hop taste was non-existant. Adam had a chat with an old man who had that same beer earlier in the day, and he said it had taken another two or three beers afterwards to get rid of the taste! If there was a section on the feedback form for the worst beer of the festival, that would’ve been it!

A decent beer was the Spectrum brewery’s Solstice Candle, at 5%, which was golden and hoppy but did taste quite strong as well. Wolf’s Santa Paws, 4.5%, was OK but full of berries, I couldn’t drink much of it myself so I was quite glad that it was Adam’s beer and not mine! It was a shame that Elgood’s Straw Beer had run out, I had some at last year’s Straw Bear festival and it was fantastic. But that’s what happens on the last day of the festival; the beers you wanted to try have usually all gone so you have to get  in early to avoid disappointment.

Some other great breweries present at the fest included Old Cannon, Milton, and the fantastic Woodforde’s.

I am sure my Misleading Lights is not ‘wintery’ enough to win the award for best beer of the fest, but good luck to them. I find my tastes dont change from season to season when it comes to beer, I love the golden hoppy ales whatever time of the year! Here’s to summer when there will be more of them available..!

A few more beer festivals coming up are the Rag Week Beer Festival on 5th and 6th March 2010 at the University Social Club, the Cambridge Blue Winter Ale festival between 24th and 27th Feb 2010 (at the Blue!), and of course, the one we are all looking foward to as it means sitting on the grass in the sun with a beer; the 37th Cambridge Beer Festival between 24th-29th May 2010 on Jesus Green. See you there!

2nd Rag Beer Festival, Cambridge

Cambridge Rag put on a beer festival for Rag Week on the 6th and 7th March. It was a great little event actually – there were more cask ales  available than I previously anticipated, with offerings from Beeston brewery, Milton, Cambridge City and Moonshine and Oakham, to name a few. There were also ciders and perries, and bottled foreign beers.


It wasn’t very busy in the early afternoon, but the later it got, the more the students piled in. One of my favourites of the festival was Afternoon delight by Beestons, which at 3.7% had a hoppy kick and was sweet with a slight taste of honey. I had some Mulberry Whale from Moonshine at 4%, and although I have enjoyed this out of a bottle, I can’t say I particularly rated it on this occasion; it wasn’t unpleasant, it just wasn’t very memorable. I love Milton beers, and Milton’s Icarus (4.2%) was very light coloured, just as I like it, but tasted slightly watery. There were some much nicer ales available.

Northumberland’s Bucking Fastard (try asking for that one after you’ve had a few) was lovely and very easy drinking at 4%. But the beer of the festival for me was Oakham’s Asylum, 4.5%. Oakham do just wonderful ales; JHB and Bishop’s Farewell are my favourites, and Asylum is up there at the top with them. It’s described as a session beer and I wish I had discovered it earlier on in the festival, but I really can’t drink very much and therefore  didn’t manage to have as much of it as I’d have liked.  It has a really grapefruity smell, and a taste of hops and sherbet. That’s the best way I can describe it! It’s a really uplifting beer.

A nice man called John  was sitting with us, and we had a few samples of the drinks he was trying that I wouldn’t normally go for, such as the Marcus Aurelius (Milton) at 7.5% – heats you up like whisky as it goes down! – and the Pickled Pig perry which is so strong and tart that I wouldnt be able to drink much of it. He is opening up a pub in St Neots, so must pay him a visit soon.



Published in: on April 28, 2009 at 4:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Cambridge Winter Ale Festival 2009

The 13th Cambridge Winter Ale festival 2009 took place on the 22nd-24th January in the University Social Club on Mill Lane, where the Octoberfest also takes place. This festival, being more established than the Octoberfest, is much bigger – there are 3 bars available:  one main large bar upstairs, and 2 smaller bars downstairs.

Beer mugs!

Beer mugs!

With this being a winter festival, the beers on sale were a lot stronger and darker than the previous festivals of the year. However, I am a golden ale sort of girl and am not too fond of dark beers, plus  I really can’t handle strong brews. An ale around 6 or 7% would’ve been my first and last – so the aim of the day was to hunt out the weakest and lightest ales of the festival.

Hoppy Poppy by Harwich Town was a good start at a mere 3.6%, and it was lovely – light, refreshing – and weak. So weak that I went back for more!


Cambridge Moonshine’s Minion of the Moon at 4.6% was another one of the paler and weaker beers available on our visit on the Saturday, and although this one smelt quite eggy, it was a very hoppy and tasty brew.

Adam had some Cock A Doodle from Saffron (3.8%) but neither of us liked it much, it was syrupy and we didn’t think it was a particularly enjoyable drink. But the Iron Brew by Tydd Steam at 4.2% was better, although slightly fizzy, and it became hoppier the closer I got to the bottom of the glass – lovely.

As Old Cannon bitter from the Old Cannon brewery in Bury St Edmunds was also available, I made sure I had some of that as well. (It’s also available in the newly re-opened Bun Shop in King St, which is one of its regular draft ales;  the pub itself is also quite nice, with sawdust all over the floor and lots of dark wood).

But the beer of the festival for me was Elmtree’s Golden Pale Ale at 5%. The hoppy aftertaste on the tongue after every sip blew me away.

So that’s it for the Winter Ale festival 2009. Only just over 4 months to go until the summer festival….

Here is the festival beer list, if you are interested:

Beer list side 1

Beer list side 1

Beer list side 2

Beer list side 2

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