Golden Pints 2013

It’s December, which means it’s time for this year’s Golden Pints awards:

Best UK Cask Beer
1st) Cambridge Moonshine Ison. Wonderful, resinously hoppy beer from a great brewer.
2nd) Oakham Green Devil. Always wonderful to find this fruity IPA on draft. Such a shame they stopped bottling it.
Honourable mention: Bexar San Jacinto – a hop monster from this Texan brewer based in Peterborough doing in-your-face exciting things with beer.

Best UK Keg Beer
1st) Buxton Wyoming Sheep Ranch. Fantastic beer, first sampled at the launch event of the beer at Euston Tap, and I’ve had it several times since (on keg at Norwich Tap was the last occasion, and very nice it was too).
2nd) Summer Wine Pacer. Light and easy drinking with lots of floral hops.

Best UK Bottled or Canned Beer
1st) Any of Buxton’s bottled beers really, from their IPAs such as Axe Edge and Wild Boar to their Rednik Stout. I’ll settle on Buxton Axe Edge today, but that could change tomorrow…
2nd)  Magic Rock Rapture. A fruity red ale, one of my go-to beers.
Honourable mention:  Thornbridge Jaipur – another go-to beer, citrus hops and full bodied.

Best Overseas Draught Beer
1st) Ithaca Flower Power (NY, USA). I had this in Salem, MA, and Boston, MA. Loaded with fruity and floral hops, golden, drinks SO easily, wonderfully balanced, I could go on…
2nd) Maine Beer Co Peeper (ME, USA). I drank this in New York, Portland, ME and Boston, MA. Fresh hops, sweet and delicate, wonderfully crafted beer.
Honourable mentions: The lovely Mendocino Imperial IPA (CA, USA) and the fantastic Lagunitas IPA (CA, USA) with its tropical fruit flavours. And De Praal Mary should also get a mention, a wonderful barley wine from the Netherlands. Wow to all five of these beers.

Best Overseas Bottled or Canned Beer
1st) Green Flash West Coast IPA (CA, USA). Intensely hoppy, my sort of beer.
2nd) Ithaca Flower Power. Ditto
Honourable mention: St Bernadus 6 -Pater. A go-to beer when I’m after something velvety and comforting.

Best Collaboration Brew
Hard to call.. I haven’t had that many, and none have particularly stuck in my mind.

Best Overall Beer
Ithaca Flower Power. Just lovely.

Best Branding, Pumpclip or Label
1st) Grain Brewery wooden pump clips in general – you can immediately see if there’s a Grain beer on at the bar.
2nd) Magic Rock – I like the carnival/funfair style of their designs.
Honourable mention: Buntingford Brewery, for the witty and sometimes rambling wording on their pump clips.

Best UK Brewery
1st) Buxton. Consistently great.
2nd) Magic Rock. Love their beers, keg or cask.
Honourable mention: Partizan. They are are doing great things with beer; I haven’t had a bad one from them

Best Overseas Brewery
I’d have to go with Rogue (OR, USA) – I’ve had many of their beers on draft and in bottles, and I love the Dry Hopped St Rogue Red, Mocha Porter, Juniper Pale Ale, Brutal IPA… the list goes on…
2) St Bernardus, Belgium – high quality, easy-drinking beer.

Best New Brewery Opening 2013
Redwell in Norwich, even though strictly speaking they opened towards the end of 2012. Great little brewery that sells good quality keg beer and lager and hosts many events in its small and cute space.

Pub/Bar of the Year
InternationalMcSorley’s Old Ale House, NYC. Wonderful atmosphere with sawdust on the floor, banter from the barman, dusty antiques and newspaper cuttings all over the walls, and when you order one beer (light or dark) you receive two, whether you like it or not.
Closer to homeThe Free Press, Cambridge (quality beer, banter and atmosphere) and the Elm Tree, Cambridge (cosy, candlelit den and lots of Belgian beer).

Best New Pub/Bar Opening 2013

Pint Shop, Cambridge, for the large range of high quality hard-to-get-hold-of keg and cask beer from breweries far and wide.

Beer Festival of the Year

Cambridge Beer Festival. Great beer and crowd, and fantastic location on Jesus Green – you can’t beat drinking beer on the grass in the sun.

Supermarket of the Year
Waitrose. Good selection of beer from the likes of Thornbridge, BrewDog and Fullers.

Independent Retailer of the Year
Bacchanalia, Cambridge. Nice and local with a good range of local and national beers, as well as beers from Europe and the USA.

Online Retailer of the Year
Beers of Europe. Fast delivery and a good selection of beers.

Best Beer Book or Magazine
CAMRA’s quarterly BEER magazine. An interesting read.

Best Beer Blog or Website
pintsandpubs.wordpress.com. Lots of well researched pub history, amusing anecdotes, and random interesting information about beer and breweries. Always an enjoyable, informative read.

Best Beer App
Craft Beer London. Well, it was useful when visiting London! I don’t tend to use beer apps much.

Simon Johnson Award for Best Beer Twitterer
@pintsandpubs .

Best Brewery Website/Social media
For social media I’ll go for Buntingford Brewery – the blog posts are very amusing, dry, witty, and ever so slightly sarcastic.

Food and Beer Pairing of the Year
Thai green curry with a light, refreshing Oakham Citra.

Advertisements

Green Man Grantchester Easter Beer Festival 2013

Grantchester Meadows

Grantchester Meadows

On Good Friday we wrapped up warm and braved the cold to stroll across Grantchester Meadows to the Green Man‘s Easter Beer Festival. This festival was the first of five that the pub will be holding this year, and what better time for the first to take place than over the 4-day weekend – plenty of time for drinking.

Although this was apparently the coldest Easter in the country since records began (we are always told nowadays that we are experiencing the coldest/wettest/driest/snowiest season – but never the hottest, funny that) it didn’t put people off heading to the village, and at least it didn’t snow (that was last weekend). Many visitors chose to walk an hour from central Cambridge or cycle to Grantchester; buses don’t run to the village on Sundays or Bank Holidays, which I think is crazy, being a much-visited destination with limited space for parking. Sometimes you don’t want to exert yourself and just want to jump on a bus – especially when you just want to get home after a beer festival.

The Green Man

The Green Man

If you haven’t visited the Green Man before then you really should. It’s a lovely traditional English beamed pub in the centre of the pretty village, full of dark wood, nooks and crannies, and great food and beer. The fire was roaring when we got there around midday, so we bagged a seat then headed outside to the large marquee in the garden where the festival was taking place.

There were over 65 beers and ciders available over the course of the long weekend (fantastic for a village pub). Beers ranged from local breweries such as Cambridge Moonshine and BlackBar to breweries further afield like Spire and Kelham Island. I tried a Buntingford Queen Mary, a lovely hoppy copper coloured ale with sherbet aroma, fruit notes and caramel flavours. You can never go wrong with a Buntingford beer. Full Tilt was also on, but the Single Hop Archer wasn’t quite ready.

Beer list

Beer list

I enjoyed Bexar County Brewery’s Come and Take it, a strong amber IPA at 7.3% with lots of citrus hops  and a big malt backbone. Steve the brewer is from Texas; I first tried his beer a couple of years ago at the Peterborough Beer Festival (his Lonestar Texas Pale Ale brewed with Hopshackle went down very well, check out my post about it). He is brewing aggressive American-style beers, and he loves experimenting and not doing things by the rule book. We visited the brewery in Peterborough a few weeks ago and played around putting chilis in beer – check out @pintsandpubs blog post about our visit. Bexar beers are unfined (no additional ingredients added to clear the beer) and are naturally cloudy, so don’t be put off by this, embrace the haze – this means they are vegan friendly and I’m all for that. Also from Bexar was the Chocolate Covered Bananas Mild, a strong and interesting full-flavoured mild with distinct banana and choc flavours. Look out for this brewery, exciting stuff is in the pipeline…

BlackBar BBSB

BlackBar BBSB

BlackBar’s BBSB (Big Black Stuff for Barrels) is another fantastic beer, rich and full bodied with roasted coffee and choc flavours. Joe from BlackBar Brewery in Harston is another brewer doing exciting stuff with beer and loves experimenting, and I have to say that his beers just keep getting better all the time, especially his dark strong beers (which keep getting stronger and darker). Again, another person to look out for who has interesting stuff brewing, so to speak.

Tydd Steam Scoundrel

Tydd Steam Scoundrel

Tydd Steam beers from Wisbech were also present – I went for a Scoundrel, a lovely hoppy, easy-drinking beer. Their refreshing Barn Ale was also there.

It was good to see a Cambridge Moonshine beer there too in the form of Trumpington Tipple. I first tried this ale at the Cambridge Brew House a few weeks previously and was impressed. It’s a beautiful malty beer with fruity flavours brewed with several types of US hop – lovely. Another great local brewery I have written about several times before.

As well as drink, there were bar snacks available such as scotch eggs and sausage rolls, as well as the main menu inside the pub. Live music was provided all weekend in the marquee including the Andy Bowie Quartet, the Freddy Hall Band, Groove Tube, and Tiger Blue (an acoustic duo playing famous classic indie songs who we caught when we popped back to the festival on Easter Monday.)

I’m already looking forward to the Green Man’s next beer festival which takes place over the first Bank Holiday weekend in May …only 4 weeks to go. Let’s hope the weather is warmer by then for our stroll across the meadows – the hottest on record maybe…?

Here are the dates for the next Green Man beer festivals – put the dates in your diary.

3-6 May

19-21 July

23-27 August

27-29 September

See you there!

The Emperor at Christmas and the Flying Pig

On our way to see a band at the Junction we called into a couple of pubs on Hills Road– the Emperor and the Flying Pig, two very different pubs with different atmospheres. They have one thing in common – they both serve good beer.

When we arrived at the Emperor we couldn’t really miss the fact that it was decorated for the festive season. Not with just a few fairy lights, oh no; this is, indeed, the sister pub to the Empress, and we all know how Christmassy that pub becomes at this time of year. So it was great to see that they have applied the same principle to their Hills Road establishment and gone the whole hog – Christmas paper plastered all over the ceiling, red and blue fairy lights dangling everywhere, giant soft Santa, Rudolph and penguin toys in every orifice imaginable, and tinsel surrounding every window. You can’t get more Christmassy than this. Except, of course, at the Empress.

The pub was set up for a comedy night with chairs laid out in rows and a few (occupied) tables at the back. We took a seat on the back row and enjoyed some Buntingford Crow’s Nest, 3.9%, a light amber citrusy beer with caramel malty flavours served straight from the cask behind the bar. Also on offer on draft were Buntingford Aramis – very sweet and floral – Oakham JHB, and Timothy Taylor Landlord.

The next stop was the Flying Pig at the top of Station Road. This lovely pub was dimly lit and busy with every table taken. With its dark wood, walls and ceiling covered in pictures and posters, friendly locals, and candles on tables, it’s one of the most atmospheric pubs in Cambridge. And it always serves great beer, including on this visit Crouch Vale Brewer’s Gold, Cambridge Moonshine Red Watch (a tasty blueberry flavoured ale – there are always good Moonshine beers on in this pub) and Black Sheep Bitter. All hand pumps have plastic pig heads sitting on the top of them. Very cute.

But on a more serious note, this pub is under threat of demolition– it’s in the area where this big CB1 development is taking place, and is surrounded by modern office blocks and apartments. And a lovely pub like this, in the eyes of the developers, is just in the way and not in character with their soulless new-builds. The Osborne Arms, which was next to the Pig, has just been demolished without Conservation Area Consent, and there is now a big empty space where it once stood.  The Pig is a pub that simply should not be demolished just to create more space for redevelopment – the modern, bland area needs unique, individual places like the Pig to inject a bit of soul into it. The developers say they would build a new Flying Pig in one of their units, but this defeats the object – the pub is full of atmosphere and character which just cannot be recaptured in a contemporary space. That’s what makes it so special and irreplaceable.

It wasn’t possible to obtain listed building status for the Flying Pig, although English Heritage did say ‘The Flying Pig makes a significant contribution to the character of the Conservation Area and to the local streetscape’ so hopefully that counts for something. There’s a petition circulating at the moment for Cambridge City Council to refuse Conservation Area Consent to demolish the Flying Pig; to sign it, click herethe more signatures the better.

Fingers crossed that they do the right thing with regards to the Flying Pig. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and there’s no getting it back.

Published in: on November 23, 2012 at 11:09 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

Great British Beer Festival 2012

Yesterday we headed down to London to the trade session of the Great British Beer Festival.We were slightly concerned beforehand about the transport situation, having to get to and across London in the middle of the Olympics, especially after discovering that both tube lines we intended to use were suspended or delayed due to signal failures. But by the time we arrived the District line was up and running again, so we took the tube to West Kensington then walked 10 minutes in convoy with a group of other beer enthusiasts who seemed to know the way to Olympia better than we did. Well, one of them did have the Google map app on his phone, so we trusted that he and Google both knew where they were going.
Upon reaching Olympia, the GBBF’s home for 13 years before moving to Earl’s Court in 2006, we joined the queue and waited until 12 for the doors to open. We were entertained by a hobgoblin of sorts having his photo taken with unwilling volunteers from the queue, and then the real entertainment began – the Skinners Brewery coach pulled up. Off piled the Skinners lot, with flag and Betty Stogs (one of their beers is named after the delightful – ahem – lady) accompanied by the Falmouth Marine Band who immediately started to play and march. Yes, Skinners certainly know how to make an entrance, and throughout the session the marching band would march around the venue, banging their milk churn type drums. If you didn’t know Skinners before, you most certainly do now. (Skinners Cornish Knocker is a great beer, as is Betty Stogs (the beer, that is, not the man.. sorry, I mean ‘lady’..!)).

Never having been to Olympia before, the first thing that I noticed was its glass winter-garden style ceiling – it was as if we were in a giant greenhouse, slowly sizzling away down below. It was a massive venue, although smaller than Earl’s Court, with bars, shops and food spread over two floors. I would most definitely get lost some point later. The exhibition centre was certainly big enough to house over 800 beers, ciders and perries – and they were expecting over 50,000 visitors over the 5 days. We picked up programmes and pint glasses for £3 sale or return, spotted lots of bars named after sports stars (inkeeping with the Olympic theme) and we walked around in circles in bewilderment trying to find Ruth B5 bar where the American ales were located (we didn’t realise there was a site map in the centre pages of the brochure until much later, it was far too well hidden). Like the previous year, I had made a list beforehand featuring no less than 30 US beers – I realised that some might not be available yet, being day 1, so thought with 30 I was in with a good chance of trying many of the ones on my list.

There were just 5 on from my list. Hmm. And about 10 altogether, many of which were very strong, even too strong for a third measure at that time of day. Many were oatmeal stouts and porters, which I didn’t want to drink just yet – I was saving those for later after I had dealt with the hop monsters. I decided to go first of all for a Notch Brewery Session Ale, at a manageable 4.5% for 12 pm. Pintsandpubs stocked up on bottled US and Italian beers, and we grabbed a table near the stage and sat down to drink. My Session Ale was full of juicy tropical mango hops , whilst pintsandpubs‘s Deschutes Doc Watbrown– one of our favourite breweries from Portland, Oregon – was mellow, caramelly and malty with subtle hop flavours. They know how to balance their beers, Deschutes.

After that I tried a few more US beers – the insanely tropical Sebago’s Fry’s Leap, at 5.2%, and the Lowell Beer Works Sour Red – one that I would never have tried if it wasn’t for the suggestion of Mat Wilson, the organiser of Ely Beer Festival who happened to be volunteering behind the bar there. I don’t normally like sour beers, but this one was very interesting with biscuity and sour fruit notes. At this point Eric ‘the Crafty Cockney’ Bristow took to the stage for a world record attempt for the fastest 301 game, playing against Dean Gould and Keith Deller. Keith Deller ended up beating the world record, which was pretty cool. I took a few pics and drank more beer. Then the Skinners clan sang some folk songs, then started banging their drums again and marched off, Betty leading the way. (Check out pintsandpubs’ great photo of the ‘lady’ herself).

I decided to go for a selection of English ales as my USA list was turning into an #epic fail. I went to ‘Ben’s Bar, B7 Hutton, for the wonderful Buntingford’s Hurricane, a delightfully mellow caramel malt and subtly hoppy beer – it went down a treat, as their beers generally do. I then had a Marble Lagonda IPA, a full bodied tropical hop monster at 5%.

Roger Protz announced the Champion Beers of Britain at 3pm on the stage, after being introduced by festival organiser Marc Holmes. The overall winner was Coniston No. 9 Barley Wine, at 8.5%. I really thought a weaker beer would win, just like the Oscar Wild last year, so it was a big surprise – so well done to them! Green Jack Trawlerboys Best Bitter came second, and the lovely Dark Star APA came third (I thought that one would win, actually).

After a curry that was far too spicy I needed to sort out my mashed taste buds, so I  went back to the Ruth bar and got myself a Watch City Breakfast of Champions, an espresso oatmeal milk stout – very interesting roasted sweet malty flavours. My taste  buds slowly returned to normal. This was then followed by a Brodie’s Dalston Black IPA, with massive hop aroma and flavours followed by a subtle sweet dark roasted malt aftertaste, a good one from this East London brewery. I then tried some of pintsandpubs Allgates Hopgate, and was so impressed with its sweet and nicely balanced incredible hop flavours that I went back to Ben’s Bar for some of my own. Beautiful stuff from this Wigan brewery, I will have to keep my eyes open for more of their beers. I think this was my beer of the fest.

And then, suddenly, I was all beered out. Time to get back on that tube…

There are so many beers I would still like to try, but I always leave beer festivals saying that and there’s no way to try them all when attending a festival with several hundred beers available – not even, alas, when drinking thirds. It was a great festival, and I look forward to reading the #gbbf tweets throughout the rest of the GBBF week with interest. Cheers!

The Empress at Christmas

The pictures just don’t do it justice. You just can’t see from the images just how dazzling, how sparkling, and how incredibly intense the Christmas lights are in the Empress. It bills itself as the most SPECTACULARLY Christmas decorated pub in the world! (Well… almost certainly in Cambridge)” and I have to agree. There is nowhere quite like the Empress at Christmas. It’s fantastic – a glittering winter wonderland. Even the biggest Scrooge would have to muster up a Christmas smile in this pub, however hard he tried not to. Surely.

When you enter the front bar you are immediately bathed in red light, thanks to the berry fairy lights covering the walls and ceiling. Santas hang from every available hook and are also tucked behind the optics at the bar, and giant ones adorn the walls. And I haven’t even got round to talking about the snowmen yet.

When you pass through the archway into the jukebox / pool table / darts bar, the rooms turn blue and white, with incredibly bright flashing LEDs hanging from everywhere you look. The ceiling is plastered in Christmas wrapping paper, and baubles hang from a net of lights, and still the Santas hang from their red hoods taking up any previously available space. Oh, and there is tinsel. A lot of it.

The lounge bar also has a red theme, but it’s a bit lighter in there (as in the lights are not dimmed like in the main bar) so you could sit and read a paper in this bar. Possibly. There is a decorated tree, more giant santas and snowmen and baubles and fairy lights. And a nice smell of mulled wine.

We opted to sit in the main bar (the red berry one) and I spent ages just looking around the walls and ceiling.  This must have taken days to decorate – and good on em for doing it! I ordered some Buntingford Brewery’s Silent Night, (4.1%) one of many good beers on at the bar (there was also Thwaites Wainwright Ale, Timothy Taylor Landlord straight from the cask, St Austell Tribute and Adnams Broadside).

Silent Night

Buntingford brew a beer called Silent Night every Christmas – but it’s different every year, they change the recipe to spice things up and to confuse people (to their own admission). Sometimes it’s pale and hoppy, sometimes it’s dark and malty. But it’s always good. This time, it was light brown, with a nice balance of caramel flavoured malts and US citrus hops (Summit). The citrus was the first flavour I tasted, and then this developed in to a lovely rounded flavour. Very moorish.

Thus ended our brief but enjoyable visit to the Empress on this cold winter’s night. Then all that was left to do was leave Romsey Town to walk home in the wind and freezing temperatures. Why can’t this pub be closer to home…

5th Cambridge Octoberfest, 2011

The 5th CAMRA Cambridge Octoberfest took place on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th October at the University Social Club on Mill Lane, the venue for the Winter Ale Festival.  This is the youngest of the Cambridge and District CAMRA beer festivals and therefore the smallest, with just 2 bars available in the main hall of the venue. One bar sold English ales, mainly sourced from East Anglia, and the other bar served German beers – beers from the ‘big 6’ breweries from Munich as well as other German beers and bottles. Downstairs was also open for food and there were about 3 beers on draft on the bar there too.

Octoberfest beersWe went to the festival on both days. Entrance was free for CAMRA members (or £2.50 if not a member) and themed festival glasses were £3 sale or return.

Friday evening was incredibly busy even by 6 pm, an hour into the festival, and by 7 pm it was heaving. Saturday afternoon was much calmer and relaxed and it was nice to have room to move. I am guessing however that it became much busier later into the day.

I was pleased to spot the new Ale magazine at the festival, with my photo of the Hopbine on the front and my article inside about a tour of the pubs around the Kite, Cambridge (As this is my blog, I’m allowed to do a shameless plug 😉 ).

Right, onto the beers. The beer list was pretty good and I selected plenty that I wanted to try – however, I am not a great fan of German beers, preferring the flavours of real ale, so my choices were mostly from the left hand bar, or in other words, the English cask ales.

Friday eveningSaturday afternoon

Here are the beers that I tried:

October and RoysteinerBuntingford Engineer, 3.9% – This is a new beer from this Hertfordshire brewery, a malty copper coloured ale and low on hops.  I loved it – it had that distinct Buntingford aroma and sherbet taste, full of flavour despite its low abv. That one went down pretty quickly

Buntingford October, 4.2% – A single-hopped and flavoursome ruby beer, but it didn’t have much conditioning which made it slightly flat.

Buntingford Roysteiner, 4.2% – A tasty English beer but with German malt and hops – slightly thinner than most Buntingford beers but enjoyable.

Tydd Steam Golden Kiwi, 4.1% – This golden beer was wonderful at the Cambridge Beer Festival. This time it was served slightly warm, and had a slightly unpleasant sulphur aroma. However, the luscious grapefruit flavours cut through and the aroma subsided – the beer improved with time.

Casks

Hopshackle Resination, 7% – This is a personal favourite, however I was slightly disappointed with it on this occasion. It was warm, the hoppy resinous flavours didn’t quite come through as much as they normally do, and I couldn’t finish it. And I ALWAYS finish Resination. I don’t know – maybe if it had been served a bit colder it would have been better, but I understand there are issues with the USC not allowing a cask cooling system for the festival, and it has been a particularly warm October. Maybe holding the festival slightly later during October might help solve that issue – it’s going to get much colder from this point on, I hear..

Hopshackle Hopnosis, 5.2%- **My Beer of the Fest** Wow, now this beer was fantastic, and my beer of the festival –  wonderful hops, sweet malty flavours, fantastic aroma, spicy, fruity – I couldn’t get enough of it.

Hopshackle Smoked Porter, 5.2% – Another wow from this wonderful brewery. This beer is one to savour – rich and smoky, it’s like drinking an open fire. Chocolate and hop flavours, with fruit and malt. Absolutely gorgeous, and a real winter warmer.

German beer bar

Augustiner Octoberfest, 6.1% – A German beer from the German bar, served from a very nice small stainless steel cooling system, which made it freezing cold. Beers on this bar were served from this system in rotation as there were a limited number of taps, so there were just a few on tap at any one time. But although the temperature was great, the beer was just like a slightly more flavoursome lager to me and lacked those hoppy flavours that I love, and I found it just a bit, well, meh. I am not the best person to review German beers, so I will leave that to the experts. Onto the next English ale.

Cambridge Moonshine Effervescence & Spiritual Matter, 3.7% – I had ‘Spiritual Matter’ at the Green Man Beer Fest in Grantchester – is this the same beer, although they have tagged an ‘Effervescence’ in front of the name? Not sure. But I do know that this predominately grapefruit, possibly citra-hopped beer, would have been really good if it wasn’t for the poor conditioning and temperature. A shame.

I had a taster of Humpty Dumpty Hop Harvest Gold, 4.9%, which was wonderfully cold with great conditioning and full of hop flavours. I didn’t get round to trying Redemption Big Chief, but I know I like this hop monster as I had it at the Green Man beer festival last month. And I tried the Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel 7.1%, but this sweet dark beer with chocolate / caramel flavours was not to my taste – think it was possibly the raison flavours in there. Or maybe it’s just me, as others seem to like this one quite a lot.

Beer List

Beer list

So that was my 5th Octoberfest, the most successful yet with over 1500 visitors, with over 4500 pints poured, 2500 of which were the English ales.  A great festival and big thanks to the volunteers and organisers who make these festivals run so smoothly.  The 16th Cambridge Winter Ale Festival takes place 19th-21st January 2012, see you there!

Green Man Beer Festival, Grantchester

I was looking forward to visiting the Green Man Beer Festival in Grantchester, mainy because I’d missed their first ever festival and heard good things about it, and secondly because I’d heard which breweries were providing beers.

The festival was held between Friday 30th September and Sunday October 2nd. We headed there briefly on the Friday (by bus, too hot to walk), got off at the Blue Ball and headed to the lovely old Green Man pub in the middle of the village.

The beer festival marquee had been set up between the pub and the garden. The beer selection was very impressive, with beers from Redemption, Skinners, Buntingford, Summer Wine, Thornbridge, Milton and more. The festival glass was £2 to hire, and for CAMRA members beer was priced at a reasonable £3 a pint. There were over 50 cask ales and there were also ciders available.

Green Man Beers

Green Man Beers

Immediately I went for a Redemption Trinity, having missed out on this beer at the Cambridge Beer Festival. I couldn’t believe this beer was only 3% – I had to question the chap behind the bar and he confirmed that was right. He also said it’s quite difficult to get hold of Redemption beers, and he was pleased that they had managed to get some. We took a seat in the shady area of the long garden. The golden ale was full of fruity hops and was very pungent and piney. Lots of flavour for its impressively low abv.

Next up was some Summer Wine Diablo IPA, 6%. It was double the abv of the Redemption, and it tasted strong but incredibly tasty. Those resinous US hops and tropical flavours made this beer a winner.

I then got myself a Cambridge Moonshine Spiritual Matter, 3.7%, and was told I was probably the first member of the public to try this in Cambridge as it was brand new. It was fantastic; light fruity and flavoursome, and probably the best Moonshine beer I had tried. But we then had to head off.

The Green Man, with the Red Lion behind

The Green Man, with the Red Lion behind

On the Sunday we strolled back to Grantchester, despite it being far too hot to be walking across the meadows to the village from the city centre.  Those last few steps to the back garden entrance of the Green Man were pretty tough, I could hardly put one foot in front of the other by that point. But I knew what was inside, so I just kept going.

Redemption Big Chief had taken the place of Trinity, so I went for some of that straight away, although water may have been a wiser idea. On the label on the barrel it stated that this was 3%. Really? It tasted so much stronger. Then again, the Trinity did too. I asked for confirmation of this, as before, and it was confirmed. However, after knocking back this hoppy and full-bodied beer and realising that it couldn’t possibly be that weak I checked the beer list on the bar. It said it was 5.5%. I looked at the barrel again. That said 3%. Hmm. I brought this to the barman’s attention. He said he knew, and had now informed all bar staff. Bit of an issue, though, if you are driving and thought you were just drinking a quick half of weak beer. Luckily we weren’t.

Brewsters Decadence was  next, a tasty beer at 4.4%, hoppy and refreshing and moorish. I love Brewsters beers, especially their wonderful Hophead. I then wanted to try some of the fantastic Skinners Cornish Knocker on cask (I usually drink it bottled) but was upset to find that I had missed out and it had all gone – this tasty beer is one of my favourites; full of hops and wonderful flowery flavours.

We sat inside the marquee to watch a fantastic jazz band, Have You Heard, and I finished off with a Buntingford Polar Star, 4.4%, a great beer from one of my favourite breweries. Pale and light with US hops giving it a grapefruity and citrussy flavour, it was delicious and perfect for the sunny weather –  recorded as the hottest October day ever in England.

The Green Man Garden

The Green Man Garden

The Green Man did a great job in sourcing their beers and organising this wonderful festival. My one comment would be that I’d have liked some tasting notes – it cuts down the time spent at the bar wondering which ale to try next! All in all it was a great event and I look forward to the next one with anticipation.

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!

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 Beer Festival 2009

The beer event of the year is upon us – the 36th Cambridge Beer Festival. I love this festival; it is held around the same time every year (18th-23rd May this year) on Jesus Green in a series of large marquees and has a wonderful outside area with lots of grass, chairs and tables, and several food stalls (Thai, curry, veggie, etc) for when you inevitably get peckish after sampling lots of fine ales.

There are over 200 real ales on offer during this festival, as well as ciders, perries, foreign beers, wine and mead. Every year I say I must try some real cider, but with so many fantastic beers on offer I never seem to get round to it. This year the festival is focusing on local ales from local brewers, although there are many ales available from far and wide.

So, so far I have been to two sessions of the festival, and tried some great ales. At the moment, Buntingford brewery is coming up tops for me – this has to be one of my favourite breweries as all the beers I try from them are somehow fantastic. Yesterday I tried Golden Plover (3.8%), which was golden and light with a fresh smell, and went down well. My favourite so far is Polar Star (4.4%) – I shouldn’t advertise this as I don’t want it to all go before I get to try some more of it, but the sherbet smell and citrussy flavours blew me away.  Very similar to Western Musketeer, my beer of the festival last year. Buntingford are great.

IMG_8920

I tried some Cambridge Moonshine beer, the 800 Years of Engagement (3.8%), after reading the tasting notes that mentioned it was a ‘fruity, floral and light session bitter’. I actually found it to be slightly eggy, with hint of a vanilla, and it didn’t go down as easily as I would have liked. Never mind.

I really enjoyed Oakleaf’s Hole Hearted (4.7%), brewed with 100% Cascade hops – lovely! My sort of beer. Adam had some Essex Boys Bitter (3.5%) from Crouch Vale, being a fan of Brewers Gold, but it was just ‘boring and brown!’ – I tasted no hops whatsoever and no taste to speak of. It was just… well, brown.

I also tried some Spingo Jubilee (4.5%) from Blue Anchor in Helston, having been to the brew-pub myself and got myself  into a bit of a state after too much of some of their extra-strong Spingo beers (can’t remember which ones for some strange reason..). Anyway, I was slightly disappointed with the Jubilee, slightly bitter and not particularly hoppy, even though described as such. I was eager to finish it and move onto the next beer.

Everards Sunchaser Blonde is a pleasant, hoppy, light, golden beer at 4% – it went down quite nicely thank you! Adam enjoyed some Stonehenge Sign of Spring (4.6%), which instead of coming out as a nice blonde ale as we expected, it was green! Very interesting, and a nice flavour of hops and malt.

Green beer!

Green beer!

So that’s about it for now – roll on Cambridge Beer Festival 2010!

%d bloggers like this: