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.

40th Cambridge Beer Festival

Birthday CakeSo the Cambridge Beer Festival has come and gone, and this year it celebrated 40 years. At the end of the trade session on the Monday evening, a cake was wheeled out, everyone sang Happy Birthday, Bert Kenward the festival organiser had his photo taken with the cake for Cambridge News, then we all munched on it – it was gone in minutes (it was very yummy).

Cake demolished

Behind the barThis year I did a few shifts behind the bar as well as enjoying the festival from the right side of the bar (or the ‘wrong’ side, as another volunteer kept telling me). I worked on Hester’s bar, selling beers from breweries M to P, from Milton brewery to Plain Ales. Beers that flew out from this bar when I was working were Oakham Hare & Hedgehog, Moonshine Heavenly Matter, Old Bear Honeypot, and Moor Freddy Walker. Moor Dark Alliance was a popular one too along with Oakham Scarlet Macaw, Oakham Dreamcatcher and Oakham Midnight Mild. Pretty much all the Oakhams then. All good beers.

Magic Rck Curious  Beers behind the bar

Beer tasting panelI was involved in a blind beer tasting session between sessions on Wednesday, judging 8 East Anglian stouts with the favourite to be put forward to the champion stout category at the Great British Beer Festival in August. We were a panel of 6, including bar manager Steve, Will the editor of CAMRA’s ALE magazine, and @pintsandpubs. It was a lot of fun, but we still don’t know which stouts we tried as it was all very top secret so I can’t elaborate any further apart from saying my favourite was number 5 – smooth, roasty and easy drinking! We think we guessed what the strongest one, number 8, was – but I couldn’t possibly tell you or I’d have to kill you.

Sunny day Weather-wise, we had a mixed bag. Monday started off quite mild, although grey. Tuesday wasn’t a bad day either, a bit cloudy though. Wednesday was nice and sunny and I got slightly sunburnt, although it became chilly later in the evening. Broom!Thursday and Friday afternoons were pretty dire with heavy showers, and on a couple of occasions the rain came into the marquee near the pillars by the bars – a volunteer kept it at bay with a broom, much to the amusement of us lot behind the bar. So it became pretty muddy outside quite quickly. But on Saturday it all changed – the sun came out and stayed out, and we were in it all day as we weren’t working. I got burnt again, and everyone had a jolly good time.

BeersSo, favourite beers. I enjoyed a lot of light golden beers this year – the pale, dry and hoppy Oakham Hare and Hedgehog, the lovely sweet and grapefruity Moonshine Heavenly Matter, Bexar County Brewery Vaquero, a summery beer bursting with floral hops, and the golden Old Bear Honeypot, a honey ale. I also liked Buxton Moor Top with light citrus flavours, and Magic Rock Curious with US citrus hops. But Bishop Nick Heresy was my overall favourite, as it was at the East Anglian Beer Festival. It’s a mellow, warm, comforting, proper English beer with Challenger and Goldings hops. It’s just wonderful.

Strong hoppy beers I enjoyed were the 7% Hopshackle Resination as usual, Black Iris Intergalactic IPA, 6% with strong apricot flavours, and Oakham Dreamcatcher, 6.9%, a dark amber beer with strong peach and berry flavours.

As far as dark beers go, Moor Old Freddy Walker, 7.3%, was sublime – a well-blended, thick, stouty old ale that pours like Guinness (one satisfied customer kept coming back for pint after pint every lunchtime session as he loved it so much). Moor Dark Alliance was great, a dark coffee flavoured and hoppy beer, although so rich I could only drink a small amount  (that’s where the new third pint measures come in handy – good move Cambridge CAMRA!). I also enjoyed Bexar County Seis Banderas, a strong and roasty American stout at 7.3%.

Beers on the bar

One draft foreign beer which stood out for me was De Prael Mary, where I tried for the first time in Amsterdam in the De Prael taproom. It’s a barley wine at 9.7% with sweet and strong deep peach flavours – beautiful, and goes down very smoothly.

The beers of the festival were announced yesterday, and the joint winners were….. drum roll please….. Moor Freddy Walker, and Oakham Dreamcatcher. Wonderful beers and well deserved. Looks like our lunchtime customer who ordered pint after pint of Old Freddy had great taste. Same again? Don’t mind if I do!

Serving Old Freddy Walker

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 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 Octoberfest 2008

Fun was had by all at this year’s Cambridge Octoberfest, held at the University Social Club at Mill Lane on 31st October and 1st November. It’s only the second Octoberfest to take place in Cambridge, and was an event I was looking forward to after enjoying last year’s festival. Entry was free for CAMRA members, and £2.50 for non-members.

This year there were several local breweries represented, such as the Milton brewery, which had the wonderfully hoppy Pegasus ale on offer (4.1%) as well as some beers that were way too strong for me – one being Marcus Aurelius at 7.2%. There were also ales from Cambridge Moonshine (Thunder Moon was particularly tasty at 4.1%) and Son of Sid brewery, whose Sweet Chestnut was quite smoky and moreish (4.5%). Oakham’s Three Witches was the seasonal offer, being the day after Hallowe’en, and it had quite a bite to it, somehow becoming tastier after I had finished drinking it – the hoppiness lingered on the taste buds and became even stronger as time went on, don’t ask me how – magic… !

My favourite beer of the day though had to be Old Cannon’s Best Bitter (3.8%) – this was labelled a session beer, and it most certainly is – I could have just drunk this beer all festival and have been happy! The flavour was quite distinct and I had to get more just to try and work out why I liked it so much ;). The Old Cannon brewery and pub in Bury St Edmunds is well worth visiting, by the way – they brew their own beer on the premises and their sparkling silver brewing vessels are on show in the bar. They have several of their own ales on tap, and also have some Adnams beers available too.

Festival beer glass

Festival beer glass - with some Old Cannon bitter inside!

The Cambridge Octoberfest is more subdued than the Cambridge Beer Festival (which takes place each May on Jesus Green), being a whole lot smaller (The Social Club isn’t a massive venue) – but it’s cosy and welcoming, even though it feels a bit like a school hall. A few Hallowe’en decs would have been nice to see (but maybe not everyone would agree; I just like Hallowe’en..!). I get the feeling that the serious ale drinkers and connoisseurs come to this smaller festival, whereas the large one is popular with everyone whether they enjoy beer or not.

The 13th Cambridge WInter Ale Festival 2009 takes place in the same venue between 22nd and 24th January – another date for the diary; looking forward to it already!

Ale List


Lakeland Ales

We have just returned from a trip to the Lake District and sampled some great local ales when we were there. The first stop was Keswick, where we drank in the popular and traditional Dog and Gun pub which sells locally brewed beers from the Keswick Brewing Company, all with a ‘thirst’ theme. We tried Thirst Ascent (4%) and Thirst Run (4.2%), Thirst Run being my favourite, which although slightly stronger, was much hoppier and quaffable. Real ale aside, they are famous for their Hungarian goulash! They are also the home of Keswick Mountain Rescue, and if you buy the Thirst Ascent beer some of the cash goes towards the team (it wasn’t on draft unfortunately when we were there).

A couple of doors down is the Oddfellows Arms, a Jennings pub, which was an interesting old pub with a large beer garden/patio out the back, but the atmosphere wasn’t as lively. I drank the Cumberland Ale (4%) which was pleasant but preferred Adam’s golden Cocker Hoop (4.6%).

Dog and Gun, Keswick

Dog and Gun, Keswick

The Oddfellows Arms, Keswick

The Oddfellows Arms, Keswick

The next stop was the village of Ings near Windermere to the fantastic Watermill Inn – the reason for going there is that the pub has its own micro-brewery and has no less than 16 real ales on draft at any one time! You can see the brewery behind glass walls in the lounge bar. We came across their beers at the Cambridge Beer Festival so had to go and see for ourselves what else they had on tap. They brew dog-themed beers (the pub is very dog-friendly!) and we enjoyed sampling W’ruff Night (5%, too strong for me), A Bit’er Ruff (4.1%) and the wonderful Collie Wobbles at 3.7%, a lovely pale golden and refreshing ale and so drinkable! There wasn’t enough time to try everything, although I did manage some Wylam Summer Magic (4.2%) which was incredibly hoppy and summery, and the traditional Coniston Bluebird, and Adam enjoyed Pit Pony by Northumberland (3.6%). He also raved about Haystacks from Hesket Newmarket at a quaffable 3.7%, one of his most favourite beers ever it appears, he is still talking about it… 😉

The Watermill, Ings

The Watermill, Ings

The micro-brewery

The micro-brewery

Beers!

Beers!

The Cambridge Chop House

It was great to discover that the Cambridge Chop House on Kings Parade serves local real ales straight from the cask. This is more of a restaurant than pub, serving classic British cuisine (and it’s not particularly cheap, but this is Cambridge for you, and you are right in tourist central) but you can just go and order a beer or two without food if you like. The beers available on my last couple of visits were from the Milton Brewery; they had Sparta, Dionysus and Pegasus. Dionysus is my favourite, being very hoppy and only 3.6% – an ideal daytime beer! Sparta is pretty good too at 4.3%, it’s just a bit more bitter. I have also seen Buntingford ales available there as well (Buntingford’s Western Musketeer is a favourite of mine, one that I nominated as beer of the festival at the Cambridge Beer Festival). The location is great too, you can grab a table outside the restaurant with a fantastic view of Kings College and sip on your beer watching the world – mostly tourists and language students at this time of year – go by.

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