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

Cambridge CAMRA Pub of the Year Awards 2013

We were invited along to the Cambridge and District CAMRA Pub of the Year Awards which took place last night at the Hopbine. As well as the award for pub of the year there were 10 other awards going, including community pub of the year, locale pub, and most improved pub.

Audience

By 8pm the Hopbine was heaving with familiar faces including Jethro and Terri from the Cambridge Blue, Jess and Steve from the Elm Tree, and Lawrence from the Champion of the Thames (and now the Clarendon as well). There were also several local brewers present such as Joe from BlackBar, Mark from Moonshine, Jon from Lord Conrads, and Richard from Milton.

I drank Moonshine’s Cambridge Pale Ale pretty much most of the evening, a lovely easy drinking bitter with caramel and floral hop flavours. We were asked to take a seat in the back room of the pub where there was a large award display board for the event – a nice backdrop for the winners photos.

The compere made light hearted jokes as he read out pub descriptions before each award was presented, to try to make us guess which pub he was describing (he quite liked the word ‘breweriana’, which came up a couple of times in the descriptions. Guess which pubs he was referring to..!)

Will SmithWill Smith from CAMRA presented the awards and posed for official photos with the winners and their framed certificates; he even received the occasional kiss.

The winner of Pub of the Year went to the Flying Pig. You know, that wonderful pub that’s under threat of being demolished (which I wrote about in a previous post). Congratulations Justine and Matt. Hopefully this award will open people’s eyes as to how valuable a lovely pub like this is to the community.

The Flying Pig

Here’s a list of all the winners – well done everyone, especially to some of my local favourite pubs, you know who you are 😉

Pub of the year 2013:  The Flying Pig

Locale Pub of the year(Rural) 2013:  The Crown Inn, Linton

Locale pub of the year 2013 (city):  The Cambridge Blue

Community Pub of the year  2013 (Rural):  The Plough and Fleece Horningsea

Community Pub of the Year 2013 (City):  The Elm Tree

Dark Ale/ Mild Pub of the Year 2013:  The Maypole

Most improved pub of the year 2013( City):  The Mill

Most improved pub of the year 2013( Rural):  The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting

Cider pub of the year:  The St Radegund

Real Ale Champion 2013:  Richard Naisby, Milton Brewery

CAMRA Lifetime Achievement award:  Lawrence Dixon, of The Champion of the Thames and Clarendon Arms.

Lawrence Plough and Fleece Jethro and Terri, Cambridge Blue Jess and Steve, Elm Tree

There’s one rural pub on the list that I haven’t made it out to yet, so I will make sure I rectify that as soon as possible. And if you haven’t visited these pubs in a while, make sure you do – they all need our support!

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!

Searching for Moonshine – Sampling beer at the Cambridge Winter Ale Festival

This is an article that I recently wrote for Local Secrets – I thought I’d put it on here as I never got round to writing a full blog post about the beer festival..

I swirled the beer around my glass. ‘What can you see?’ Lots of bubbles forming a large foamy head. ‘Too much carbonation,’ said Mark. ‘It needs to breathe a bit longer to reduce the amount of bubbles. Is it clear or hazy?’ I held the glass up in the air; the yellow liquid was far from crystal clear. ‘Once the haze clears it’ll be ready. Right, which one shall we try next?’

beer We were at the Cambridge Winter Ale Festival at the University Social Club which this year took place Thursday 17 – Saturday 19 January, chatting to Mark Watch, the man behind Cambridge Moonshine brewery. Mark is passionate about real ale and can often be seen at beer festivals helping out behind the bar and passing on his expertise to the staff.

Cambridge Moonshine brewery, located near the Gog Magog hills, was established in 2004 and the beer is brewed using water from the brewery’s own well. The beers vary from light and hoppy ales such as ‘Heavenly Matter’ to full bodied ales like ‘Chocolate Orange Stout’ and speciality beers such as ‘Red Watch’ brewed with blueberries – ensuring everyone’s beery tastes are pretty much catered for.

The crowds gathered in the street outside well before the official 5pm opening, and as soon as the doors opened beer lovers swarmed in to purchase their refundable festival glasses and to find a seat. There is seating both upstairs and downstairs as well as bars on both levels. We perused the beer list, featuring both dark winter warmers, light, fruity ales and cider from a mix of local breweries such as BlackBar and Milton and Fellows as well as national and foreign suppliers.

Once at the bar, we chatted to Bert, the organiser of the summer beer festival, who’d been there since early that morning setting up, and Steve, the bar manager, who’d rushed down there after his day job. According to Steve this festival tends to organise itself – they already have all the equipment, so the main task is to select and order in the beer.ale festival

‘There were five Moonshine beers on the list but they weren’t all available yet – it was only day one of this three-day event. ‘Limitless Abundance’ was on – a 10% oak-aged imperial stout, which was very strong, warming, and an incredibly oaky beer. I was on the lookout for ‘Moonshine Ison,’ an 8% imperial IPA brewed with seven different US hops, but it wasn’t yet available. When I asked Mark when it would be ready he asked me if I wanted a sneaky sample of it as well as a few others. How could I refuse?!

So here we were, swishing beer around our glasses, trying several beers that weren’t yet available to the public with Mark explaining how to establish if a beer was ready. So much care goes into looking after real ale, and if a beer goes on sale that is ‘green’ (too young), the customer won’t experience the beer as the brewer intended.

Mark disappeared with his glass and came back with a deep amber-coloured ale. I held it up to the light – clear. I looked at the bubbles – not too few, not too many, nice big bubbles at the beer line. I smelt it – a wonderful hoppy aroma. I took a sip – wow. Resinous flavours, tons of hops, full bodied. I looked at Mark. Is it the ‘Ison’?! He nodded, smiling. But why wasn’t it on sale yet? It looked and tasted great. ‘Remember what it tastes like today, and try it again tomorrow,’ he said. ‘It will be even better by then’.

So it looks like I’ll be at the beer festival again tomorrow – for educational purposes, naturally. And very probably the next day too…

Published in: on February 1, 2013 at 8:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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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)  
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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.

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!

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!

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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



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


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