Cambridge Winter Ale Festival 2012

Today is the third and final day of the 16th Cambridge Winter Ale Festival. The festival takes place in the University Social Club on Mill Lane, with a great selection of over 100 beers and ciders available in both the upstairs main bar and downstairs back bar, including lots of locally-brewed ales. I went to the festival on Thursday and Friday – it’s a very popular event and was therefore packed out –  and am going back again today; there are a few beers I still want to try. Here is a run-down of some of the beers I have tried so far:

Hopshackle Flinders (when I was sitting under green lights!)

Hopshackle Flinders (when I was sitting under green lights!)

Hopshackle Flinders, 4.8% – A wonderfully light and hoppy straw-coloured ale full of flavour. Very tasty and moorish. Great brewery. More of their beers to follow..

Hopshackle Marillo, 3.8% – Another light and hoppy beer, but not as moorish as the Flinders but also not as strong. A dominant citrus taste and aroma. Very easy drinking.

Hopshackle Historic Porter, 4.8% – Mmmmm berries, lots of them. Berries and dark bitter chocolate. Beautiful.

Hopshackle Smoked Porter, 5.2% – Now we’re talking. Absolutely delicious, my beer of the festival so far. Like drinking an open fire – smooth, warming, smoky, comforting, chocolate (not bitter). Lovely.

Redemption Urban Dusk, 4.6% – Love this beer. Its caramel malt flavours shine through. Very smooth, quite smoky actually, and slight hop flavours present.

Redemption Big Chief, 5.5% – Hazy, but tasty. Golden/orange colour, tropical hops dominate – @pintsandpubs summed it up nicely when he said it was like drinking alcoholic lilt!

Mauldon’s Black Adder, 5.3% – ‘Ooooh’ was the noise that came out of my mouth when I took my first sip of this wonderful stout. Rich, bitter, nutty, full flavoured. Loved it.

Dark Star Milk Stout, 4.5% – Very very sweet and rich, lovely roast malt flavours. Lots of flavour.

Downton Chimera IPA, 6.8% – Strong tasting IPA, hoppy, rich and resinous with floral flavours. Tasty.

Downton Baltic Red, 4.2% – A chestnut coloured premium bitter that smells of sesame oil, and tasted of it too. Not in a particularly unpleasant way; just slightly unusual. Not sure if I enjoyed it or not.

Pictish Porter, 4.4% –  A very nice smoky flavour, but slightly thin in the mouth. Easy to knock back, if you want a porter you can just knock back. There was no comparison when I did a head to head with this and the Hopshackle Historic Porter. I prefer a richer flavour myself.

Blue Monkey BG Sips – Similar to the Hopshackle Marillo, but with a slightly fuller flavour and unidentified underlying fruit that I thought was perhaps pineapple..? Very smooth in the mouth. Tasty.

Big Chief, BG Sips & Historic Porter

Big Chief, BG Sips & Historic Porter (almost gone)

That’s it for now. Another great festival – well organised (new management this year as well) with friendly, helpful service. Off there again soon to try some more beers, hopefully the Rogue Chatoe OREgasmic from Oregon in the US will be on draft; one of my favourite breweries in the world. See you there maybe.

Published in: on January 21, 2012 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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Cambridge Winter Ale Festival 2009

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

Beer mugs!

Beer mugs!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Beer list side 1

Beer list side 1

Beer list side 2

Beer list side 2

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