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



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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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