Thriplow Daffodil Festival and The Green Man

The annual Thriplow Daffodil Festival took place on the weekend of the 20th and 21st March. Thriplow is a small village in Hertfordshire, located only 8 miles south of Cambridge, and every year it holds a village festival to celebrate the coming of spring and the blooming of the first daffodils, and the money it takes goes towards supporting local charities.

Thriplow Daffodil Festival

Thriplow Daffodil Festival

This is more than just a little village fete; for these two days, Thriplow sees about 10,000 visitors, far more than I expected. It was heaving on the Sunday when I went, and I can honestly say that it  felt like the first day of spring with the sun blazing down upon us. Granted, there weren’t many daffodils in bloom, but I bet by the time I write this they will all be out and in full force as they were just on the verge.

Horse and dray

Horse and dray

But the daffodils are not the only reason why people come to this festival. There are hundreds of craft stalls, live music, open gardens, horses giving dray rides, demonstrations in the local smithy on the village green (which was great to see), delicious barbeques, owls to stroke from the Raptor Foundation (and I did my fair share of stroking, sorry children if I hogged the owls for a while!) as well as morris men dancing outside the local shop and pub.

Local cider

Local cider

Devil's Dyke Morris Men

Devil's Dyke Morris Men

Which brings me onto the pub, the Green Man. It’s a pretty pub in a perfect location, situated on the green in the middle of the village, and a natural spot for morris men to dance outside. I purchased a cold and tasty Woodforde’s Wherry (3.8%) from inside the heaving pub and headed outside to watch the dancing, beer in hand, perfect. (We even had a photo taken of us which was shown in the Royston Crow newspaper, something I wasn’t aware of at the time – spot the Wherry by my feet!)  The pub is a free house; it also had Nethergate’s Suffolk County, 4.0%,  on tap and has regularly changing ales. The bar staff were very busy, but they kept it together to serve the never ending crowds. The pub also has a pretty rear garden, but I preferred to go and sit out the front where all the action was taking place.  A lovely pub in a perfect location; I look forward to going back there when the village is back to its sleepy self once more.

Morris dancers outside The Green Man, Thriplow

Morris dancers outside The Green Man, Thriplow

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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.

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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 Blue Beer Fest

At the end of June the Cambridge Blue (a great pub on Gwydir St, Cambridge) had a week-long beer festival. I tried some fantastic beers from the main bar, their tap room, and the marquee they had set up in their large beer garden. My favourites were Fanny Ebbs Summer Ale from Tring – very light and citrussy – and Crouch Vale Golden Duck which was hoppy and gorgeous.

We got there too late and missed out on Fox’s Heacham Gold, one of our favourites at this year’s Cambridge Beer Festival, and also missed out on Wolf’s Golden Jackal. Surprisingly I didn’t really enjoy Salopian’s Hop Twister or Derventio’s Summer Solstice (anything with hops or summer in the title is generally something I am drawn to!) – I found they both had strange flavours and not very easy to drink. But Nethergate’s Dew Drop made for a refreshing finish – it’s only 3.9% and the special house beer of the Blue, which was formally named the Dewdrop Inn. We went to the pub on the day of the Gwydir Street Party, which takes place every year, and the atmosphere was great with the road closed to traffic and live music in the street, stalls selling books, children running around chalking pictures onto the road, other kids were jamming on their guitars. Residents had dragged their sofas out onto the street and were sitting chatting to their neighbours and eating together. It was lovely standing outside the Blue and listening to the live music, all the nicer with beer in hand.

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