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.

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Published in: on January 21, 2012 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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5th Cambridge Octoberfest, 2011

The 5th CAMRA Cambridge Octoberfest took place on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th October at the University Social Club on Mill Lane, the venue for the Winter Ale Festival.  This is the youngest of the Cambridge and District CAMRA beer festivals and therefore the smallest, with just 2 bars available in the main hall of the venue. One bar sold English ales, mainly sourced from East Anglia, and the other bar served German beers – beers from the ‘big 6’ breweries from Munich as well as other German beers and bottles. Downstairs was also open for food and there were about 3 beers on draft on the bar there too.

Octoberfest beersWe went to the festival on both days. Entrance was free for CAMRA members (or £2.50 if not a member) and themed festival glasses were £3 sale or return.

Friday evening was incredibly busy even by 6 pm, an hour into the festival, and by 7 pm it was heaving. Saturday afternoon was much calmer and relaxed and it was nice to have room to move. I am guessing however that it became much busier later into the day.

I was pleased to spot the new Ale magazine at the festival, with my photo of the Hopbine on the front and my article inside about a tour of the pubs around the Kite, Cambridge (As this is my blog, I’m allowed to do a shameless plug 😉 ).

Right, onto the beers. The beer list was pretty good and I selected plenty that I wanted to try – however, I am not a great fan of German beers, preferring the flavours of real ale, so my choices were mostly from the left hand bar, or in other words, the English cask ales.

Friday eveningSaturday afternoon

Here are the beers that I tried:

October and RoysteinerBuntingford Engineer, 3.9% – This is a new beer from this Hertfordshire brewery, a malty copper coloured ale and low on hops.  I loved it – it had that distinct Buntingford aroma and sherbet taste, full of flavour despite its low abv. That one went down pretty quickly

Buntingford October, 4.2% – A single-hopped and flavoursome ruby beer, but it didn’t have much conditioning which made it slightly flat.

Buntingford Roysteiner, 4.2% – A tasty English beer but with German malt and hops – slightly thinner than most Buntingford beers but enjoyable.

Tydd Steam Golden Kiwi, 4.1% – This golden beer was wonderful at the Cambridge Beer Festival. This time it was served slightly warm, and had a slightly unpleasant sulphur aroma. However, the luscious grapefruit flavours cut through and the aroma subsided – the beer improved with time.

Casks

Hopshackle Resination, 7% – This is a personal favourite, however I was slightly disappointed with it on this occasion. It was warm, the hoppy resinous flavours didn’t quite come through as much as they normally do, and I couldn’t finish it. And I ALWAYS finish Resination. I don’t know – maybe if it had been served a bit colder it would have been better, but I understand there are issues with the USC not allowing a cask cooling system for the festival, and it has been a particularly warm October. Maybe holding the festival slightly later during October might help solve that issue – it’s going to get much colder from this point on, I hear..

Hopshackle Hopnosis, 5.2%- **My Beer of the Fest** Wow, now this beer was fantastic, and my beer of the festival –  wonderful hops, sweet malty flavours, fantastic aroma, spicy, fruity – I couldn’t get enough of it.

Hopshackle Smoked Porter, 5.2% – Another wow from this wonderful brewery. This beer is one to savour – rich and smoky, it’s like drinking an open fire. Chocolate and hop flavours, with fruit and malt. Absolutely gorgeous, and a real winter warmer.

German beer bar

Augustiner Octoberfest, 6.1% – A German beer from the German bar, served from a very nice small stainless steel cooling system, which made it freezing cold. Beers on this bar were served from this system in rotation as there were a limited number of taps, so there were just a few on tap at any one time. But although the temperature was great, the beer was just like a slightly more flavoursome lager to me and lacked those hoppy flavours that I love, and I found it just a bit, well, meh. I am not the best person to review German beers, so I will leave that to the experts. Onto the next English ale.

Cambridge Moonshine Effervescence & Spiritual Matter, 3.7% – I had ‘Spiritual Matter’ at the Green Man Beer Fest in Grantchester – is this the same beer, although they have tagged an ‘Effervescence’ in front of the name? Not sure. But I do know that this predominately grapefruit, possibly citra-hopped beer, would have been really good if it wasn’t for the poor conditioning and temperature. A shame.

I had a taster of Humpty Dumpty Hop Harvest Gold, 4.9%, which was wonderfully cold with great conditioning and full of hop flavours. I didn’t get round to trying Redemption Big Chief, but I know I like this hop monster as I had it at the Green Man beer festival last month. And I tried the Andechs Doppelbock Dunkel 7.1%, but this sweet dark beer with chocolate / caramel flavours was not to my taste – think it was possibly the raison flavours in there. Or maybe it’s just me, as others seem to like this one quite a lot.

Beer List

Beer list

So that was my 5th Octoberfest, the most successful yet with over 1500 visitors, with over 4500 pints poured, 2500 of which were the English ales.  A great festival and big thanks to the volunteers and organisers who make these festivals run so smoothly.  The 16th Cambridge Winter Ale Festival takes place 19th-21st January 2012, see you there!

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!

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