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!

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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 Emperor and its beach beer garden, Cambridge

The Emperor

The Emperor

The Emperor is a relatively new addition to Cambridge and has moved into the building where the old Globe Ale House was situated on Hills Road, Cambridge. It was stripped, redecorated, and reopened about a year ago. The pub is run by Dave and Enas who run The Empress on Thoday Street, off Mill Road in Romsey Town, and they have already brought their popular beer festivals, quizzes, and unique touch to this pub. There are generally about 4 real ales on tap, regulars being St Austell Tribute, Oakham JHB and Sharps Doom Bar. On my last visit Tydd Steam Roadhouse Bitter was also on draft, a great beer from a great brewery.

The Emperor's Beach Beer Garden

The Emperor’s Beach Beer Garden

One of the things that makes this pub unique is the fact that its beer garden is decked out as a beach. The garden is full of real sand, brightly painted picnic benches, deckchairs, parasols, buckets and spades, seaside paraphernalia such as ropes, netting and buoys, and seagulls flying around. (OK, they are plastic birds suspended by ropes, but it’s a nice touch – they are also hiding away in corners, even on neighbouring buildings). There is an outside window opening to the bar, painted to look like an ice cream van, so you don’t even need to leave the beach to get a beer. All the fences have been painted with beach scenes – they have made a real effort; it looks great. It is slightly surreal being on a beach in the middle of a city, particularly after a few drinks, but it’s great fun – especially when you have to shake out the sand from your shoes at the end of your visit. You really feel that you have been to the seaside.

Beach toys

Beach toys

The pub itself attracts a mixed clientele – students, locals, visitors to the city – with its big screens, round pool table and regular events such as quizzes, discos, poetry, food events, comedy, beer festivals (the last of which was held on the beach a few weeks ago), barbeques, and even beach volleyball tournaments!  It also has a live music license so hosts a variety of gigs plus a popular open mic event every week. All in all, it’s a very cool pub and I wish them all the best.

With the summer well and truly here now, I have a feeling that this beach beer garden is going to get very busy…

Update, May 2013: The Emperor has sadly decided not to have a beach beer garden this year or in the near future – however, it still has a very nice beer garden with pot plants, hanging baskets, and a covered area.

Cambridge Beer Festival 2010

So, the 37th Cambridge Beer Festival is well under way. The weather hasn’t been too bad for it either – you need to enjoy a bit of sun whilst drinking your beer on the grass on Jesus Green, and so far it has been very pleasant. Apart from the night when it rained, but that’s when the marquee comes into use.

Sad Horse beer glass

Sad Horse Beer Glass

I don’t know if it’s just me, but it seems busier than ever at the festival this year. I left early the other night and there were so many people pouring into the festival that I could hardly squeeze through the hoards to return my beer glass (my favourite sad horse glass). Then I could hardly get out. It was so busy last night that they asked for more volunteers, so Adam offered to help out for an hour behind the bar. It was crazy and hectic – the volunteers all work so hard. I was happy to  continue drinking myself! 😉

Adam at work

Adam at work

So,  the beer. I am pleased to say that most beers I have tried have been great so far. Here are a few of them:

Woodforde’s Game On, 4% – This beer was as expected, an easy drinking brew from this excellent brewery. Hoppy, light, not too strong and citrussy. Not as sweet as the Sundew.

BrewDog’s Punk IPA, 6.2% – OK, this is one of my most favourite beers ever,  but it’s a bit weaker in the bottle and on draft this is waaaaay too strong for me, y0u can taste the strength. But then the hops come through and kick you in the mouth and jump straight through your head.  That’s the only way I can describe it. There aren’t many beers you can say that about! It’s delicious, and very popular.

Buntingford’s Western Champion, 4.2% – A golden, hoppy ale – very tasty, another successful brew from the wonderful Buntingford Brewery.

Hambleton GFA, 4.8% – A gluten free ale that I chose on account of the fact that it is brewed with Cascade and Liberty hops. A disappointment; I couldn’t really taste the hops, and it was flat and I prefer a bit of fizz. It did taste better the longer it sat though.

Enjoying the beer

Enjoying the beer

Nobby’s Guilsborough Gold, 4% – A beer from near my hometown, Northampton. Lovely aftertaste, lots of hop flavour, went down easily.

Allendale’s Curlew’s Return, 4.2% – I didn’t like this one. I had this at a previous festival which I had forgotten about,  and I didn’t really like it then either. It was flat, I couldn’t taste the Cascade hops, and it was just missing something. I poured it away.

Spitting Feathers’ Thirstquencher, 3.9% – I started one of the sessions with this one, and it was a great drink to start with, not strong, full of flavour, bitter and citrussy teeming with hops, it was beautiful. A hint of straw.

Ossett’s Maypole, 4.2% – This one was Adam’s, but I snaffled some. It was refreshing and easy to drink, but compared to my Thirstquencher, it didn’t have a lot of flavour, but it was very pleasant.

Thornbridge’s Jaipur IPA, 5.9% – Wow. That’s all I can say. I remember Oz Clarke saying how wonderful this beer was when he was touring the country with James May tasting beer, so I wanted to try it on draft ever since. It’s delicious. Yes, it’s strong, and you can tell that when you drink it, but I loved it, it reminded me of an Oakham ale, full of hops, honey and citrus. Adam said it reminded him of a Rogue ale. Lovely. And it’s already gone, don’t know if it will come back on…

Beer fest 2010

Beer fest 2010

Tydd Steam’s Roadhouse Bitter, 4.3% – Very nice, one of my favourite drinkable beers so far of the festival, not too strong, heavily hopped, citrussy, really really lovely.

Tydd Steam’s Barn Ale, 3.9% – Even weaker than the Roadhouse, but not that you can tell. Again, Tydd Steam come up trumps, they are a really great brewery, I love their beers. This one is just as nice as the Roadhouse, full of hops…can’t decide which one I like best.

Vale Pale Ale, 4.2% – A golden ale, pleasant and hoppy.

West Berkshire’s Dr Hexter’s Healer, 5% – I was waiting for this one to come on as it has 3 different hops and meant to have an orange and marmalade finish. It just tasted astringent and strong to me. I could taste some hops, but I was disappointed. Maybe it’s just me; it did win bronze at the GBBF last year. I should give it another go really.

White Horse Bitter, 3.7% – A very nice bitter, goes down very easily. A slight eggy smell, but you can’t taste it when you drink, it’s very citrussy and hoppy.

Beer and chips. Lovely.

Beer and chips. Lovely.

Humpty Dumpty’s Little Sharpie, 3.8% – Golden, lots of hop flavour and very crisp and sharp, tasted stronger than it’s 3.8 ABV.

Surrey Hills Gilt Complex, 4.6% – The tasting notes mention the huge hop aroma, and they weren’t wrong! A tasty beer full of hops.

Ufford’s Rupert’s War Dog, 4.2% – A beer that wasn’t on the tasting notes, but has been tweeted about a lot because of it’s massive grapefruit burst. I tasted slight grapefruit and citrus and it was a pleasant and easy to drink beer, and slightly peppery, but that was about it.

Thornbridge Kipling, 5.2% – Now this was a beer full of grapefruit! This was an amazing beer, like Jaipur IPA’s little brother. I compared a Jaipur IPA against this one, and the Jaipur had more flavour and hops; this was a weaker, softer, smoother version, but if you can’t get the Jaipur then this is the next best thing – lovely beer.

Elgood’s Feelgood Fresh, 3.7% – I fancied an easy drinking weak beer to start off a session, but this one was just flat and boring. It might have been OK if it had had a bit of fizz, but its peppery flavour and aroma wasn’t particularly appealing to me. I poured this one away. It’s a shame as I do like their Golden Newt and Straw Beer.

Rogue Brewery’s Dry Hopped St Rogue Red, 5.2% – I was pleased to see this bottled USA beer on the Foreign Beer stand, being one of my favourites (see my USA beer article). This ruby red beer is bursting with hops and flavour, this one is not one to be missed.

And last but by no means least:

Red Squirrel’s White Mountain APA, 5.4% – Wow. Hop heaven. This beer is full of Cascade and Goldings hops, and you sure can taste them! Red Squirrel have been spot on with this American style IPA, and it is incredibly moorish – I went back for lots more, this was the most consumed beer of the festival for me and I voted it my number 1. Wonderful, wonderful beer. Already missing it – where can I find it round here?!?

Beer fest in the sun

Beer fest in the sun

And indoors when the rain came

And indoors when the rain came

So there ends the Cambridge Beer Festival 2010. Another great festival. Looking forward to the Octoberfest in the University Social Club on 15th – 16th October 2010, see you there!

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