Peterborough Beer Festival 2011

I don’t know why I’d never got round to going to the Peterborough Beer Festival before. I religiously attend the Cambridge Beer Festival, and I managed to make it down to Earl’s Court in London to the Great British Beer Festival earlier this month. But for some reason I’d never made the effort to take the 50 minute train journey to Peterborough. On Wednesday it was time to put that right.

Lonestar TPA

Lonestar TPA

The Peterborough Beer Festival, with over 350 real ales plus cider, wine, and bottled world beers, is the second largest CAMRA beer festival in the country. When I saw the beer list a week before the festival I was excited by the selection, with some breweries present whose ales I really wanted to try. Already I could see that this festival was going to be more exciting than the Great British Beer Festival (US cask beers aside). But at the same time I knew there was no way I could try all the beers I wanted to try in just one session; if they served third pint measures like at the GBBF I might be in with a chance. Come on all CAMRA beer fests, serve third pint measures; I can’t drink much but I want to try lots of different beers!

After a pleasant train journey from Cambridge in a wonderfully sparkly train (why can’t the trains to London be as nice as these?) and a 15 minute walk from the station we arrived at the Embankment, the site of the festival. It was 5.15 and the sun was shining, but the gates were closed. We joined the growing queue and waited in anticipation. The gates opened at 5.30 on the dot, so we all filtered slowly through, with CAMRA members paying £4 and non-members paying £8, which includes the £3 glass hire fee.

Table footieThe festival is located in large interlinking marquees. The floor is grass as opposed to the plastic flooring that is layed out at the Cambridge festival. The breweries were listed alphabetically through the various marquees in an L shape, which should have been straightforward – shouldn’t it?  Not for me – I still managed to get lost and ended up walking backwards and forwards several times trying to find T. Hmm. I blame the beer. They also have a live music marquee (which I am not particularly keen on at a beer fest, preferring my drinking and chat not to be drowned out by live music, despite the fact I do generally love to watch a good band) and a cider bar, wine bar, fairground rides, food stalls and shops, and pub games such as table football and Northamptonshire skittles (my personal favourite, as a girl who hails from that county).  There is a small grassy area outside around the food stalls where we sat, but I missed the open expanse of grass of the Cambridge Beer Festival – that’s what makes it so special in my opinion. There is plenty of grass on the Embankment – I am sure a large grassy space could be created for drinkers to sit and chat. Then it would be perfect.

Brewery bars

Brewery bars

So, onto the important bit – the beer. The Lonestar TPA (Texas Pale Ale) 5.8%, was first up; it had been recommended to me as it was a festival special but also because it has a great story. It was a collaboration between Hopshackle brewery and Steve Saldana, the festival cellarman and a Texan; the beer was brewed according to an ancient Texan recipe. Check out the full story (page 9), it’s fascinating 😉 The result is a beer loaded with hops, but not overly so; it’s wonderfully balanced and has the most gorgeous floral aroma. Very nice indeed. It didn’t disappoint (thanks for the recommendation Karl!)

Next up was Magic Rock High Wire, 5.5%.  I had been wanting to try their beers for a while but hadn’t managed to get hold of any. Here was my chance. Wow. Overwhelming tropical flavours and smells, mango, passion fruit, citrus. Incredibly rich. I could’ve sworn there were Nelson Sauvin hops in there, but when I asked them they said no, just loads of ‘C’ hops!

Tintagel Brewery is a relatively new and fantastic little brewery; the beer is brewed in an old milking shed on a farm just outside Tintagel, Cornwall. The Castle Gold was fantastic; bright yellow, floral, honey notes and very sweet. This went down a treat and was a pleasure to drink. Tintagel Harbour Special was a favourite after having drunk this in Tintagel this summer, with its caramel malty notes with citrus and dry hopped flavours.

I then went for Summer Wine 7 C’s of Rye, a beer containing 7 types of hop beginning with C (Chinook, Cascade, Centennial, etc). At this point the guys at the bar tried to warn me off the stronger beers, asking if I knew that my beer of choice was 7% and should I maybe try something weaker so as not to end up in a heap on the floor by the end of the evening? I explained that this was a brewery whose beers I had to try, that everything was fine and I knew what I was doing (didn’t I?). So they sighed and poured me a half. (The bar staff were so very nice and helpful at this festival, the nicest I have come across to be honest, nothing was too much trouble and they all were so enthusiastic about beer and wanted to share their enthusiasm).  Well the beer certainly tasted its strength. It was similar in a way to the High Wire (as in lots of tropical hop flavours) but it was deeper, creamier, much heavier and resinous. But I could have done with a 3rd pint to be honest, a half was too much for me as it was so rich.

Tydd Steam Stargazer was a beer that I wanted at the CBF but it had run out. It was a delicious golden ale; so easy to drink (after the 7 Cs’!) and full of wonderful American hop flavours.

I tried several other beers and had tasters of others, so here are some in brief – Oakham Dream Catcher, 6.9%: deeply hoppy and resinous, fruity, red, very nice. Oakham Green Devil, 6%: very tropical (there’s that word again) – lots of grapefruit, peach, similar to a very strong Thornbridge Kipling. Leeds Samba, 3.7%: quite pleasant, hoppy, light and refreshing. Mallinsons Peter-Beer, 4.6%: full of flavour, golden and hoppy with a lovely aftertaste. Le Brewery Mysterieuse Lady from Normandy, France, 4%: a wheat beer with an unusual aroma but very delicate with elderflower and grassy notes. Brodie’s Hackney Red IPA, 6.1%: deep ruby colour with prominent US dry hopped flavours.

It was time to leave to catch the train home. A pleasant walk back to the station through pretty Cathedral Square with its colourful shooting fountains and Butter Cross made for a nice end to the evening.


The festival was fantastic – it runs until Saturday 27th August. Next year I will try to go to more than one session to take advantage of all that is on offer!

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Town and Country Show and Covent Garden Street Party, Cambridge

Food stalls and ferret racetrack

I just had a very enjoyable day in Cambridge. First of all we strolled down to the Town and Country Show on Parker’s Piece, an Oakleigh Fairs event. This festival has craft and food tasting marquees, a beer tent with live music, food stalls, animal demonstrations, ferret racing, steam engines, kids rides, mediaeval village, battle re-enactments, and more – it’s a nice friendly festival in the centre of Cambridge. And it was sunny. Result. Naturally we headed to the beer tent. The ales on offer were Oakham JHB (3.8%),  Dark Star Hophead, (3.8%)  Woodforde’s Wherry (3.8%) and Titanic White Star (4.8%) – a good selection of very nice beers. I went for the Titanic, Adam had the Dark Star.

Beer Tent

Beer Tent

Both were good but the Titanic came out on top with its hops, smooth tones and mellow fruity character. The Hophead was a bit more bitter, but very hoppy and drinkable all the same – just not as lovely as the Titanic.

We then had a wander along Mill Road en route to Bacchanalia (a fantastic beer shop where we go for our bottled beers, they have a wonderful selection and very friendly staff – the wonderful Brewsters Pale Ale was one of the beers we came away with ) and came across the Covent Garden Street Party taking place on a closed off Covent Garden, where the tiny Six Bells pub is situated.

Covent Garden Street Party

Covent Garden Street Party

Covent Garden Party Ale

Covent Garden Party Ale

It’s a traditional old pub and in a nice spot, tucked away on a side street off busy Mill Road, and hosts pub quizzes and open mic nights. It’s just a real shame this is a Greene King pub (in my personal opinion). The beers are just regular GK offerings; there were no interesting guests on ( and am I not counting Ale Fresco even though GK would want me to, another of their uninspiring ‘guests’). Anyway, the pub was bustling inside and out, and the street was decorated nicely with lots of bunting, stalls, a stage area for musicians and poets, and dancing, all to raise money for local charities. I was very pleased to come across a stall at the end of the road near the drama centre selling Covent Garden Party Ale from the barrel (and cider from a barrel too).

Covent Garden Party Ale is a brew from Cambridge Moonshine – not a rebranded beer, but one specially brewed for the street party. How nice. Lovely and golden, light and hoppy with malt flavours coming through, easy to drink. Nice job, Moonshine, one of your nicest beers I have tried.

We then headed to one of our favourite pubs, the Cambridge Blue. Lots and lots of beers on tap, as always. We took advantage of the nice weather and sat in the large beer garden; I drank Oakham Bishops Farewell, similar to JHB but stronger, with a more rounded flavour but bursting with citrus hops – not to the extent of their Citra though. They also had the lovely Oakham Inferno on at the bar. Adam had some tasty Tydd Steam Roadhouse, a bitter with beautiful hoppy flavours. Then we left by climbing over the wall into the cemetery (yes, they left a gap in their trellis especially so you can do this – nice way to enter and leave the premises I think!).

Cambridge Blue beer garden from the cemetary

Cambridge Blue beer garden from the cemetary

I reckon we’ll probably head back to the beer tent at the Town and Country Show tomorrow; it’s on for two days after all, so it would be rude not to. More Titanic is in order. Let’s just hope the sun is shining still by then…

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!

Cambridge Octoberfest 2010

My Octoberfest did not involve me drinking any German beers.  Let’s get that straight from the start.  Do I feel bad about that? Maybe, a little. But to be perfectly honest I don’t enjoy drinking lager style beers, so however tasty some may find German Octoberfest beers,  I just prefer ale. So read on if you want to hear about a few incredibly tasty English ales present at the Cambridge Octoberfest, but if you are looking for a review on Schlenkerla Marzen or Augustinian beers, then you have come to the wrong place. Sorry.

Onto the Octoberfest, held at the University Social Club on Mill Lane. The event held on 15th and 16th October was not as big as the Winter Ale fest, held in the same venue; it’s small and intimate, and there were about 30 beers available which is pretty good, I think.

Octoberfest beers

First up was Buntingford’s Polar Star, a lovely light and very hoppy golden beer at 4.4%. This beer was a wonderful way to start the afternoon, with its sherbet hop aroma, thanks to the lovely USA hops used, making it very very drinkable.  Next I tried Milton’s Prometheus, but although this was very nice, grapefruity and strong at 6%, I decided to go for another Buntingford, the Imperial Pale Ale. I can’t remember if I have raved about this beer before, but if not, why not?  It’s amazing, incredible, hoppy, and strong, at 6.2%.  I actually had this beer at the Cambridge Blue’s Octoberfest the previous week, and this was the beer of the fest for me.

The next beer was Hop Fest (4.6%) by Hop Back. I was disappointed by this beer, particulary as I am a fan of their Summer Lightning.  It was eggy, astringent, and not quite the ‘hop fest’ that I was hoping for. I don’t actually remember tasting  many hops at all. The aroma put me off immediately, and the guys on the table next to us also bought some and they felt the same way about it. What a shame.

Then I had some lovely Tydd Steam Barn Ale at only 3.9%. Ooh a wonderful beer to finish off with – similar to the Polar Star; light, hoppy, citrussy, and very moorish.

Whilst I am talking about Octoberfest beers, I must add that on a trip to the wonderful Elm Tree, I had some Dark Star Oktoberfest, 5.2%, which was incredible, loaded with hops. Fantastic.  I will also be popping by at the end of the month for Hallowe’en, they do a great job decorating the pub with pumpkins and witches and bats everywhere. I think there will be scary stories too from the Travelling Talesman too on Hallowe’en itself. And most certainly there will be a good few Hallowe’en-themed beers on tap too.

The Cambridge Winter Ale fest is on 20th-22th January 2011 at the same venue. See you there – I’ll be the one drinking the hoppiest beer in the building.

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