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!

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The Cambridge Chop House

It was great to discover that the Cambridge Chop House on Kings Parade serves local real ales straight from the cask. This is more of a restaurant than pub, serving classic British cuisine (and it’s not particularly cheap, but this is Cambridge for you, and you are right in tourist central) but you can just go and order a beer or two without food if you like. The beers available on my last couple of visits were from the Milton Brewery; they had Sparta, Dionysus and Pegasus. Dionysus is my favourite, being very hoppy and only 3.6% – an ideal daytime beer! Sparta is pretty good too at 4.3%, it’s just a bit more bitter. I have also seen Buntingford ales available there as well (Buntingford’s Western Musketeer is a favourite of mine, one that I nominated as beer of the festival at the Cambridge Beer Festival). The location is great too, you can grab a table outside the restaurant with a fantastic view of Kings College and sip on your beer watching the world – mostly tourists and language students at this time of year – go by.

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