beer festivals

The ups and downs of big beer


If it’s 4th July,  it must be the American Beer Festival at the White Horse.

Knowing this pub gets seriously busy even without a special festival on, I decided to take Friday afternoon off to pickle my liver in the sunshine. Bailey was off sick, but Ally and Pete made excellent drinking buddies.

It was difficult to know where to start. Or where to end, for that matter.  With very few offerings under seven per cent, there was just no way I was going to be able to try everything I wanted.

I started with an Arrogant Bastard v Oaked Aged Arrogant Bastard showdown. There was definitely a difference between the two, but you couldn’t really taste oakiness.  Still, it’s the first time I’ve had Arrogant Bastard, and it didn’t disappoint: big body; citrusy crisp hops; and a very pleasant feeling in the throat and belly.

I can’t decide whether the highlight for me was the Dogfish Head 75 minute IPA or the Meantime Porter.  The DH (cask version, no less) was a fruity delight, with mango and pineapple flavours in abundance.  The Meantime Porter (aged in a whisky cask) was like liquid tiramisu.  Both were dangerously drinkable.

My recollection fades a little after this point.  My phone reveals that I thought that the Stone Pale Ale with coriander tasted like carrot cake.

Unfortunately, even though I felt that I was drinking quite moderately, I still ended up feeling very ill at the end of the day.

There’s definitely a place in my life for “extreme beers”, even if my internal organs disagree.  I tasted some truly memorable beers yesterday.  Would I have done it if I’d have known I’d end up throwing up all evening?  Almost certainly.  But it’ll be another year before I tackle that amount of big beer in one go.

The festival continues today and tomorrow.

12 replies on “The ups and downs of big beer”

These are hardly considered “Extreme Beers” (we need to exceed 9%-10% at least to get there).

Q: So, how do you drink a big selection of 7.5% or greater beers? A: You don’t. You pick.

Or, like we do at the Great American Beer Festival, you sample just one ounce of a beer at a time.

When I want to drink like a fish, I choose water. When I want to enjoy a great beer, I pick one or two that suits my mood. If you got sick, that means you drank too much. So, perhaps go a little easier on your way to pickling that liver of yours! ;-]-=

Meantime is a UK brewery by the way…and an excellent one at that! (Perhaps you knew that, but just didn’t point it out.)

Oh, and Happy 4th from the US!


Greg Koch, CEO
Stone Brewing Co.

Hello Greg, welcome to our blog and a happy 4th to you too.

I think your comments go to show the point I was trying to make, which is that there is a significant cultural difference between the way we approach beer and festivals in both our countries. The average British beer is around the 4 to 4-5% mark, so anything over six starts to look crazy.

Also, the smallest measure you’re legally allowed to sell in the UK is a third of a pint, so the one ounce idea just wouldn’t really work. That said, Beer Exposed (which also featured a lot of American beers) went for what I understand to be an American approach – pay up front and get samples.

I don’t really want to get into any lazy “which is better” type generalisations about the American beer scene and the British – I’m quite happy to enjoy American offerings when I can and relish the hundreds of gorgeous non-extreme British beers that I can get here.

There’s another solution: pick some friends and choose different beers. That’s the most pleasant approach to taste a lot of beer before getting drunk. Yor friends can also help if it happens. Unfortunately, I know it is not always possible.

And changing the subject, this month I host the Ronda, where we, as you know, talk about beers. This month we propose beer cocktails and it would be great if this blog, as Spanish homework, could participate.

We don’t know much about mixing beers… so the UK contribution to this theme would be highly appreciated.

Thank yo very much and saludos from Spain!

WOW!!.. Greg Koch actually wrote on your blog… I mean WOW. It cant be happening? Its gotta be someone just pretending right?

I think Greg’s comment is a little Koch-y (boom boom).

Seriously though, mate, if you honestly think 7.5% beers aren’t extreme then that speaks volumes.

This isn’t fair wheres the master brewers commenting on my blog? I get to see one at work every day but Iv already got his autograph.

My god people get over yourselves! With the greatest of respect, he’s just a brewer.

The only brewer I’ve ever been vaguely starstruck by is Peter Eells of Timothy Taylor, and that’s because (a) he brews the best beer in the world, (b) he didn’t try to glamourise what he did and (c) he doesn’t get his jollies by extracting kudos sexless wierdos in XXL t-shirts.

The word from is missing from the last part of my comment. (That, and any sense of kindness toward my fellow man).

I have a good collection of head brewers autographs now, but none have yet to comment on my blog. Timothy Taylors head brewer is a much needed autograph as it was the first pint of cask ale I ever had.

I really wish I could’ve made it to this – I was gutted to miss such a huge selection of cool American beer.

It’s interesting to see the difference between the UK and US in terms of what is considered ‘extreme’. I don’t blink twice at a 9% bottled beer now (or if I’m in a specialist beer bar) but if I’m in a standard pub and see a cask beer over 6% then I’m still a little wary.

I’m 100% certain that I would’ve pickled myself if I were there!

Comments are closed.