We’ve always had mixed feelings about the Great British Beer Festival but our experiences are getting better and better each year.
This year I went along to the trade day, which was definitely the best way to experience it. It’s a bit quieter, and the beer seemed in much better condition. It also helped that I was drinking in such fantastic company — Ally, Bionic Laura, Beer Nut, Thom and other representatives of Irish Craft Brewer were great drinking companions.
I decided to stick to beers at 4% or less for the first couple of hours — partly to save the liver and partly to narrow down the choice a bit. I got to try some excellent session beers from all over Britain and particularly enjoyed:
- “Good as Gold”, by the Spire Brewery (4%)
- Butt’s “Jester”, 3.5%, fruity and dry, like a nice Franconian wine
- Hooky Dark, 3.2%, sweet, chocolatey with a touch of coffee
- Moor Revival, 3.8%, crisp and floral
- Welton’s Pride and Joy – for a mere 2.8% this is a remarkably tasty beer and doesn’t taste “low alcohol” at all.
I had a few others that didn’t float my boat, but all in all, it goes to show that you can pack a lot of flavour (and different flavours at that) into relatively low-strength beers.
I had a couple of pies, then hit the stronger stuff. Midas Touch “Ancient Beer”, by Dogfish Head, is brewed with honey and saffron. Sharing a bottle was definitely the way to go. This stuff was rich. I mostly got honey and not a lot else, but it was a very interesting beer, and would make a nice appetiser.
A sip of Ally’s Tsarina (by De Molen) was a revelation. It’s possibly the most intense Imperial Stout I’ve ever tasted. Too intense for GBBF, in my view. This is the kind of beer I want to savour over several hours in a cosy Belgian bar, not knock back in a bustling aircraft hanger. It deserves respect.
So, I went for Portsmouth’s Milk Coffee stout, which tasted like cold Irish coffee (that’s a good thing). I liked it a lot, but not as much as Rogue chocolate stout, which my phone tells me I’ve drunk before, but which I don’t recall being as tasty as it seemed this time. It’s like a grown up version of Young’s Chocolate stout. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to finish the evening there.