A model beer festival

The Castle in Walthamstow has just hosted what might be the model beer festival.

The pub, which has struggled to attract the same crowds as its sister pub the Nag’s Head around the corner, was absolutely packed tonight.

The landlord was quite emotional: “I never expected it to be this popular. We’ll definitely be doing another one. And I’m going to get more real ales on the bar.

Here’s what worked:

1. Let the local CAMRA types choose the beers and run the festival bar — “leave it to the experts,” as the landlord said.

2. Keep the selection small. There were about 10 beers, which is just the right amount. We tried almost all of them and didn’t leave wondering what we’d missed.

3. Choose beers carefully. All of the beers on offer were decent, though some were better than others. We were particularly impressed by Saltaire Cascade, Kinver Edge and Dark Star Mild.

The CAMRA people running the bar were friendly and plainly delighted to be doing good trade. The rest of the pub was full of locals who were just intrigued to try something new.

If you can, pop down tomorrow (there won’t be any beer left on Sunday). Otherwise, keep your eyes peeled and come to the next Castle beer festival.

One reason for the decline of mild..?

dad_ipa.jpgHere’s my Dad enjoying a glass of our IPA. He and my Mum used to run a pub in Exeter. Last night, they told us about a popular belief in the 1970s and 80s that mild was “the slops”, which might have been part of the reason for its disappearance from many pubs. My Dad:

“Jack the Rat was one of our customers — he used to wear a flat cap and had a beard like Catweazel. We once suggested to him that he should try a pint of Whitbread mild and he turned it down because he thought it was a barrel made up of the slops from the drip trays at the bar.

“It actually was common for landlords to keep all that surplus and serve it up to customers as ‘mild’. We used to get our Whitbread Mild from the brewery at Tiverton [formerly Starkey, Knight and Ford]. By that time, demand for mild was so low we could only get one ten gallon imperial firkin at a time, so ours was always fresh. Jack the Rat tried it and never drank anything else again after that.

“I used to go Tiverton for a new firkin twice a week, and it was getting more popular with our customers, but by then it was a bit late — the brewery wasn’t pushing it and it was just out of fashion generally. I’ve seen more mild on tap recently, but for twenty years, I hardly saw any. Shame.”

So, a perception that mild was poor quality beer, partly based on fact, was one reason why people stopped drinking it, and why the supply began to dry up.


Disclaimer: any resemblance between my Dad and the man from the Sam Smith’s Alpine Lager pump is purely coincidental and does not represent a trademark infringement.


Another London beer festival

Sadly, we didn’t make the Battersea beer festival this year (work and family stuff) so we were delighted to notice last night that the Castle in Walthamstow, East London, is having a beer festival. It’s running on the 15-17th of February.

It’s supported by the local CAMRA branch, and promises, in massive lettering, “Ales, milds, STOUTS and PORTERS”. I’m hoping the massive letters mean an emphasis on warming, wintry brews.

The Castle itself is the sister pub of the Nag’s Head, although it’s struggling to build up quite the same level of buzz or custom. Surely worth a visit when there’s a festival on, though, and one of a few pubs in the area with potential.


The Castle is at 15 Grosvenor Rise, Walthamstow E17 9LB.

The picture above isn’t of the Castle — it’s an old one from this post, also about Walthamstow.

Our IPA worked

ipa2.jpgIt’s been a steep learning curve, but we now seem to be able to brew decent beer. Our lager was great and, tonight,  we drank the first bottle of our IPA . We’re delighted with it.

We can’t really give you objective tasting notes. Suffice to say, it has a really nice fruity, malty flavour, and tons of hop aroma (which we’ve also struggled to achieve in the past). Having been in the bottle for a mere 10 days, the yeast hasn’t quite compacted at the bottom of the bottle, but there was a lovely dense, long-lasting head. We normally just get fizz, so things have definitely taken a step forward for us.

We’re giving most of the credit to liquid yeast — it seems to add a certain complexity we were missing.

Next up, a mild.