beer festivals real ale

Pirates, pale ale and pork sandwiches

Wedmore Real Ale Festival 2009

We’ve got a standing commitment to go to the annual Wedmore Real Ale Festival in Somerset as often as possible.

We’ve described the unusually young, party-like, community atmosphere before
, so we’ll just update a couple of topical details: the fancy dress theme this year was pirates, and the live band, Loose Change, were led by the absurdly charismatic local hero Pete Hicks.

These were the highlights on the beer front:

beer reviews

West country beer tasting

We were down in Somerset for Bailey’s Dad’s birthday a couple of weekends ago and, as always, scheduled a visit to Open Bottles, the West Country’s premier eccentric beer shop.

The owner has had trouble getting some of the nationally known brewers to ship to Somerset but the result has been good for the shop. He’s now stocking many more local beers, including some real obscurities with homemade labels and “quirky” branding. Here are three we enjoyed:

Cheddar Ales Gorge Best

Gorge Best! Geddit? Geddit? Like “George Best”, the famous alcoholic, only it’s made in Cheddar with its famous gorge.

The branding on this one, dodgy puns aside, is pretty impressive, latching onto an essential truth: Gill Sans or variants thereof + screen printing = Britishness.

The beer itself is dark gold in colour, bottle-conditioned, and bitter as Hell. In a good way. Very cask-ale-like from the bottle and, all in all, an excellent beer.

Whistling Bridge, by Ringmore Craft Brewery (Devon)

It boast spices, cranberries and curacao orange on the charmingly amateurish label (sadly, no photo). We weren’t expecting this to work, but it did. It’s a pale colour, with a good head, and tasted fruity and refreshing. It also went surprisingly well with the roast dinner we were scoffing at the time. We’ll be looking out for more of their stuff.

Quantock Stout, by the Quantock Brewery

This was a very satisfying milky, creamy stout. Didn’t take any more notes on this one, but we liked it.

Open Bottles is at 131 Taunton Rd, Bridgwater TA6 6BD. It looks like any other offy from the outside, with megadeals on rubbish lager advertised in on bright paper, but it really is worth a detour if you’re in the area and want to sample stuff from local microbrews. You’ll have better luck there than in any of the pubs in town, sadly.


Wedmore beer festival

An arguably slightly stereotypical Somerset view
An arguably slightly stereotypical Somerset view

I had a great time at Wedmore beer festival last year.

Wedmore is in the wilds of Somerset, beyond the impossibly ancient, witch-haunted hills beyond Arkham near Cheddar. The beer festival takes place in the church hall and is more of a community knees-up than a CAMRA-sponsored beard-stroking session. The tickers are given a quiet room out the back, in fact, so they won’t get in the way of the people dancing. Tonight, there’s blues music on the menu.

There’s also tons of real ale and some fantastic scrumpy on offer.

Sadly, I can’t make it this year (much to my Dad’s annoyance) but if you’re in the area and at a loose end, I can’t recommend it enough.