Thursday, 26 August 2010

Great British Beer Festival 2010

Just like Glastonbury, the Great British Beer Festival is one of those great British occasions I'd always meant to experience but had never got around to. Unlike the lure of mud and repetitive beats, however, the pull of real ale* is still as strong as ever, and I swiftly recruited a couple of ale-keen accomplices to join me on my mission. Before we went, I checked out a neat feature on the Festival's website that showed the best rated beers on offer, and printed off a list of targets. Perhaps recklessly, we'd chosen to ignore the standard advice about avoiding the fifth and final day of the festival - and went on the Saturday anyway. This meant a good many of the ales and ciders, particularly the international ones, were all gone. Interestingly, a separate concern - that Saturday would be overcrowded - was off the mark. Perhaps most of the serious beerheads had got their fill by then. Or maybe the hype about the crowds kept the crowds away. In any case, we waited no more than a minute for a beer all afternoon.

As we entered the giant hall in Earls Court, the sheer scale of things took me by surprise: the GBBF is truly a big deal. Tons of bars and food outlets stretched out before us, with scores of beer pumps and hundreds (thousands?) of good natured drinkers. Below are some of the beers we tried - some recommended, others random punts - with an exclamation [!] marking my favourites.

O'Hanlon's Yellow Hammer
 (4.2% abv)
Pleasant, easy, not bitter, fruity.

O'Hanlon's Port Stout (4.8%)
Roasted coffee, smoky.

Thornbridge Hopton (4.3%) [!]
English pale ale.Slightly sweet, mild, biscuity, malty.

Fuller's Brewer's Reserve Oak Aged Ale (8.2%) 

This one (finished in Cognac casks!) we queued up for - only one cask released each day - and our one-third pints (the maximum each person was allowed) offered a curious diversion from the more conventional ales.
Aroma: Cognac, fruity, raisins.
Taste: Smooth, syrupy, thick, brandy richness, not too sweet: luxury.

Castle Rock Harvest Pale (3.8%) [!]
Winner of the GBBF's champion beer of Britain award. Hailing from Nottingham, one of the most chuggable we found.
Blonde, honey, hops with sweetness, refreshing, delicate.

Thornbridge Craven Silk (4%)
Hoppy, golden, sharp, elderflower bitter.

Emelisse Imperial Russian Stout Bowmore
Dark, sweet.

Gregg's Pit Thorn SV
The only perry we tried, from Herefordshire.
Sharp, thin, light.

Harveys Olympia (4.3%)
Citrussy, whiteish, like Hoegaarden.

Liberation Ale (4%)
Smooth, chuggable.

Rosie's Rampant Ram Blend [!]
A cider from Denbighshire
Wonderful, thick, tiny carbonation, brandy essence, appley, sweet, desserty.

* REAL ALE (as defined by the Campaign for Real Ale) is top fermented beer that, following fermentation, is put into a cask with yeast and some residual fermentable sugars from the malted barley. The beer undergoes a slow secondary fermentation in the cask to produce a gentle carbonation. By contrast, keg beer, or "brewery conditioned beer" is chilled, filtered and pasteurised following primary fermentation. It's then put into kegs and served with added gas - usually a mixture of carbon dioxide and nitrogen - which results in harsher carbonation and, sometimes, compromised flavours.

1 comment:

  1. Yous missed out my "putrid Welsh harbour" Ale...