Cambridge Beer Festival

Chips, mayo and Orval. Perfection.

After being a punter at the beer festival on Monday night and Wednesday lunchtime, I was back on Thursday night and all day Saturday to work. Normally I would be behind the bar selling awesome British cask ale, but this year I decided to work the foreign beer bar instead. I worked the same bar at the winter beer festival, but it’s small change compared to the summer festival, so I knew I was in for some hard work.

Thursday night was pretty constant and not really knowing where anything was in the fridges, meant for a challenging first hour or so. Saturday was a different kettle of fish, it started out slow then peaked and troughed throughout the rest of the day. The peaks were manic at times with large groups of blokes looking for cooking lager substitutes and gaggles of girls unsure of what to have.

The thing I like best about working the beer festival is the chance to evangelise to the punters about beer and working the foreign bar means you get a different sort of punter to evangelise to. I spent most of my time telling people they needed a Dead Guy in their life, quite a few took the recommendation and we sold out early Saturday evening.

Another benefit of working the foreign bar is drinking the beer that you’re selling. Normally I’d be trying all sorts of British real ale, but this festival I was knocking back the lambic with gusto. I also managed to try some Orval with chips ‘n’ mayo, it goes really well but I didn’t take any notes, so I’ll have to repeat the pairing, which will be an immense hardship…

I crashed at my friend Toby’s house after both sessions, I got to bed earlier on the Saturday as we stayed up nattering and drinking beer on the Thursday. Toby opened a few corking beers, Liefmans Goudenband on the Thursday, a Cantillon Saint Lamvinus and a 1985 Eldridge Pope Thomas Hardys Ale on the Saturday. The Thomas Hardys Ale was spectacular, utterly, utterly amazing and a realisation that ageing beer can produce phenomenal results.

For my part I took along my open bottle of BrewDog’s Sink The Bismark! and some Williams Brothers Fraoch 20 on the Thursday. Saturday saw me take in a bottle of Montegioco La Mummia for The Lambic Monster to try. "A fucking good attempt" was his view, which happened to be shared by the other who tried it.

This was the first time I’ve taken beer to a beer festival, rather than just drinking what’s available. It was great to share awesome beer with other people who’re passionate about beer. I’ll definitely be taking some more to the next festival I work, I’ll also be sticking a few bottles away and forgetting about them for a decade or two, just to see what happens.

  • RateBeer Girardin
  • Gueuze (Black Label), 5%, 375ml

Other beers I drank after the festival closed:

  • RateBeer Montegioco
  • La Mummia Rifermentata, 4.8%, 1/2 pint
  • RateBeer Eldridge Pope
  • Thomas Hardys Ale, 11.7%, a sip or two…

Beer Swap: What I Sent

I’ve made my selection and the courier has picked up the box, so it’s about time I revealed what I sent to my beer swap recipient. I had a hard time choosing these beers, mainly as a lot of the local breweries don’t bottle their beer. I also had a bit of a wobble when I found out that my recipient was the head brewer at the Coach House Brewing Company, nothing like a bit of pressure. I pretty much knew what two of the beers were going to be, the main issue was what the other two were going to be.

First up was a beer from my local brewery, Cambridge Moonshine, who are now based in Fulbourn, just outside Cambridge. They have quite a range of beer and there is always something in The Bacchanalia to pick up, but I have found the quality to be variable. I plumped for the Chocolate Orange Stout, mainly as it’s one of their best beers, but also due to the fact that it’s slightly different

Old Chimneys Good King Henry Special ReserveSecondly I picked Old Chimneys utterly excellent Good King Henry Special Reserve. This little monster is the highest rated British beer and in the top 50 overall on RateBeer and for good reason too, it’s sublime. I’ve had most of the Old Chimneys bottle range and this is by far and away the best beer they do.

You could argue that I should have sent a bottle from the City of Cambridge brewery, however, they now have their beer contract brewed by Wolf. I decided that Wolf were too far away to be called local so decided to discount them.

Iceni Men of NorfolkI’d picked up a couple of bottles of Iceni Men of Norfolk, one to evaluate and one to send if the first one was any good. It was good, but I thought it was lacking a bit of condition, hopefully an extra couple of weeks in the bottle will have resulted in a bit more condition.

When I bought the Men of Norfolk, I also bought two bottles of Humpty Dumpty’s EAPA. The first was really lacking in condition, it was a shame, so I felt I couldn’t really sent it as I couldn’t guarantee that the second bottle would be better. Furthermore, the Norfolk coast really isn’t that local to Cambridge, so with two things against it, I drank the second bottle myself, it was really quite nice.

Oakham JHBThis left me with one bottle to get and I was a bit stumped. I could have gone down the easy route and picked up another bottle of Cambridge Moonshine, but I didn’t want to risk a bad bottle. In the end I went into The Bacchanalia and picked up a bottle of Oakham JHB and Crouch Vale Amarillo to evaluate. Both were really, really nice, so I decided to go back and get a bottle of the JHB to send.

Horror of horrors, both The Bacchanalia and the local Tesco were out of stock, which threw me completely. It was back to the drawing board, as I thought that Crouch Vale were a bit too close to London to be local to Cambridge. I picked up a couple of bottles of White Park beer, they’re just the other side of Bedford, but both had far, far too much condition that ruined them somewhat.

It was getting desperate and I toyed with sending Elgoods Black Dog, but the other three beers were all dark and I wanted to send something pale. Luckily Waitrose came to the rescue as they had some JHB in stock, so I managed to get a bottle to send.

I hope my recipient likes and enjoys the selection I have sent, I certainly enjoyed picking them.

The Cambridge Blue Festival of Winter Ales

Moonshine Pickled MoonAs I mentioned yesterday, I spent last night at The Cambridge Blue Festival of Winter Ales and had a great time, fantastic company and some awesome beer. I had a hit list of eight beers that I wanted to try, one of them wasn’t there, so I managed the other seven, which is quite good going for me.

Moonshine 800 Years of Innovation (Gruit)I decided to start off at the lower end of the ABV scale with a couple of beers from the local Cambridge Moonshine brewery. First up was Pickled Moon, a 3.5% apple beer that was served out of a wooden cask. It tasted like cider and was lacking any sort of wooden buttery lactic notes. Next up was 800 Years of Innovation, a 3.5% gruit with no hops but five different herbs and you could certainty smell them. It was okay, but not really my cup of tea, I’d rather have some hops.

Thornbridge JaipurI really wanted to try the Adnams Beglian Wit, but it wasn’t there, so I moved onto Thornbridge Jaipur, a 5.9% proper IPA. This is a beer I’ve read a lot about on the internet and on twitter, it’s even moved people to come up with new words. I’ve tried it from a 330ml bottle before and was distinctly underwhelmed, so I had high hopes. From the first sip I could see why people have been raving about it, it was really nice, lots of body and lovely and bitter with some blousey hops.

Thornbridge SeaforthThornbridge Seaforth was next up, again it’s a 5.9% proper IPA and is supposed to be a version of Jaipur that only uses British (English?) ingredients. To be honest, this was my beer of the night, it totally blew me away. The balance was fantastic and it was just so, so drinkable, I’d recommend this to anyone it’s just sublime.

Thornbridge RavenThere was one more Thornbridge beer to try, Raven, a 6.6% black IPA, yes I know that is an oxymoron, but it’s easier to set expectations about what it will be like by calling it that. It was really nice, sort of like a BrewDog Black Dog with a bit more oomph. Of the three, Seaforth was the stand out, utterly superb, Raven would be next followed by Jaipur. I’d happily drink all three again, although I would probably just find myself drinking Seaforth if given the choice.

Moonshine Transforming TomorrowAs I was relying on the goodwill of some friends for a lift home and time was running out, I decided to get to grips with a couple of the stronger beers. I headed straight for Moonshine Transforming Tomorrow, a 8.6% stout served fro ma wooden cask. Unlike his apple effort, you can really taste the wood with this one, a distinct buttery lacticness that coats the top of your mouth during the after taste. I popped into The Bacchanalia at lunch today and was chatting to Ed, he thinks that the cask this beer was in is has infected wood and that there is a distinct taste noticeable. I’ve never had the beer before, so I can’t comment either way, it was slightly different to what I was expecting though.

Adnams Tally HoTo finish the evening I plumped for an Adnams Tally Ho that had been aged for 16 months in the pub cellar. It poured very still with little conditioning and was a malty, fruity delight to drink. I enjoyed it so much I forgot to take a photo, hence why there is a picture of a bottle in the recently drunk gallery.

It was a great evening, great company, some nice beers and some great beers. If you are around Cambridge either tonight or tomorrow, then you could do a lot worse than pop in for a pint or two.

  • Moonshine
  • 800 Years of Innovation (Gruit), 3.5% (1/2 pint)
  • RateBeer Moonshine
  • Transforming Tomorrow, 8.6% (1/2 pint)

Off To The Pub

I’m off to The Cambridge Blue this evening as they have a winter beer festival on. I wasn’t planning on going, but I’m meeting a couple of friends and I have some Adnams beer (Tally Ho and William Godell) for one of them, so it’s the idea opportunity to hand them over.

The beer list for the festival looks quite good, I have my eye on two Adnams beers, three Cambridge Moonshine beers and three Thornbridge beers. Hopefully they’ll all be on and in good nick.