Back for more at the GBBF, after yesterday with a better idea of what to expect and what to go for. One major change was the number of people, apparently 19,000 visitors in a single day – far, far more busy than the previous day. Great news for CAMRA, less good for us thirsty punters, but the queues weren’t really that bad. Joining me for this session was Mark, BeerCast deputy for the day and committed hater of anything with a bitter aftertaste. Anyway, on with the sampling…
1. Pictish Brewer’s Gold (3.8%) Lancashire
As yesterday the first beer to start with should be something lightly hoppy to get the palate adjusted – perfect time to try Rochdale brewery Pictish’s Brewer’s Gold – a classic British summer ale, with slight nuances of hops, malt, and bitterness. So it proved, it was fantastically well-balanced with that fruity hoppiness up front and a delicate backbone of malt. I could have drunk this all night, to be honest.
2. Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest (6.7%) California
As with the previous day the number of American cask ales on offer was pretty disappointing (but to be expected given the logistics, I guess) – but seeing one I’d been waiting to try for a while, I went straight for it. Chico’s Sierra Nevada have been featured several times on the BeerCast, but not the newest addition to their seasonal harvest range – Southern Hemisphere Harvest. Made with Pacific Hallertau, Motueka and Southern Cross hops all sourced from New Zealand, this is a fresh hop ale for the spring (as hops are normally harvested in Autumn). But the Southern Hemisphere has just been through Autumn, so the hops are at their freshest. You pick this up in the flavour, after a mild hop start they increase wonderfully in the aftertaste. The beer is a lovely dark caramel colour, and it doesn’t really taste 6.7%, so this great beer could sneak up on you.
3. Welton’s Pride ‘n’ Joy (2.8%) West Sussex
The next beer was slightly different – but it had also intrigued me in the pre-festival beer list. Welton’s Pride ‘n’ Joy is deliberately brewed at only 2.8% but according to the brewer is ‘consistently thought to be 4.0%abv in tastings’. It’s a great idea, but on tasting I’m not sure if they have pulled it off, as it tasted very weak and insipid, with no aftertaste at all. However, this could have been down to the Sierra Nevada previously, but I’m not sure if it could have been mistaken for 4% as there was no taste upfront or afterwards. It was refreshing though, and would be nice outside during summer.
4. Jersey Mary Ann Christmas Ale (4.8%) Channel Islands
As I keep banging on, beer festivals are about trying new things – although it can backfire as Mark discovered trying a beer he judged to have an aroma like “a stagnant canal”. That wasn’t a Jersey beer though, but as I’d never sampled anything from the Channel Islands before I decided to go for their Christmas beer. Somewhat incongruous for a rainy August night, but the promised ‘Christmas pudding taste’ sounded interesting. Apparently it features currants, spices, raisins, orange zest and sultanas – which maybe explains the mixed tastes going on. It tasted a bit confused, slightly roasty, a bit malty, some fruityness – but sadly I couldn’t detect any of the special added ingredients. It was nice though, just not very Christmassy.
5. Backyard Brewhouse Nipin (4.6%) Staffordshire
Walsall’s Backyard Brewhouse had only one beer at the festival – Nipin, their flagship 4.6% American-style Pale Ale. That description sold me on the spot, even without the suggested crisp citrus tastes. Mark had already tried arguably the greatest American Pale Ale in the world – Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (his first time ever, too), so I was keen to have a go at a British attempt. It was slightly hazy and very dry, with a nice hoppy zing coming through. Not much citrus though, but it was a very good beer indeed.
6. Lancaster Black (4.6%) Lancashire
Always finish on at least one stout, so the final beer I tried was Lancaster Black, from the brewery named after it’s home city on the River Lune. Like Backyard, this was the only one of their beers on offer at the GBBF, with a coffee smell and soft dark chocolate taste. This was pretty much exactly what I picked up, it fell firmly towards the chocolate end of the spectrum on the palate. Smooth and very well executed, an extremely drinkable stout – definitely one for the coming Autumn months.
That was it, the end to the BeerCast’s first GBBF adventure. Beer of the second day was Pictish Brewer’s Gold, with a very tough choice between it and yesterday’s Marble Lagonda IPA. I think on balance the IPA would come out on top, however. The CAMRA tasters voted for their beer of the festival on Wednesday, picking Yorkshire brewery Rudgate’s Ruby Mild as the 2009 Champion Beer of Britain. Congratulations to them, and to CAMRA for the success of the festival – and we hope to pay another visit next year.