Beer festivals needn’t always take place in musty town halls on the local high street. Rather than bringing the beer to the punters, some brewers make the drinkers do the legwork. Argyll’s Fyne Ales are based on a farm at the head of Loch Fyne, and when you have surroundings like that it makes sense to get people along to enjoy it. The debut FyneFest took place last year, and was greeted with glorious sunshine. Fyne not only serve their own beer at the event, some top quality English brewers supply their products as well. If that weren’t enough, Fyne Ales also brew a special beer for the event. Last year this was Jarl, which has since taken the beer world by storm.
As Cairndow is, let’s be honest, miles from anywhere, camping is the only option to enjoy the festival for a decent length of time. After arriving at the well-marshaled event, we managed to get the tent up in a record time of about forty-five minutes. With two fields set aside for people staying over, there was plenty of room to find a decent spot. The beer was being served inside a giant marquee, so a quick wander through the field and it was time for a well-earned pint. The new FyneFest beer for 2011 was Fiddler’s Gold, a hoppy 4.3% golden ale – which is exactly what Fyne do best. Very drinkable, the American hops give it a dry bitterness similar to Jarl, although with a touch less grapefruit.
The distinctive pump clips of Thornbridge were proudly sitting at one end of the temporary bar in the beer tent, so next up I went for Ashford (4.2%), an American-style brown ale. Caramel in colour, with plenty on the taste as well, it had a lovely fruitiness leading into a bitter finish. Thornbridge get fantastic balance into their beer, none more so than their new 6.2% porter Evenlode (pictured below is the ‘half’ that I got from the generous bar staff). This was my beer of the day – absolutely stunning roasty malt porter, so drinkable for such a session-slaying abv. Great bitter finish, but so tremendously smooth.
Other things on my menu were Hawkshead Cumbrian 5 Hop (5.0%), a citrus-lover’s dream containing Fuggles, Golding, Bramling Cross, Citra and Amarillo. The Citra stood out, but the other hops really worked well to give a big zesty hop flavour. Other picks were the Whim/Marble collaboration Utopia (5.1%), another two Thornbridge beers – Hopton and St Petersburg, and another dark corker from the hosts, Fyne Ales Sublime Stout (6.8%) – a smooth, malty fruit bomb, with a really mellow finish.
So a great time was had by all, the beers were in perfect condition, it was fantastic to see so many other great British brewers present – many that don’t feature in Scotland all that often. Hopefully everyone who attended had a great time, there were still plenty of people carrying on into Sunday. Many thanks to Jamie and the rest of the Fyne Ales crew for hosting, and hopefully next year the weather will help to get everyone back for more…