Keeping it real … Real Ale
I was lucky enough to attend both Thursday and Friday sessions of Craft Beer Rising via a press ticket. There was so much to take in but here are a few of my highlights of the festival.
One of the breweries that impressed me the most was one that I hadn’t experienced before, situated at the Fargo Village in Coventry Twisted Barrel Ales brought some exciting and experimental beers along with them. After embarrassingly not realising I was talking to The Bearded One, who I had spoken to on Twitter many a time, I spent a good portion of my time at their bar over the Thursday and Friday sessions. Some of their beers included the experimental flavours of Soup Dragon, a chipotle and lime saison, which was surprisingly balanced and not in your face chilli while drinking, it was not till after drinking that you got a bit of a chilli warmth. Detroit Sour City was an excellent lip puckering dry hopped sour beer that would match any sour beers from Chorlton Brewery. Then there was their double IPA called It’s Aliiiive which was a big-thick-chewy mouthful of a double IPA. Anyone who asked me what beers I recommended after each session, I sent them Twisted Barrel Ales way. Twisted Barrel Ales was my best new brewery to me of the entire festival, so much so it has given me a taste to go up to Coventry at some point this year to visit the tap room one weekend when it is open.
There were a few people who was surprised by my tweets on the Thursday trade session, bigging up how much I enjoyed Adnams cask beers. I love Adnams beers, Ghost Ship is a solid go to beer for me, I just think Adnams problem is the fact they are in so many pubs that sometimes it lands in the cellar of a pub who doesn’t know how to keep cask ale properly. When you get a well-kept pint of Broadside it is a beautiful thing. Their new cask beer however showcased Adnams in a different light with contemporary forward thinking beers like the Earl Grey Cask Lager. I have found that previously I disliked most earl grey tea beers I have drank but I loved this cask earl grey lager. Clementine IPA was a juicy fruity cask pale ale, which tasted like how I remember the cask version of Beavertown Bloody Ell to taste. The Flat White Porter was a gorgeous coffee porter and their collaboration A6 Imperial Russian Stout with Six Degrees North was near on perfect example of the style weighing in at a big 12%. The stand out however was the bottles of Both Barrels, this specially brewed 10% beer has spent years ageing in barrels. Starting off in a single barrel, which had Adnams Broadside added to it, in 2010 when Adnams first opened their distillery, it has then had cherries added to it in Bourbon barrels. Over the years small parts of the barrels had been taken to beer festivals then topped back up again with the bottle strength Broadside, eventually being emptied into lots more Bourboun barrels then bottled to create this piece of brewing art. The beer is stunning, big balsamic, cherries, vanilla and oak flavours reminding me of a top-quality Flanders Red Ale. Both Barrels was arguably my favourite beer of the entire festival and if anyone knows where I can get my hands on some more then please do let me know! I’ve been saying for a while now that I should visit the highly-recommended Southwold, as it isn’t too far from Chelmsford, and again like Twisted Barrel Ales, I have jotted down plans to hopefully travel over this year.
A few years back I visited Barcelona and Garage Beer Co taproom only a few weeks after it opened. It was such a great place to party after the Barcelona Beer Festival and anyone who has been to Barcelona I have recommended they stop by. So, when I saw them at Craft Beer Rising I headed straight over with a smile on my face from fond memories. The bar sat under the huge poster of Steve Huxley, a Spanish beer legend who sadly passed away last year. When I visited the tap room a few years ago I really enjoyed the beers, but their IPAs they had at Craft Beer Rising smashed it even more than the beers I remember. Both their IPA’s just instantly took me back to Barcelona and made me feel gutted that I’m not able to fly over to the beer festival this month! But if you are planning on visiting the Barcelona Beer Festival this year then I strongly suggest you head over to Garage Beer Co as they are opening their new brewery space. They also have a craft beer festival called Mash, which has a few familiar names on the list and looks very tempting indeed.
I first had a bottle of St Andrews Brewing Co beer in a Beer52 box a couple years ago, I really enjoyed it and ever since I have kept an eye out for their beers. Sadly I hadn’t had any luck in finding them, so when I saw them on the list of breweries attending Craft Beer Rising I made sure I made time to pop over and sample some of the beers I had longed for. I love their branding, the cans look stylish and stand out. I really enjoyed their Scottish Local IPA, which had been brewed with local grown Scottish hops, which included the Scottish Cascade hop. It didn’t pack the same fruity punch as the American version but none the less it made for a great beer and I could tell how proud they were to be able to officially say it was a home-grown beer. St Andrews have an online shop opening soon, so hopefully it won’t be as long before I next get to sample some of their beers as it was the first time.
You will probably be familiar with Forest Road by now, they have been brewing their core beer Work for the past year or so. They have been heavily promoting their beers with their fun short film advert (if you haven’t seen it check it out here) and have a full kit of branded merch. They have been focusing on making Work as best as they can and haven’t been brewing other beers, till now. I saw an Instagram post with their new beer on the train up to London and they happened to be one of the first stops of the day. Pitch pours a pitch black, it is brewed with a German Cascade hop (the second new Cascade variant of the day) and has a perfect dry finish. There have been only 55 kegs of this brewed so I suggest you check out their taproom or search for a pub serving it ASAP to try and get yourself a pint of Pitch.
Pirate Life Brewing Brewing have done an excellent job of advertising on social media, I have been seeing their posts on all social media formats for a few months and even though I hadn’t tasted their beers I had certainly heard of their beers before Craft Beer Rising. I actually stumbled upon them by chance, they were part of the Kegstar stand, I had gone over to check out their huge keg wall which must have taken a lot of hard work. I was poured a glass of Pirate Life Brewings IIPA, a 8.8% double IPA which was full on juice bomb, I loved it. I started to talk to Michael Cameron, the owner and CEO of Pirate Life, eventually I worked my way through the entire range in completely the wrong order! From the IIPA to the Throwback IPA, then the IPA and then finishing with the Pale Ale. I was pleased to find out that the whole range was solid beers, which is great as the beers match the amount of work put into growing the social presence. One feature I loved about their cans was around the top of the can there was little time line of how the beer was brewed, this was totally unique and a great way to deliver the beer information. Michael sent me away with a can of the IIPA, which I shared with my missus at home, she thought it was one of the best beers she has had in a long time and who am I to argue with her.
I have been a fan of Gun Brewery for a while, Scaramanga on cask is a top sessionable pale ale. Although I have dipped my toe in their cask beer offerings from Gun I hadn’t tried their keg beers. I had a long chat with Mark Berry from Gun Brewery about the Sussex beer scene while enjoying some of their beers. I have said before that I personally think that some of the best pale ales in the country come from Sussex and there seems to be a natural organic feel to Sussex breweries. Brewing with their own water from a spring under their farm land in Gun Hill, East Sussex, Gun Brewery are making beautifully clean, crisp and balanced beers across their entire range. The Sorachi Double IPA ticked all my boxes, smooth dill flavours from the Sorachi Ace hop may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it certainly is mine. Next time I am in Sussex I am looking forward to drinking more of their beers around the great pubs and micropubs of Sussex.
There was so many other great beers and breweries of the day, Wild Card’s new Citra Kolsch was crisp and super refreshing, East London Brewing’s Imperial Stout is a must buy in their big 750ml flip top bottles, Fullers new Black IPA is one of my favourite beers they have done recently, I had lots of fun talking to Ruth from Renegade Brewery while sampling most their beers, Tiny Rebel’s cask Puft Marshmellow Stout kicked off the festival for me in style and Solvay Society’s Tritium Pink Peppercorn Triple is a top-quality beer that I have praised before. Truth be told this year almost felt too big, there was so many other breweries I wanted to talk to and visit but just didn’t have the time. The mix of breweries is good but there were a few bars that sometimes are not 100% clear in who their true ownership is, which can be slightly misleading to the consumer. The music that I saw was good, the surprise guest of Omar was particularly excellent having listened to his new album a couple weeks previous I was happy to see him perform live. The music is also separated from the festival, so those who want to see the music can go see it, while it being tucked away enough not to disturb those who may not be as interested in live music with their beer.
Craft Beer Rising is one of the (if not thee) biggest UK Craft Beer festival, bringing both small new breweries such as Brewheadz alongside for the first time with some huge breweries like Fullers or Goose Island, as it grows year on year it will be interesting to see where it heads next year. The Old Trumans Brewery is a great venue to hold it, all the brewing history of the past now with all the brewing of the future seems rather fitting and even more special for me as half my family once would have been working at the Old Trumans Brewery while it was running. A special mention must go to the Brewers Association and their American beer bar, standing in front of the fridge doors felt like being a kid in a sweet shop, so much selection that is rarely seen in the UK all at a very reasonable price, it gave me a chance to sample beers from Jolly Pumpkin and finish the festival off with a bit of a bang with a 750ml bottle of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales Noel de Calabaza.
Craft Beer Rising has its doubters, high prices and questionable brewery stands can raise suspicion but for me to have all those people under one roof makes it one of the beer highlights of the year. After two days back to back at Craft Beer Rising I can safely say I enjoyed it, even if it did take a couple days to recover!
Disclaimer – I was given a press pass free of charge, this gave me access to the entire festival, including the two trade sessions Thursday & Friday day time. Friday night I stayed late and paid for some the beers I drank. Although I didn’t pay for all my drinks I do not think this affected my opinions on the above beers. I would like to thank Craft Beer Rising for the press pass.