The Barge is the pub where I discovered real ale so it always holds a soft spot for me. It's a large multi roomed building on the main roadside and has ten real ales usually on offer with Abbeydale 'Moonshine' and Phoenix 'Wobbly Bob' as regulars. It should be one of those places I visit regularly but it has fallen out of favour with me recently due to it's disappointing choice of guest ales. Maybe this festival would change that.
I have been to festivals here in the past and the set up is as before, with one room made into a makeshift bar with ten beers on handpull in addition to those on the bar making around 16 festival beers available at any one time. The list shows 30 so it is hit and miss if the beers you want are on the bar during your visit.
This time I was fairly lucky, and there was enough to keep me going but not for a full afternoon session. Picking up the list, it was obvious that most of the beers came from the larger, more established breweries and it was difficult to find something a bit unusual though happily I came across a new beer from the recently opened 'Wharfebank' brewery which was blonde and hoppy. When I had discounted the beers that were already finished and those not yet available, I had a selection of seven that I thought were new to me. Since we are in the throes of the World Cup, though maybe not for much longer in England's case, most of the beers had either football or patriotic themes.
I followed up disappointingly with Brains 'On The Head', a bit too malty for my liking, but a typical style of beer for the brewery; Ufford 'Union Jack', a bit tasteless; Mauldens '3 Lions', instantly forgettable and the Hambleton 'Kick Ass', ditto. By now I was getting a bit desperate. The best beer I found, apart from the Wharfebank, was Batemans 'England Expects' which tasted like a Batemans beer (those who are familiar with the brewery will know what I mean) but at least it did have some taste. I decided then to give up the ghost, leaving offerings from Greene King and Holdens untouched.
In many ways this was a carbon copy of the Navigation festival of the previous day. It had potential but in my opinion failed to deliver, (sounds like England again!!). Nevertheless, for the passing punter you could collect a few new beers if this was your thing, or while away a couple of hours sampling beers from all over the country. The quality of the beer was good, the price not excessive, and the food excellent. Just wish they had gone the extra few yards and taken a few more risks with the beer selection, it would have been well worth the effort.