Last night at 5pm a queue of thirsty beer lovers waited for the doors to open on the 10th Summer Beer Festival at The Star, in anticipation of what treats Sam had laid on this year - and they were not disappointed.
It did not take long for the regulars to suss out where to start their drinking evening and the two Mallinsons pumps took a bit of a hammering. This time their offerings were the 4.1% 'Tizzi's Seat' (I have no idea how they managed to keep Tizzi, the pub cat, still enough to get a picture of her), and the 5.1% 'That's What You Are'. Both were light and hoppy and both attracted plenty of early attention while we settled down and scanned the list for other gems.
There was a combination of old faithful breweries, interspersed with some rarities so I decided to try stuff less familiar to me, with varying results. Llangollen 'The Grange' was a 3.2% session ale, nothing special but inoffensive though a little lacking in hops; Mayflower promised a beer with a citra twist, but 'Lemonhead' again seemed a little short of hops; Wentwell 'Derbyshire Gold' was another session bitter that was pleasant enough but not remarkable.
However, all was not lost, as I returned to the old faithfuls. Pictish 'Northern Brewer' was a 4.6% single hopped beer, that divided opinion. Some thought it lacked any real hop definition, others thought it excellent. OMB 'Duck Star' was a pleasantly quaffable beer from this newish brewery with a growing reputation, and Red Rock 'Lighthouse' was another decent beer. I am not sure whether the combination of elderflower & honey worked in the Itchen Valley 'Hambledon Bitter'. The darker beer drinkers seemed impressed with Ashover 'Liquorice Alesort' and Coastal 'Pier Porter' but I decided to stay on the lights.
Steel City 'Rapture' was as hoppy as I would have expected from the Sheffield boys, but my last beer was a real gem. Great Heck seem to have got brewing wheat beer just right and 'Amish Mash' could have happily held its own against some of the better known of the genre. Full of interesting flavours from the malt and five hops used, it was excellent.
So that was it. I have plenty of other beers to sample over the next few days with 46 available on the marquee bar, along with those in the pub. Another successful start to a Star festival, with visitors travelling from far and wide to get a first try at the beers. This time the weather played its part and did not spoil the occasion. Another great festival and a credit to Sam and her team. Just looking forward to trying it again this evening.
If you happen to be walking past the Rat & Ratchet on your way to the Star Festival over the weekend, then call in. They are having a Fullers/Gales festival and promise five of their beers on the bar at once including Brewers Reserve no.2 in a cognac cask. Also available will be Seafarers, ESB, Summer Ale and London Porter.