One of the beer festivals that I have heard good things about, but have never managed to visit is that at Newcastle, and since I live here, it seemed an ideal chance to redress that, so yesterday I called in to see what I had been missing. It is a Camra run festival, and after paying my £3 admission (no longer being a Camra member), my £1 glass deposit, and collecting my tickets, (£1.50 per half irrespective of beer strength) I grabbed a small table and set to work.
I had seen the list previously and knew that there were a couple of new breweries for me, so it was straight into action. Bear Claw, from Berwick, was the first one I found, and their 'Chet Wood' promised chinook hops. Well, it certainly had hops, I found a couple of leaves floating in my beer !! Which I found a little disconcerting since it was hand pulled, as all the beers on offer were. It wasn't bad but I hoped for better to come. I returned to my table, gradually more Yorkshire drinkers appeared and joined me, and it was good to catch up with old faces and compare notes. As the group grew it was strange that we all seemed to concentrating on different styles of beer; I was after the hops, others were sampling the stouts, or wheat beers, or local beers. It was a little different to the previous festivals I had visited.
Anyway, back to the matter in hand. And the hop search. Allendale 'End 39' got near, with its combination of American hops; Beer Geek ' Noble Geek' was more bitter than hoppy; Gloucester 'Priory Pale' was pleasant,and fruity but as yet still nothing was giving me that hop burst I craved. I overheard one group waxing lyrical about Empire 'Strikes Back', and even considered getting that despite the fact I always eschewed it whilst in Yorkshire. But my salvation came from an unlikely source, Stewart from Scotland. Their new seasonal IPA was called 'Ka Pia' and 5.2%. A new hop variety from the Pacific. I was very impressed, it had all the flavour I expected from a Southern hemisphere hop, and the strength gave it a decent body as well. Things were looking up.
I, then decided to sample some of the beers that my friends had commented about and went through a couple of Belgian styles, Out There 'Laika' being an excellent take on a wheat beer, with all the flavours of orange and coriander, and Brewlab 'Dame Van Der Nacht' being a spin on a Trappist beer, not sure if it worked or not though.
One of the features of the Newcastle festival is that the organisers throw down a challenge to local breweries to produce a beer within certain parameters, this year a beer between 4.5% - 5% brewed with two hops and two malts. I think I counted 16 who had got involved, all brewing a new beer for the occasion, and it was from here that the beer of the festival had come. I believed that I had missed it, with it having gone off on Wednesday evening due to its popularity but miraculously it reappeared just as I was searching for my final beer. And it certainly deserved its accolade, and it had a shed full of hops in it as well. Mordue X2, was 5%, a light, fruity IPA with 70 IBU and really hit the spot.
I enjoyed the festival. I never found a beer that I actively disliked, and as I have said there were a couple of classics, and there was a decent balance of old and new, local and distant, light and dark beers. May be another visit may be in order !
(I would have provided pictures of the event except for a very large advert in the programme making all sorts of dire threats if I did.)