Saturday, November 02, 2013

The Festival Season Starts In Earnest

As Ale Ambler previewed a couple of days ago, this weekend has seen the start of the 'silly' season for beer festivals, with Festivals far and wide opening their doors to the public. There are Camra festivals in Birmingham, Blackpool and Carlisle but I decided to sample a couple closer to home. Thursday saw me at 'The Shakespeare' in Sheffield, and yesterday in the revamped 'Rat and Ratchet' in Huddersfield (more of the Rat in a later post). Both festivals continue all weekend if you have not been yet, so no excuse to miss out.

The set up at the two festivals was different. The Shakespeare having a lot of their beers on stillage in their upstairs bar and being collected by willing bar staff; the Rat having their beers on handpull, but only having a proportion of the list available with others replacing those than ran off.

The beer range was also different for each pub, with the Rat being Halloween themed, and more locally sourced; the Shakey having a mixture of beer from near and far.

I started my choices at the Shakespeare with breweries new to me. Some good, some less so. I was especially impressed by the Cornish Crown '1 Hop 1 Grain' and the Hopcraft 'Bikini Atoll' - both light and full of hop flavours. Abbeydale 'Dr Rudi Can't Fail' was equally  good - a special brewed for the festival with Dr Rudi hops and very moreish. I concentrated on light beers but there were sherry stouts, chocolate ales, and a 13% black saison also on offer. Quite frankly, a very decent pub festival, with free entry and sensible pricing.

Friday gave me chance to sample the delights of the Rat Halloween festival. This time there seemed to be an over reliance on seasonal specials, but I suppose it was  Halloween so what could I expect. There was a fair spread of styles, from very light (Rudgate - Frightfully Pale) to dark (Rat Out of Hell) with many colours and styles  in between, including Devils Walking Stick - a green beer!

I enjoyed the variety on offer - although not all the beers I tried were to my taste - I don't enjoy pumpkin beers or beers with smoked malts but at least the tasting notes did warn me about them. The only shame from my point of view was some of the beers I wanted to try were not available on my visit  meaning that I will have to revisit again - and again and again !

Finally a reminder that The Star Inn festival starts on Wednesday 20th November - hope to see you there.


Ale Ambler said...

Thanks for the heads up on the beers, Tim. I went on Saturday afternoon and here is what I drank:
Kicked off with Coastal ABC of Hops (3.9%), which was a pleasing start. Next was North Riding's Screaming Bedlam (4.1%)on stillage, which was superb and the best dark beer I had yesterday. Never had a dark from this brewery before so will eagerly look out for their colab Russian imperial stout with Five Towns.
I stayed dark for Axholme's Pumpkin Porter (4.3%, also on at The Closed Shop) and it grew on me as I drank downwards. Next was my BOTD Arbor Triple Hop 13 (4%) which had bags of life despite being on gravity and plenty of hop hit.
I stayed with Arbor for my final beer: Down Deeperest, the 13 PER CENT black saison. I split a half of this beast with fellow beer blogger Wee Beefy and he will, no doubt, write about its complexities on his blog. We both liked it and the after taste of mulled or berried fruit.
To use a boxing analogy, I was floored by it, a first round knockout victim on the undercard. I couldn't have gone 12 rounds but just one with this champion of beers was a minor victory. I shall definitely try more of Arbor's beers and try to avoid getting punch-drunk.
I believe I saw a sign that the festival continues today (Sunday). If any of our readers are in the vicinity of Gibraltar Street, I would highly recommend a visit to this reigning Sheffield CAMRA pub of the year.

Ale Ambler said...

Am referring to beer choices at Shakespeares, Sheffield in the above comment. Plenty of clues just a missing word 'Shakespeares'!
Ale Ambler