As promised, I have managed to get around a few of the local 'Spoons outlets to see what I could find available from their Spring Beer Festival list. We are lucky that we can actually get to a few fairly easily round these parts, so I have been able to sample the wares in Huddersfield, Brighouse and Halifax, just for the price of a bus ticket.
There are plenty of new beers to me on the list - I think there are only 3 or 4 I have encountered previously - so I had loads of opportunity to find stuff that I had never drunk before. And a bonus for these festivals, the pubs serve 'thirds' of a pint, provided that you buy 3 beers, and you are charged at the price of pint, a pretty sound idea when you see the strength of some of the stuff at the top end of the list.
The actual list is quite well set out, going from the weakest at no1 to the strongest at no50. And there is a hand pocket sized guide to the beers on offer with brief tasting notes, and details of the hops used in each beer.
Anyway enough of the background, what about the beers ?
The first beers seemed to drip into the pubs, and it seemed that the first beers on offer were those collaborations with foreign brewers, which was quite handy since those were the ones I really fancied trying.
I must admit to being fairly underwhelmed by some of them, I expected more from the Belgian 'Hildegaard's' written up as a fruity saison style - and the Spanish 'Fermin Red Ale' - both of which flattered to deceive and were fairly average. Likewise the Nogne 'Brown Ale' and the Australian 'Young Henrys Real Ale'. That was four of the collaborations and nothing there to tempt me to try them again - thank goodness for thirds !
But then the IPA's started to appear on the scene. The USA 'Cigar City Sirens Song Session IPA' was a definite improvement, it should have been though when I checked out the hops used. A good dose of centennial, citra, columbus, mosaic, and summit certainly gave it a hop hit. I followed this up with Yeastie Boys 'Gunnamata Tea Leaf IPA', a bit hefty at 6.5% but again with a decent set of hops, this time being New Zealand varieties, but what made it stand out was the 'dry leafing' - the tea equivalent of dry hopping - with Earl Grey. It gave an interesting hoppy beer, with a dry finish and a slightly unusual taste.
From the rest of the list there have been plenty of beers I would call 'OK', not superb but nothing wrong with them but there are a couple which I have found exceptional. Banks 'Czech Mate' is brewed with three Czech hops and lager malt and at 4.4% is a very drinkable, refreshing beer that makes Carling taste like water - sorry, more like water ! And Brains 'White Out' is 4.0% and brewed in the style of a Belgian wit bier, but with a hit of American hops blended with the spicy background of a wit bier, should this be your thing.
There are still plenty to go at. I have yet to encounter the plum porter, the Surfing IPA, or the Chocolate Slug Porter - hopefully without real slugs ! - but there is a quick turnover of beers and every day brings something new, so today could be the day. Who knows ?