Sunday, June 01, 2014

A tale of kites, pies and pints

Wilsons pie and peas bookended with a 'tea' beer
Purely in the interests of quality control I made the long trip to North Leeds Beer Festival on Saturday to test an ale I'd had a small hand in brewing.
I accompanied the real brewer, Malcolm Bastow, and another friend to put Five Towns' Le Grand Depart tea bar through its paces.
Regular readers may recall a previous post about the Rooibos-infused hoppy beer we brewed for the festival's Tour de France theme.
So last weekend we headed up to the impressive red-bricked St Aidan's Community Hall to see how it turned out.
The festival had a couple of aspects to it, Leeds-sourced beers in the wood and a bottle bar downstairs, with the commemorative cycling beers upstairs.
A quick view downstairs showed the beers in the wood had been getting some hammer before we arrived late in the afternoon.
So I headed upstairs where, shamefully, I had the beer blinkers on.
I nervously pointed, over the music, to the beer which I'd had a minor role in creating. I don't know if this was out of eagerness or out of fear to see whether I had single-handedly broken Malcolm's long streak of making consistently good beers.
Despite being on gravity (as all the beers were), it had a good head. A sip of the 6.2% IPA provided a good hop hit, which wasn't surprising given the amount of nelson sauvin and mosaic hops I had mixed in during the brewing process.
Malcolm, who had tried the beer previously, said he didn't pick up the tea taste immediately and I have to confess neither did I on my first glass.
But I liked it and was keen to hear what other people made of it.
I'd heard Malcolm talking to the bar staff about how his two beers had been received. It turned out his lower volume La Gran Depart (3.9%) had been more popular.

But there had also been some favourable comments about its bigger sister.
All in all, I was relieved I hadn't trashed his reputation at a stroke.
So with that burden off my back, I could now settle down to a relaxed session. Ridgeside's Bicycle Race was my next port of call, a pleasant 4.1% dry hopped beer. Then I had La Gran Depart, which punched above its 3.9% weight.
After three pales I was ready to move up through the gears to the darker spectrum. But I didn't want to go for stout/porters just quite yet.
A helpful barman suggested Wharfe Bank's Lanterne Rouge red ale and he offered me a taste. Reds are normally not a favourite ale style of mine, but this 4.4% had plenty of body and taste. 
But I can't elaborate on the tasting notes about it being "inspired by the beers of Alsace", having never drunk any.
Next, two of us went for Ridgeside's dark beer, Silver Machine 5%, which I think was probably my favourite beer of the festival. I drunk it sitting on a bench outside under improving skies. I looked up and saw a red kite gliding over the festival. I'm told they are quite common over suburban Leeds now.
Nature notes aside, we were down to our last few beer tokens so I decided to blow one on a 6.8% hoppy behemoth from Hand Drawn Monkey. If I thought our beer had an impressive hop hit then HDM's Pamplemousse Velo took it to another level. It was billed as a mystery ale and you had to guess the ingredient.
There were a couple of clues, apparently Pamplemousse is the French name for grapefruit and there were a couple of them on the pumpclip. A very impressive beer.
But by this time my mind was on a different ingredient and foodstuff, pies.
We'd seen someone tucking into a Wilsons pie and peas outside and we couldn't resist following suit. 
Malcolm did the honours getting the food while I made another trip up the stairs for our final go at Le Grand Depart. 

This time I think I got it more. I guess "resinous hop flavour" is the buzz word for it, but in simple terms it goes very well with pies!!
The taste of both lingered all the way home. Afterwards, via twitter, I learnt the beer festival had been drunk dry and the pies were sold out too. Congratulations to Sam Parker and the Roundhay Rotarians for putting on a good festival. 
Finally I understand, from a very good source, that there is cask of Le Grand Depart in the cellar at The Star in Huddersfield. 
So I shall look forward to trying the beer through a sparkler at at Folly Hall to see if I can detect the subtle tea tones. But I might have to call in at Andrew Jones pie factory around the corner first. Does anybody know if they do takeout?

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