Last weekend saw the start of the biannual Wetherspoons beer festival, and now, after some dedicated sampling I can give you an overview of some of the beers I have found.
I have spoken of the festivals before, and the same system applies this time. 50 beers are available over three weeks at their pubs, with most of the beer pumps being taken over by the festival beers. The beers are fortunately available in thirds of a pint (but only if you buy three at once) which is handy when you see the strength of some.
All the beers are brewed in the U.K, but there are 10 brewed by visiting foreign brewers at established breweries in their own distinct styles. There does appear an imbalance between the north and south of the country with a predominance towards the latter, and likewise between weak and strong beers. But enough of this, what do they taste like ?
I must admit to a slight disappointment. I have only found one beer with the 'wow' factor, but plenty of average ones and some that are downright weird. Black Sheep, Roosters and Theakstons are the only Yorkshire breweries, and the Black Sheep 'Reaper' is a red ale, unusual for them, but frankly not my sort of thing. Likewise the Butcombe 'Crimson King'. Hook Norton 'Chinook Gold' was more to my taste, but frankly needed more hops. It seems to be a problem endemic in a lot of the beers - they look good on paper but there is a disappointing lack of hops in many.
That argument cannot be used when describing Batemans 'Freak of Nature', brewed in conjuction with the USA's Wicked Weed. A 7.5% double IPA, full of flavour, that dangerously does not drink like its strength. I did enjoy Innis and Gunn ' Edinburgh Pale Ale' which had a pleasant malt and hop balance, at a more sensible 4.2%.
But there are some beers that are just odd. And, in my opinion, not in a good way. Adnams '1659 Smoked Ruby Beer' was too smoked to kill all other flavours in the beer, Coach House 'Toffee Bitter' is 5% but tastes thin, and sickly sweet, and Wychwood/Elysian 'Night Owl' is a spiced pumpkin ale, which contains everything I do not want to taste in beer. Of course this is all personally subjective, and some people may love them.
As I said, I did find one really good beer, from an established English brewer. Titanic 'Hop Abroad', uses a collection of hops from all around the globe, and blends them into a very tasty 5% light beer.
I hope this becomes part of their regular portfolio.
The festival does run for another fortnight, and there are still plenty of beers to come, so may be I have been a little overcritical too soon, but time will tell. But if my ramblings have whetted your appetite get down to 'Spoons and give some a try.