At 6pm last night, the long awaited Huddersfield CAMRA Oktoberfest opened its doors. Of course 'A Swift One' was there to take a look, and the odd sample. What did we find ?
The venue is the one that has been used for several years, and is certainly one of the better ones about. The APNA centre on Spring Grove St is on one level, and this year there are even more tables and plenty of seating. The beers are all together at one end of the hall, and are available, as is common at CAMRA festivals now, in pints, thirds and halves. Generally the beers were less than £3 a pint, and all thirds were £1, which may be a little expensive comparably, but certainly made using the prepurchased beer tokens easy to use.
The beer list itself has been published before on this blog which gave us drinkers a bit of a head start in what to look for and featured a mixture of local breweries, with almost every one of the HD brewers available, and a selection of beers from Hampshire and Sussex, many of which are rare in these parts. So where did I start ?
There was only one brewery new to me, Norland from Halifax, so first up was their 'Barmstormers'. it did what it said in the tasting notes, being amber and malty. Time to search out the hops, and Mallinsons 'County Champs' certainly hit the spot there, being a dry hopped festival special. Likewise Briggs 'Rhapsody No1' - a little stronger at 4.6%, but equally as pleasant.
Whilst I was on a trip round the local brewers my co pilot was sampling pints of unusual beers from the South. His preference is for a more traditional style of beer, and was more than happy with Andwell 'Gold Muddler' and Bowmans 'Rays Nutty Brown Ale' - both darker and more to the malty side rather than hoppy. In fact Bowmans 'A Swift One' is also available - kind of them to name a beer for us !
I was still on a hop search and Hand Drawn Monkey 'Monkeys Love Hops 21' was a combination of three varieties, and Rat Brewery 'Ratman and Robin' did not skimp either. By now it was time for me to leave the safety of West Yorkshire and take a plunge into what the South had to offer. I was still on a hop search though, and it was fascinating to see how they are used differently across the country. Franklins 'Citra IPA' was pleasant but at 5.5% hardly a session beer, and not very citra, Langham 'LSD' likewise and I was still struggling to find a southern beer with a wow factor.But then I tried Oakleaf 'India Pale Ale' - another 5.5% light beer and packed with flavour. and a hint of bitter orange on the finish. It was possibly my beer of the festival.
I would have had a second but with 75 beers on offer it would have been unfair on the others. I had hints from some of my fellow drinkers about a couple of beers to avoid, one because it lacked any condition and another that was a little too hazy for my liking, but notwithstanding, all the beers I tried, either on handpull or stillage, were in good condition. I decided to finish with local beers again and Summer Wine 'Mosaic' was very good, with plenty of hop taste, but it was topped by Northern Monk 'Monachus NZ' which was crammed with New Zealand hops.
By this time my bus was due and it was time to leave. Sadly, in retrospect, I did not try a dark beer, nor one of the aged beers; HDM 'Genuine as Whole' aged in a Whisky barrel, and Rat's 'Ratsputin' aged in a wooden cask. But there again, there is always another day ! So if you are at a loose end this weekend, this could be the place to be. The festival opens at 12 noon on Friday and 11am on Saturday and is open all day.