It had been a long time coming but finally the Beer Festival programme hit my neck of the woods. Pudsey Civic Hall is also about ten minutes away from where I live, so I personally couldn't think of anything better to do on a Saturday lunchtime than go see what's happening.
I can understand why some enthusiasts steer clear of Beer Fests like this - there's nothing in the way of atmosphere; unless you count the uneasy apprehension between the older veterans of the brewing scene and young enthusiasts like myself. Some really don't like this split; this faction in the brewing world, and simply avoid it - for me, it's a great opportunity to taste some great beers in one place. Simple as that.
Art and Beer? Beer and Art?
No sooner had I arrived at the North-sponsored 'Global Beer Bar' than we were greeted by a cheery young lady from Bare Arts Brewery. Thier pumps were, quite cutely, in the shape of pigs, and tasters were soon offered of their Bitter. Very nice it was too; quite light and easy- going for a dark bitter. Bare Arts had already won kudos for the friendliest stand of the weekend; how many breweries have a fully-functioning art gallery attached?
Let's Get Down to Brass Tacks...
Armed with the obligatory souvenir pint glass and beer tokens and a remit of 'I'm not trying anything I have drunk before...' , a quick glance at the programme gave me some idea of what I wanted to try. And try i did, over the course of a thoroughly enjoyable early afternoon. My picks of the weekend? Well, I was very impressed by Naylor's Brewer's Choice Special Brown Ale - 4.6% - sweetish, but with a firm, biscuit-malt body. Gorgeous. So that becomes my Beer of the day. Also sampled were:
Anglo Dutch's Devil's Knell - 4.8% - Slight carbonation, but with a long, hoppy finish. Great amber colour. Solid entry from this talented and forward-thinking brewery.
Boggart Hole Clough's Farmer's Stout - 4.5% - I only picked one stout, and was glad it was this one. Light in body but with a complexity of flavour, rounded with a treacley finish. Great session stout.
Church End's Goat's Milk - 3.8% - Straw-yellow in colour, light bodied. Typical hoppy golden ale, again would be good session beer on a warm day. Refreshing.
Old Spot's Beer Stalker - 4.1% - Again, very similar as the Church End inasmuch that it's an entirely refreshing, hoppy ale. Maybe a little light for my taste; grapefruit aromas.
Purple Moose's Dark Side of The Moose - 4.6% - Dark ale, foamy head and a long,long bitter finish. Very moreish, very impressive indeed.
Slaughterhouse Saddle Back - 3.8% - Impressive showing; had to be tried - any brewery that's based in a ex-slaughterhouse gets my vote. Traditional bitter with a huge malty body and gentle hop finish. Really solid - could drink a lot of this. My 'Session beer' recomendation of the weekend.
Windie Goat Fisherman's Pride - 5.0% - All the way from Ayrshire, Fisherman's Pride poured red and malty, although with practically no head. A slightly vegetal aroma gave way to a long bitter finish. Quite sweet.
Phew. Needless to say, great pleasure was to be had tasting all those.
I Coulda Been A Contender...
There was a little disappointment; some beers that I were looking forward to had either sold out or weren't available. I had heard great things about Glencoe's Wild Oat Stout, and Skinner's Helegan Honey sounded interesting too. Leeds Brewery had a brand-new beer on, Leap of Faith, but I gave that a miss. I'm no stranger to Leeds and their excellent wares. Favoured drinking spots The Fox & Newt and Foley's had beers on show, the latter brewed by York Brewery. Other great brewers such as Goose Eye, Cotleigh, Purity and Elland all were represented.
After a stop at the Global Beer bar to pick up some of Left Hand Breweries' JuJu Ginger (Been after some of this for a while), it was time to go. I could have happily gone back today and started again; such was the quality of the ales on offer.
Next fest; Skipton!