Sunday, March 16, 2008

CAMRA's Leeds Beer,Cider & Perry Festival 2008

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!


Anonymous said...

Looks like a top time was had in Leeds. I'm a big fan of the Boggart beers particularly their dark mild and the one with a small proportion of smoked malt in (I forget the name).

I'm pretty impressed you managed to document your experiences so well, I'm generally too merry after three or four halves to perform any sort of critical appraisal.

The "best in fest" category in Darlington went to the first brew of the The new head brewer at the Captain Cook Brewery, not a bad start. He's also a bigwig in the towns CAMRA group so, in an odd twist of fate, it looks like he'll be presenting himself with the award for best beer!

Leigh said...

John - a little nepotism, methinks? oh well. Us young upstarts will have our day, you mark my words (shakes fist at sky)!!
yeah, i know what you mean re; pacing yourself. I don't mind sharing my secrets: firstly, a wingman, or wingwoman (in my case), to help take notes and ensure a level-headed report. Secondly - Jaffa Cakes. Seriously. They just seem to really soak up the booze. After a couple, a jaffa cake. works a treat! oh, and a big engish brekkie before you leave!

Anonymous said...

Ian is a really top bloke his home brews are fantastic too, he won fair and square with the best beer IMO. He's a pretty young guy and I'd certainly not class him as being "establishment"! If you see him around ask him to do his "papa lazarou" impression it'll freak you out an make you piss yourself laughing!

Jaffa cakes certainly are an unusual way to soak up the beer I'm going to have to try that next time out. I did have a wingwoman on both visits but unfortunately we are both of the same constitution and ended up merry at the same point so I doubt that she'd be much use in producing a coherent beer report either!

Leigh said...

in that case then, at least the best brew won!

Heather said...

I have a soft spot for a good ginger beer (especially with rum).

I'll hafta check out the JuJu Ginger (love the name, too).