Monday, November 15, 2010

JDW's Autumn Beerfest Round-Up

Ok, now that the latest seasonal beer festival has finished, it's time for me to look through my notes and reflect on Wetherspoon's latest efforts. All in all - and I know from chatter that a lot of beer bloggers did the rounds - the usual sounds were being made. Range decent, Quality variable. Still, Wetherspoon's festivals do provide decent diversion, especially in the form of their festival specials.

Take for instance Birra Del Borgo's Castagnale (4.4%). Given my new love for Italian craft beer, this was the first on the list and, for the first time ever, was the first beer I got my hands on. Taste? Well, I was a little let down if truth be told - not because Castagnale was a bad beer (despite being served incredibly cold) - I just think that the bar has been set so high with the bottled likes of My Antonia and ReAle that Castangnale just ended up being a solid, nutty, sweet beer that I could happily drink about ten of.

Lion Stout (5.0abv) ended up being much more satisfying; creamy in a way that the bottled version just lacks - there was a perceptible milky smoothness underscoring all the coffee and chocolate on top. A good beer, and an unusual one to boot. Titanic's Wheat Porter (4.2abv) was an odd one though - ruby in colour, with a woody, resinous nose that held some promise - however there was a strange floral, parma violet note in it's drying finish that I just didn't get.
Young's Ram Rod (6%) hit the mark for these colder nights - full, rounded fruitiness in the body with a pleasant cereal base, finishing off with a fruity sweetness. As for Brewdog's Edge - well, I think I've said all I can about it here - it never disappoints and I'm seeing more and more of it in Leeds recently which is a great thing.

Wadworth's Pixley Blackcurrant Stout was a revelation; sweet, full-bodied and loaded with fruit-cake and plummy flavours, this beer finished my session one night and it's fair to say tipped me that one toke over the line. Dangerously drinkable and stealthy at 6.0abv, I hope I get to drink a while lot more of this before long. Ditto the other surprise of the festival -

Woodforde's Once Bittern (4.1abv) - in small packages come big flavour. This pint was spot-on; clean, fresh and balanced, with a wonderful juicy-fruit aroma that lasted all the way down to the bottom of the glass. Sure, maybe I got a really fresh pint, but of all breweries, Woodforde's really surprised me with this one. Will be seeking this out again, for sure.

So, these are the beers I chose to comment on. Rest assured, there were a number of beers inbetween these that were just 'ok'. But that's the nature of a festival isn't it. I'm a little gutted I didn't catch the Sam Adams Blonde Ambition, the Nelson-hopped Palm, and Adnam's Ghost Ship, and I heard excellent things about TSA's Double Espresso. Oh well, Maybe next time.


MusicRab said...

Agree with the Wadworth's Pixley Blackcurrant Stout - fantastic stuff - sampled this in Hamshire last week (not at JDW's - the Fleet 1 is a candidate for worst pub in the world...). Also, did you try B&T beer (name escapes me...).

Bailey said...

Ooh, some of those do look interesting. Enough to tempt us over the threshold of a JDW? Ram Rod and Lion Stout might do it. Blackcurrant stout is a great idea.

Leigh said...

Music - from the leaflet thingy I have...the B&T was BLack Squirrel - but no, I didnt catch it. any good? B&T's usually are. Bailey - Do keep an eye out, you'll probably run into some down your neck of the woods.

Rob Derbyshire said...

Our opinions differ somewhat on the festival's offerings.

While I agree Castagnale was OK, but not as good as most other beers from Birra Del Borgo. But at the same time a cut above the regular "Brown Beer".

Lion Stout - Is four times better in the bottle. Fully flavour and creamy smooth. Not the best stout ever but the best beer I'd expect from Sri Lanka. On Draught it was a bit thin and verging on metallic.

I didn't catch Brewdog's Edge in Spoonies but at the same time I did get to drink it at The Grove in Huddersfield. It was pretty good and packed in loads of flavour for such a low abv. But I think the hype people had built up had set unrealistic standards and I was a little let down.

Woodforde's Once Bitten promised a hoppy treat of Goldings, Motueka and Nelson Sauvin but was a bit average.

Sam Adams Blonde Ambition was pretty good with a nice bite of lemon citric hops. Good if a little forgettable.


Rob Derbyshire said...


Palm was decent, a standard Belgian blonde with little sight of Nelson Sauvin.

TSA's Double Espresso, was diabolical! A truly horrendous beer. Synthetic, thin, sickly sweet and barley drinkable! Avoid at all costs.

I had a handful of other forgettable ales that made me question why some breweries brew such poor beer.

A friend really enjoyed Tring Brewery's Signal Box. A tasty British brown ale, sweet malt and roasted chestnuts. Not a bad drop!

The stars of the show for me were:
Adnams’ Ghost Ship. Admittedly Spoonies isn't the best place to get a handle on how good a beer is as I tasted this beer on two occasions and they differed quite a bit. First time it was great! Fresh and supremely drinkable with loads of sherbet lemon-esque hops. Second time, a few weeks later it was still good but the hops were subdued and strange candy sweetness had appeared. Still good and a darn tasty brew.

The one that stood out most for me was Harviestoun Wild Hop. The hops on this little chap were amped up a bit more that most I drank at the festival. Full of life! Floral like wild flowers, sappy acidity like broken bramble while picking blackberries in the hedgerow. Dark berries, and a bold backbone of toffee malt. I loved it and went back for more.

Leigh said...

Rob - such comprehensive comments! thanks for taking the time to let me know how you got on. That Harviestoun was on the list as well, but I could'nt get my hands on it. Palm - yeah, a few people said that...!