Beer drinker, beer brewer and lover of all things beer.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Witches Up in Arms it Must be Halloween

This article in Indyposted tells us of how American Microbrewers 'The Lost Abbey' have enraged Wiccan groups with labels for their 'Witches Wit' beer. The label depicts a witch being burnt at the stake during the Salem witch trials of the 17th century. The label has caused a stir as there are many practising witches who take offense at what they believe is offensive to their faith. Are they being over sensitive as most of us see witches as something from fairytales and not a serious subject to be concerned with. Or do they have the right to be offended as they feel they have the same standing as main stream religions and should receive the same respect they command. Personally I think they have their broom sticks stuck up their arses. I don't think the Lost Abbey are too upset by the storm they have caused as this just gives them publicity and it has never hurt Brewdog to be controverisal. Check out Lost Abbey's site: http://www.lostabbey.com/

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Wetherspoons Ale & Cider Festival

The much maligned 'spoons starts one of their beer festivals on Wednesday 27th October running till Sun 14th November. 'Spoons pubs aren't everyones cup of tea but I have always been a fan personally. In town centres where you can struggle to find outlets selling Real Ale a 'Spoons always comes up trumps with a good selection of Cask Ales all at a great price.
This festival will feature 50 different beers from as far afield as the USA and Sri Lanka. There is a real range of styles including bavarian lagers, wheat beers, a double espresso scottish stout and a chocolate ale. Top brewers such as Thornbridge, Samuel Adams, Titanic and Brewdog are featured.
Many of the beers are brewed especially for the festival and many others aren't likely to appear at your average boozer. The festival is celebrating it's 20th anniversary and I feel it's a great advert for quality ale that will hopefully carry on for another 20 years. For more info click on this link : http://www.jdwrealale.co.uk/

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Free Beer!

I have finally arrived as a blogger it is all worthwhile now I have received a free bottle of beer! Ok it would be sad if that was all I did it for but it is certainly a nice perk. It is certainly a bonus if you thoroughly enjoy the beer aswell.

Cumbrian Legendary Ales

The beer was sent to me by the wonderful people at the Old Hall Brewery where Cumbrian Legendary Ales are brewed.
Cumbrian Legendary Ales was launched in June 2006 by David and Liz Newham with their partners David and Gill Frost. In March 2009 Roger and Helen Humphreys, owners of the Loweswater Brewery acquired the business. Production continues at the Old hall Brewery under the supervision of experienced head brewer Hayley Barton. The brewery is in an idyllic setting in renovated barns at Esthwaite Old Hall on the Graythwaite Estate near Hawkshead in the Cumbrian Lake District.

Croglin Vampire
Sightings of this Dopplebock are as rare as sightings of the Croglin Vampire itself. Taking it's name from the legend of a vampire from 17th century Cumbria, this dark Munich lager is an unusual and pleasantly surprising offering from the north west brewers. At a hefty 8% this is not a beer to be necked (get it vampire - neck! ah forget it) but savoured like a fine wine or brandy. This ruby red beer is all about it's layers of malt. There is caramel on the nose with an element of blackcurrant or berries. The palate is met with toffee and treacle and light spiciness. There is also nuttiness evident and the overall feel is more of a sherry than a beer. The finish has a touch of apple and is slightly sharp. The mouthfeel is thick and creamy but not cloying. This is a warming beer and would be great on a dark cold evening. Great effort that I hope I come across again, I score 4 out 5.







Thursday, 14 October 2010

Back The Pub

The Government are currently reviewing taxation on alcohol and the outcome of this review will no doubt have a great impact on beer drinkers and the future of pubs in the UK.
With an average of 30 pubs closing in the country every week it is critical the government get it right. We all must use our voices to tell the powers that be that we are sick of the constant tax increases on beer and that they must protect the British institute that is the pub. You can do your bit by contacting your local MP via this link : Back the Pub

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Gone for a Burton Part 2

After leaving Marstons my next destination was the Burton Bridge Inn for some lunch and a pint. I had made enquiries about a tour of the Burton Bridge brewery but was told that they only made group bookings, I suppose I wasn't going to get the personal treatment twice in one day! My cheese sandwich took a suprisingly long time to arrive but as the barman was keeping himself fit by running aup and down the stairs to collect the food orders I doubt the kitchen was staffed by more than one chef. The sandwich was washed down by a pint of Burton Bridges Sovereign Gold. A straw coloured ale with citruis and caramel on the nose. Very fruity on the palate with more than moderate bitterness. Light in body with a dry refreshing finish. This ale slid down nicely and gave a good impression of Burton Bridge as a brewer of quality ales.
My next destination was the National Brewery Centre, a ten minute walk up Horninglow street. The site which was originally the Bass Museum re-opened on the first of May in a joint venture between Planning Solutions and Molson Coors. The centres closure in 2008 prompted action from the local CAMRA group along with local councillors to get the centre re-opened. It was worth while as this is a gem of an attraction. Staff are all decked out in Victorian dress to add the nostlgia experience. As you enter the museum you are taken through the brewing process with short films, exhibits and artefacts demonstrating the process of making beer that is still in essence the process used today. As you follow the signs you are taken through suprisingly many different rooms and buildings with hundreds of different displays. These include a massive scale model of Burton from 1921 when the town was still the brewing capital. There is a shed with working steam engines and array of vintage vehicles used by the brewing industry. There are a couple of resident Shire horses but they are rather lively to say the least so I wouldn't recommend trying to pet them. The tour ends in the mock Edwardian pub where you can use your tokens to sample the beers on offer. You could waste these small tasters on some of the Coors lager offerings but you would be a fool. On offer was the smooth and delicious Worthington White Shield and the golden hoppy Worthington E. These beers have been revived by the much respected Steve Wellington who brews them at the museum microbrewery. I went on to the Brewery Tap restaurant/bar after and had a pint of Red Shield a lighter more sessionable version of the White Shield. My last two tokens were used on the much vaunted Imperial P2 stout. This complex 8% offering delivers quite a kick and would be a challenge to consume more than a half. This multi-layered stout is a master of the style but it's a style that is a bit too far for me as the alcohol level is too evident in the taste for me.
After leaving the centre and stepping into the fresh air I felt the P2 stout (and all the other beers) going to my head a little and I needed to clear it before returning to the train station and attempting to get on the correct train home. I took a walk back down Horninglow street to check out some more of Burton's historic brewing related buildings.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Gone For a Burton Part 1


I arrived in Burton upon Trent after my first train trip in many years (my chauffeur wasn't available due to work commitments, I prefer the luxury beer angel usually affords me but needs is must!) Stepping out of the train station there is a sense of history in the air straight away with buildings on the horizons that would have found their birth in Burton's golden era. 
Although Burton has been hit as hard as anywhere in the country for pub closures you still don't have to walk more than 100 yards to find a boozer in the centre of town. Beer is in the soul of this town.
A 15 minute walk took me to the Martson's Albion brewery on Shobnall rd. This Victorian brick building built originally by Mann Crossman and Paulin dominates the skyline and gives you a vision of days gone by. After exiting Shobnall rd on to the site I was welcomed by a friendly if somewhat rough round the edges security guard. Till this point I was unsure if I had come to the correct point as signage was limited. Directed to the visitors entrance I was greeted by the lovely Lesley Sweeney. A Burtonian herself Lesley is fiercely proud of the towns brewing history and the Albion brewery's place in that history. I was expecting a guided tour with a group of six others. I was informed that they had cancelled at the last minute. I felt slightly uncomfortable but very privileged that the tour would continue for me solely. I was given a more in-depth tour than Lesley usually has time to give and benefited greatly from the personal treatment. 
The name of Marstons is rooted deeply in the history of the brewery if not in the current ownership. John Marston started brewing in 1834 but Marston's (& Thompson) acquired  the Albion brewery in 1890 fromMann Crossman and Paulin. Marston's are not the most popular brewing company amongst beer aficionado's largely due to their takeovers of Wychwood and Ringwood. The company is what was once Wolverhampton and Dudley breweries but the Albion brewery is very Marston's, a brewery steeped in history. A brewery that was thankfully kept alive after the take over by W&D. The irony is the buyout was prompted by moves by Marston's to buy out W&D!
Wolverhampton & Dudley had the good sense to to change their trading name to Marston's and use the provenance that the Burton link brought. The site in Burton is piece of living history has fortunately been kept alive. This is no sterile 21st entity. The equipment being used comes from a natural progression through better brewing processes and advancements that meets the demand. Oak edged mash tuns and decades old coppers have been replaced with stainless steel but these date back to the 1960's from another acquisition. The truth is the Marston's brewery wouldn't survive if it didn't improve and advance and these stainless steel monsters are a beautiful creation of our time. My only criticism is the Mash tuns and coppers that are no longer being used have been neglected when they should be pampered and polished as a proud reminder of their part in the history of Marston's.
I was very fortunate to have my visit on a Wednesday as I got to see the Burton union in it's full bubbling frothy glory. This system of fermentation was widely used in Burton and was a major advancement  in brewing at it's birth in 1830. Pedigree is the only ale left to be fermented in this manner and it is important factor in creating the character of the beer. The rows of vats with the frothy barm were a compelling sight with a strong temptation to go for a dip, that would be my kind of foam party!
The tour concluded at the bottling line. This segment of the tour didn't create the magic that the other processes created but it was still a sight to be marvelled. Long lengths of track carried thousands of bottles as they were filled, capped, sterilised, labelled and boxed. Millions of bottles run along these tracks every week and there was surprisingly few staff needed to run it. This sort of efficient production would have blown the minds of John Marston and his colleagues. Bottles not making the weight were discarded in to containers. It was heart breaking to see such waste but the percentage of loss was a small fraction of the volume that flowed out successfully. 
Once the tour had come to an end I was taken to the mock bar which is decked out in Marston's breweriana. I was given the obligatory sampling of Marston beers that all good tours should end with. On the menu was obviously Pedigree along with Oyster stout and their guest ale for the month Royal Ryder. Oyster stout is a very smooth easy drinking stout with a good balance of sweetness against the bitterness of the roasted malts. Royal Ryder is a pale session ale with creamy texture and a light hoppiness which suited the lovely summery day we was having.
Lots of bodies started milling around as a conference was being held in the function room. Lesley was successfully balancing being the hostess to the exec's looking for a bit of lubrication and talking to me by including me in conversations. She was having a conversation with a gentleman about oak aged beers and I piped in with how I had a new love for such beers, what a great innovation they were and how I liked the beers from Innis & Gunn. Lesley then informed me that the gentleman was actually Crawford Sinclair DIrector of sales at Innis & Gunn. You can imagine I was glad that I had been praising his beers and not the opposite!
All in all I had a great time and left with a positive image of Marston's in Burton which was in small measure down to Lesley and I am sure I will return agin one day in the future to see how the Albion brewery changes if at all.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Downtown Chimera IPA

Downtown brewery is a micro based unsuprisingly in Downtown, a large ancient village just outside of Salisbury in Wiltshire. Founded by and ran soley by Martin Strawbridge  who learnt the trade in a six month stint at the Hop Back brewery. Martin kept close ties with Hop Back leasing equipment from them in Downtowns early days and initially selling his beers exclusively through them. The brewery has grown to a 60 barrel a week output and half of there sales are now off their own backs.

CHIMERA IPA
This light refreshing ale has the right to call itself an IPA as it is true to the traditional style and as they say in their own words 'Chimera would certainly win in a fight against Greene King IPA & Deuchars IPA's softer, less traditional alternatives.' At 7% abv it's not an Ale to take lightly but the generous balance of hops give the beer a light refreshing drinkability that can be quite deceptive.
There are notes of orange and grapefruit on the nose and a sherberty sweetness. The palate picks up the grapefruit and orange but not in an over-powering way and there is a good bitter-sweet balance. The finish is dry with a satisfying tang and the more-ish-ness of this beer is quite dangerous given it's strength. A very impressive ale that I score at 4.5 out of 5.

Friday, 27 August 2010

A Royal Opening

The National Brewery Centre in Burton on Trent is to get a 'right royal opening' with Princess Anne to perform the official opening in late September. I am in no way a royalist but it is quite fitting that the princess royal will be performing the opening as she opened the centre in it's previous incarnation, the Bass museum in 1978. The centre actually re-opened it's doors back in May of this year after being closed for 2 years. The centre that incorporates the Coors visitor centre as well as the Bass Museum was re-opened after campaigning by local MP's and the local branch of CAMRA. The centre is a celebration of Burtons proud brewing history, at it's height Burton was the nations brewing capital and one of the most important brewing towns in the world.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Beer Goggles

Scientists claim to have discovered what causes alcohol to make us find people more attractive than when not under it's influence. We have all experienced this phenomenom at some time while out on the lash and have blamed beer goggles for our 'lack of judgement.' Studies conducted at Roehampton University in London discovered that alcohol caused subjects to lack the ability to determine whether the picture of a face was symmetrical or asymmetrical. Symmetry has been attributed as the important element in what is widely accepted as an attractive face. Sober students made clear preferences for symmetrical faces but intoxicated students didn't. Women had the most difficulty which could be good news for ugly men! The reason given for women being more affected was that men are more visually oriented, in other words they letch more!
There may be some truth in this study but I would take it with a pinch of salt personally. The study was obviously set up to look at this factor specifically and therefore is not really objective. There may be other contributing factors that this study does not take into account because they haven't been brought in to play. The truth is excessive consumption of alcohol contributes to us making a whole host of bad choices and our choice of who we hook up with is just another regret after a night on the lash.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Pietra Biera Corsa

Pietra is a microbewery on the island of Corsica. In an area dominated by wine production it's quite suprising but pleasing to see this brewery prosper. Established 1996 by Dominique Sialelli and his wife Armelle the couple were driven by a passion to create a beer with the flavour of Corsica. This has been achieved by using Chestnut flour in the mash. Chestnut trees are revered in Corsica and known as 'bread trees' which would make it an obvious choice to create something with the soul of the island.
Pietra is a 'dark lager' but you wouldn't know it as it has the flavour profile of a malty ale.It has an abv of 6%. It pours amber in colour with an off-white foamy head that quickly recedes. The aroma is quite nutty and also very earthy with a light sweetness. The eathiness carries through to the palate strongly with some toffee and elements of wholemeal bread. You are left with a dry mouthfeel with light carbonation.
Pietra isn't an unpleasant beer but it is a strange drinking experience. The earthiness is too dominant with little hop character but it is a beer that is easy to finish. I was hoping to like it more but I would have to score it at 2.5 out of 5.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

USA Craft Brewing

Many people I talk to about beer have no idea of the craft beer movement in the states. Most people associate America with mass produced light pilsener style lagers and rightfully so as they take up a 95% share of the market over there. However the situation in the UK is very simillar but the rise of the microbrewery here is well known to many and not just real ale lovers.
 The craft brewing movement has developed in the US over pretty much the same period of time that the CAMRA led real ale movement has in the UK. In some ways the movement in the US is more exciting as there is a real desire for experimentation with different styles being revived and new ones being created where as the UK can be very conservative and far too traditional in it's creations.
America had a rich and diverse brewing tradition that was wiped out by prohbition in 1920. When prohibiton was repealed in 1933 home wine making was legalised but a clerical error failed to add the words 'and/or beer.' Perversley this was not rectified till 1978 when a bill was passed that repealed restrictions on brewing in small quantities. A homebrewing community was born and these brewers re-created styles that they hadn't been able to buy for so long.
Craft brewing has been credited with having been started a while before this time when in 1965 Fritz Maytag bought San Francisco's Anchor brewery. It took Fritz 10 years to establish his brewery as a producer of fine crafted beers and in 1975 Anchor started bottling their flagship Steam beer.
The first actual microbrewery to open in the states in 1976 was the short lived New Albion brewery in California but by this point the homebrew revolution was dawning. Initially a trickle of microbrewers grew in to a flood and by the 1990's there were hundreds breweries and brewpubs in America. By the end of the decade many of the new brewers had gone out of business or changed hands but a solid market base for quality crafted beers had been established.
This period saw the arrival of much respected and very succesful craft brewers such as The Boston Beer Company, Sierra Nevada, Stone brewing and Magic Hat. The craft brewing movement is still growing in the states as more and more Americans look for something more satisfying and exports from these brewers are growing at pace.
Anyone looking to sample quality and diverse beers could do a lot worse than to look across the Atlantic to our brothers in the new world and their fine offerings.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Review of Man Walks in to a Pub by Pete Brown

I read the first edition of Pete's book a couple of years ago when I had a real thirst for information on the history of beer in this country. This book certainly quenched it with a wealth of facts tracing the origins of beer in Egyptian times through to present time (as of 2002 for the first edition.)
 It covers the development of brewing from being a home based activity performed by ale wives to a multi billion pound industry of brewing giants. He looks at the effects of the 2 world wars on the industry and drinking habits of the nation and how the temperance movement fitted in to the picture.
There are many interesting and amusing facts thrown into the mix and his footnotes often give you a good chuckle.
I felt the end of the first edition left me a bit dissapointed as we discovered that Pete was a lager drinker who had an obvious bias towards Stella Artois as he worked in the marketing of the beer. He was also heavy handed on his criticism of CAMRA  who although have obviously been flawed over the years he seemed to under-estimate the power this organisation still had. The second edition of the book for me makes amends for this. He has re-wrote his section on CAMRA with a more balanced and less collective criticism of the organisation and more specific comments. He has also balanced out the critique with praise for their achievements and also reports on how the organisation has developed over the 8 years since the first edition. Gone also are the pages of praise for Stella replaced with a chronicle of this beers rise to glory and subsequent fall from grace.
There are additional chapters on events in the last decade including the rise of Microbreweries, the changes in licensing laws and neo-prohibitionists. The first edition was a great read and spurred me on to read his other great but quite different books related to beer. Pete is now seen as an authority on beer and the industry with his publications in newspapers and his No.1 ranked blog. If you are interested in getting to know more about beer and it's origins this is the book for you, if you read the first edition it's certainly worthwhile reaturning to the second edition with all the changes and additions.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Tollemache Arms Beer Festival

Forget your Great British Beer Festival (that's for wealthy people and Londoners) today (Monday 2nd August) sees the start of the Tollemache Arms Beer Festival. This event is held at the 16th century Inn found in Harrington in Northamptonshire. 30 real ales are on offer and entertainment is provided every day with live music over the weekend. There are bouncy castles and garden games to keep the kids out of your hair so you can concentrate on the important concern of sampling the different beers.
I attended this event last year and it was the best one I have been to at a pub. I will be attending at the weekend with the family in celebration of my upcoming birthday, I have to thank the good lady wife who will be driving us over and sticking to the soft drinks. For more info check out this link: Tollemache arms beer festival

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Hop Daemon

Brewing in Newnam near Faversham Kent Hop Daemon are based in the heart of Hop country. Started by Tonie Prins, a Kiwi, in 2000 they are quite literally brewing in the shadow of Shepherd Neame Britains oldest brewery. Supplying 70 outlets in Kent the brewery has grown rapidly in it's 10 years existence. All ingredients are produced locally but it would be sacrilegious to use hops not produced in the counties hop gardens.

Skrimshander IPA

A copper coloured  ale with lots of peppery hops on the nose balanced by a sweet breadiness. Fruity and sweet on the pallate with a light body. The finish is a sharp citruis fruit bitterness leaving you with a dry mouth feel. A real thirst quencher and very more-ish. This is a very satisfying IPA but lower in alcohol at 4.5% abv than more traditional versions.
A great find that deserves to have a much farther reaching outlet than it currently has. I score 4 out of 5.

Friday, 23 July 2010

More Attention Seeking From Brewdog

This article on the BBC news site reports on BrewDogs latest publicity stunt. They have surpassed themselves with their principle of 'there's no such thing as bad publicity.' Packaging their new world record beating 55% beer in stuffed animals was always going to ruffle many feathers but it gives them the attention they seek. At £500 a bottle this is a brew that would never pass my lips but a 55%  beer is not likely to either. I can't imagine what a beer at this strength would taste like but I don't think it could resemble anything else that calls itself beer. All 12 bottles available were sold within 4 hours ang good luck to those who have that kind of money to waste on a marketing gimmick.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Pubs on the Net

When I plan to go and stay somewhere in England I like to know before hand what the pubs are like in the vicinity. I look for pubs that are family friendly because we have the kids with us and pubs are where we tend to eat our evening meals so I like to have an idea about what menus are on offer. Of course I also want to know what pubs are likely to offer a quality selection of Ales.
The cask Marque website is very usefull as you can determine what pubs have been accredited and this should be a guarantee of quality. Their website really could do with updating but it is a good starting point.
There are plenty of pub review sites on the net to search through. Many of these are very limited on the amount of info they offer and have far few reviews available. The site that seems to be most comprehensive is Beer in the Evening which I find gives me a far better success rate than any of it's competitors. It is a user friendly site but ultimately you are at the mercy of the users who have made the reviews.
Out of the thousands of people who step foot through the doors of these pubs you may get reviews from about 6 or 7 people which is really just a drop in the ocean. As people tend to be more vocal in their disaproval of things than they do in their appraisal it is likely that many of the reviews are going to be critical. The pub experience is a very personal experience and what is an issue for one might not be for another. There is also the suspicion that when a glowing review is left that is has been made by a propietor or member of staff. Ratings aren't helpful too because they don't show what exactly points are being given too or what is being scored down for.
More and more pubs have there own websites now. For me these are the best way to find out about a pub even if they don't offer a critical view of the establishment. A good site will have plenty of pictures from inside and outside of the pub. For pubs that serve food at least a sample menu should be a given. Upcoming events or a news page is a usefull addition and is good way of gauging the kind of atmosphere you can expect. What is sadly lacking on a lot of sites is information about the beers they serve. This may indicate that the pubs doesn't offer anything to crow about but often it is just a sad oversite.
Not enough pubs have their own websites yet but this does seem to be something that is changing quite fast and hopefully the quality of the sites will improve as well. I also hope that pub review sites can increase their quality dramatically because for me they have a long way to go yet.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

St Austells Join British Lager Producing Ranks

After brewing ales for 159 years ST Austells in Cornwall are moving into the lager making market. They are launching there first premium quality lager. The Lager is called Korev which is the traditional Cornish name for beer. The lager will only be available at the current time in pubs in the Cornwall, Devon and Sommerset area.
St Austells are joing the ranks of the The Cotswold Brewing Co, Freedom, Harviestoun, Mitchell Krause and West Brewery in producing crafted lagers. Although I am aware there are many quality Pilseners available they are not something that really appeals to me, I would just rather drink a blonde ale than a lager. I do however think it's a good thing that there is more and more qaulity lager being produced in Britain so we don't just have to turn to the Europeans for quality alternatives to the mass produced piddle on the supermarket shelves.
LOBI are a group that are trying to promote quality lagers in Britain by independent breweries. One can hope that this is a movement that can snowball like CAMRA and have the same impact that they had on ale in this country. The main problem I believe they face is the fact that ale had a long established history in this country before the brewing giants  monoplised the industry. Lager does not have this background and craft lagers are a new movement but one that hopefully has a bright future.
I am ashamed to admit that Beer Angel has been consuming rather a lot of Budweiser of late. I do not despair though because I have hope that I can entice her in to trying some craft lagers as part of my plan to move her on to drinking pale ales (just don't let her know!)

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Piper Beer Festival

Another beer festival within walking distance of my house, 5 minutes across the rugby field. I am sure the Beer Angel will be giving me permission to make an appearance over there so if you enjoy quality beer come and join me.

Beer Demon Pale Ale

This is the first review of one of my own creations, I won't score it because I am hardly impartial but I will try to be honest in my assessment. This rich golden ale was brewed with pale malt, a little honey malt and some torrefied wheat for body. Hopped with Amarillo and Willamette I also added honey blossom to the boil.
It pours with a good fizz but the head is very short lived which is disapointing as I hoped the torrified wheat would help head retention. The nose is dominated by orange from the blossom and there is a lovely honey sweetness coming through. I was hoping for a good kick from the hops but they are more subtle. They still provide a pleasant spicy citruis flavour and a satisfying moderate bitterness. The mouthfeel is quite dry  and allows for speedy supping. This is definitely one for a hot summers day and very sessionable at an abv of about 4%.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Wicksteed Beer Festival review

I ventured over Saturday evening with Dave1985 and was met by Maff and over friends during the course of the evening. It was a beautiful summers evening and was pleasantly suprised to find the event was being held in a marquee rather than the usual venue of the pavillion. We took some chairs from inside the marquee and sat in the sun where the majority of the other festival goers had placed themselves.
At previous stagings of this event an admission fee has been payable and a programme with a list of beers received. I was pleased to discover due to the layout an admission fee was not required this time but I had to scrat around for a discarded programme as none were forthcoming.
I opted for a half pint glass at the 'bar' as I always like to sample as big a variety as possible. This was to be swapped for a pint glass in due course as after our first sampling the queue grew extensively and stayed that way. This was my first issue of the event. The queue was caused by the fact they had a very small bar area in front of a seperate tent for the casks. This could only house a few people serving drinks at one time rather than  many usually in employ at the pavillion.
This set up was also the cause of my second issue. By the Saturday evening many of the casks had been finished but you only discovered which ones after you had ordered and the bartender returned without a beer. In other festivals I have attended the casks have been on display in the main marquee behind a long serving area and you could see which beers were off.
My next gripe and the most important one was the condition of the beers. Now I know the logistics of setting up this kind of event must be very difficult. Event organisers don't have the luxury of storing the casks in cool cellars for days before the event and only serving when they are at peak condition. Considering this though it doesn't excuse how badly they failed on this occasion. The beer was all served far too warm to be considered refreshing and the flavours also suffer. The majority of beers were flat, I don't expect champagne bubbles and ice-cream like heads but I do expect a bit of life. I couldn't judge any of the beers really as they were not served in a way that did them any justice.
The evenings entertainment was provided by some old couple singing to a backing track. The stage was right at the back of the marquee, the marquee that was uninhabited as everyone was seated outside. It must have been soul destroying for the act to sing to any empty tent. I don't know why the organisers didn't just hire a DJ and put some decent speakers outside.
Moaning over. Despite all my issues with the event I still had an entertaining evening, this was largely due to the company I shared. We all drank enough to end the evening rather merry. DaveBa took 2 attempts before he realised that he couldn't actually jump into a densely foliaged bush and was just left with red prickle marks up his arm. Fatty Matty discovered that if he threw a traffic cone at my head I would sit on his kneck and give him a pummeling (all in good spirit though.)

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Why I Love to Brew

As I am about to embark on my latest brew (a weissbier) I feel the ususal surge of excitement I experience at this point. So I ask myself the question 'what is it I love so much about brewing?' You might think the answer is 'to make cheap beer' Although that was why I started many years ago if that was the only or main reason I would still be brewing from tinned beer kits.
 I have been full mash brewing for about 18 months now and everytime I have my latest recipe in the fermenter I am thinking about and planning the next one I will knock up.
An obvious reason for loving brewing is at the end of it I have a stash of beers to drink! Now ultimately this is what I brew for and I love nothing better to sit down and enjoy the fruits of my labour. But I wouldn't get excited before the mash if this was all I enjoyed.
So I obviously enjoy the process. I do enjoy preparing the ingredients, I enjoy the mash; checking the ph levels and seeing the sugars being broken down. I love adding the hops to the boil and the aromas they give off. I love seeing the yeast do it's magical stuff as the sugars are eaten and the ethanol and carbon-dioxide are produced.
But there is more to it. I am taking part in a tradition. I am doing something that has been done by our predecessors for 5000 years. Brewing your own beer was a way of life many many people. You can buy beers from microbrewers and know them inside out. You can go on brewery tours and learn about the brewing process from books. You can be an expert on all the different beer styles and variations but you don't really get into the soul of beer without making it yourself.
There is something very enriching  about being part of that process and this is the real crux of it.
Now just to find some time to make this Weissbier!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Wicksteed Park Beer Festival

Another weekend, another Beer Festival. This event is being held at the Wicksteed Park pavillion in Kettering and is the parks 3rd summer beer fest. I don't like this fest as much as the one held at the rugby club as it is not as near, it's a good ten minutes walk!
Expect to see about 40 real ales on from local brewers and some from further afield. They usually get the right balance with beers from Kettering microbrewery Potbelly, regional brewers like Elsgood and Oakham ales to much further afield like Brewdog. The beers are always kept well and entertainment is provided along with food.
I will be making my way over with my beer disciples on Saturday evening so don't expect there to be too much left on Sunday! I am hoping for more of this lovely weather so we can sit out on the gardens outside the Pavillion cause there's nowt like drinking beer in the sun.Wicksteed Beer Festival

Thursday, 24 June 2010

It's the Beer Wot Won it!

There is a story circulating this morning that the secret behind Englands success yesterday was the players having a beer the night before the game. Fabio Cappello told reporters after yesterdays victory "I did something different. Yesterday evening, they drank beer. You can ask them."  Frank Lampard said that most players were wary of Capello's treat. And he said: "You don't have ten beers, you just have one."
Now it's hard to see what difference one beer would make to the players. It certainly wouldn't make any difference to their physical state. I do believe it was a good move by Cappello to let them have a beer together because their is no better way to relax than to have a beer. More essentially though having a beer together creates unity and would help to build team spirit. We all know their is nothing more social than having a beer with your mates/associates and I hope the players are allowed to continue to partake in this activity. Cappello may even let them have two!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Beer in Good Press Shock!

A report extolling the virtues of beer drinking has been suprisingly given a lot of coverage in the press. The report starts by clearing up myths about beer like it contains fat and that it is produced using chemicals. The report goes on to inform us of the health benefits of drinking beers such as real ale. It reveals that beer is a rich source of anti-oxidants, vitamins, minerals and fibre (are you reading this Mrs Beer Demon?)
It's refreshing to see beer being painted in such a positive light at a time when it has been bashed in many corners and blamed as the cause of all our social issues. It is however not suprising that this report gives beer such a glowing report when it was produced by experts at the Beer Academy. The Beer Academy is an educational body run by members of the brewing industry, the Director of Brewing at the British Beer & Pub Association and the Chief Executive of Casque Mark amongst other experts in this field.
The Beer academy became an arm of the IBD in 2007 and delivers education to professional brewers and distillers worldwide. Check out their website at:http://www.beeracademy.org/

Thursday, 17 June 2010

A Drop of Scotch

Beer that is, not the distilled malt. Scotland has a long history of brewing beer and they have used herbs for bittering and flavouring throughout that time. The Celts would use a gruit using herbs like Meadow-wort and this style would continue in Scotland long after the hopped style became  dominate in England. Hops would replace the use of gruit by the end of the 19th century but some old styles have been revived creating some interesting and quite satisfying beers coming from north of the border.

Williams Bros Brewing Co
A lady of Gaelic descent went into the Williams owned homebrew shop in Partick, bearing a translation of a 17th century recipe for 'Leanne Fraoch' (Heather Ale), Inherited from her Gaelic family.  This translated recipe was developed in homebrew size quantities by shop owner Bruce Williams to the recipe that is used today. The company started life in 1988 with Bruce brewing their flagship beer Heather Ale in a
tiny brewery in Taynult where they could produce no more than 5 barrels per batch. As demand grew a series of relocations ensued till they took over the New Alloa Brewery at Kelliebank, Alloa and started trading as the Williams Bros. Along with Heather Ale, 4 other historic Scottish ales are developed using natural Scottish produce such as elderberries, the shoots of Scots pine, seaweed & gooseberries.

Fraoch

This flagship beer is brewed using flowering heather that is added to the boil and then the hot wort is run into a fresh vat of heather flowers where it infuses for an hour. The idea of this may sound quite bizzare and even un-appealing to some. I was pleasantly suprised to discover what a pleasant beer this makes that is not unlike a floral hopped beer. This Amber ale has a floral earthy aroma that invites the drinker in. With a strong caramel maltiness the heather flavour provides a subtle spicy medicinal tang. The finish is dry with elements of grape. This is a suprisingly morish beer and worth a sampling. 4 out of 5.


Grozet

Made from a 16th century recipe this beer could be considered more a fruit lager. Brewed using lager malts and wheat it's bittered and flavoured with Bog Myrtle, hops and Meadowsweet. Scottish Gooseberries are added to the secondary fermentation. This 5% beer looks like a lager in the glass as it pours a pale blonde with plenty of fizz. The aroma is very sweet and citruisy but with a suprising roasted quality almost coffee like. This beer is very creamy on the tongue with only a light citruis flavour that is dominated by the sweetness. You are left with a dry mouthfeel and the citruis lingers nicely. 3.5 out of 5.

Atlas Brewery
This small brewery is situated in the Scottish highlands village of Kinlochleven. They have been brewing since 2002 in a building used previously as an aluminium smelter.

Three sisters
Named after the Glencoe mountain range this beer is brewed with chocolate and crystal malts. A dark ruby session beer at 4.2% abv. An inviting aroma of toffee and berries pours with a thick creamy head. There is strong notes of chocolate and liquoriche balanced by a caramel sweetness. You are left with a pleasant kick of dark berries and a medium dry bitterness.
Very satisfying 4 out of 5.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Another Tax Hike

Alcohol prices look set to rise again, as the Treasury considers increasing the tax on alcohol by another 5% in the emergency budget next week. With VAT going up by 5% also the increase is set to reach about 20p a pint. This comes of the back of Labours 5% rise back in March.
The BBPA said: ‘A beer tax plus VAT increase would see the price of a pint rocket by 20 pence on the eve of England’s third group game against Slovenia on 23 June. Such a move would spell disaster for thousands of community pubs and for Britain’s brewing industry,’ BBPA added.
CAMRA, the Society of Independent Brewers and the British Beer and Pub Association have come together for the first time to call for a beer tax freeze to help community pubs. Give your support to them by visiting this site Back The Pub and lobby the chancellor.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Beer Genie

No I havent found a magic lamp and summoned one up (that search still goes on.) This is the name of a new website put together by the BBPA (British Beer and Pub Association) to promote a positive image of beer. This comes at a time when beer has been attacked in many quarters and associated with the 'binge drinking culture' that is supposedly threatening our country. You have to respect what the BBPA are trying to do here with a site that Director of brewing Andy Tighe says 'It’s all about trying to present beer in a better light and is part of our new strategy of getting on the front foot and being more positive. Beer is a sociable product and a low alcohol option and we wanted to re-awaken that sociability factor. This is not about brands it is about beer as a category'
Beer Genie is very user friendly and covers different topics such as beer history, beer facts and beer & entertaining. This is a great site for newbies looking to increase their knowledge of beer and also a good reference for news on events. Have a look at http://www.beergenie.co.uk/home

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Hook Norton fall foul of FIFA

More World Cup related posting. This story in the Publican reports on how the Oxfordshire breweries limited edition Striker beer has caused a stir with the football governing body. The caption 'Brewed to celebrate the FIFA World Cup 2010' is what has caused the stir even though only 8 firkins were sold before the pumpclips were changed. FIFA's legal team are looking into the matter but Hook Norton have not been contacted over the issue. This probably amount to anything now they have corrected their 'oversight' but the question is who reported them? I can't see many FIFA delegates drinking in any of Hook Nortons 50 pubs so someone has obviously gone out of their way to bring the matter to their attention. This must be a very sad individual who would go to that length or possibly a drinker of 'the beer of the world cup' who is worried that Striker may dent the sales of the humble little brewer AB-InBev.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

World Cup Beers

The worlds biggest sporting event kicks off this friday in South Africa when 32 countries compete for footballs biggest prize the World Cup. Such is the pull of this magical event that millions of people across the country (including those who don't give a fig about the game the rest of the time) will be glued to the screen for the next month. The thing is we all know watching football and drinking beer go hand in hand with each other. The supermarkets will do a killing over this period and pubs with the good sense to invest in a big screen should do pretty favourably too.
I will succombe to world cup fever and start believing that maybe just maybe this will be England's year. I will become engrossed in a festival of football that will bring to our screens a whole different perspective to the game than the premiership provides us. I will give my wife a well earned break from me and I'll negotiate working hours with my boss to make sure I don't miss a minute.
I will also of course endulge in the ritual of drinking beer while watching footie, but what is the perfect footie watching beer? Of course the answer to that depends on the indivdual and their taste but is their a formula we can use to determine what Ale is most suitable? Now the first thing I will do is rule out the fizzy pop that will be drunk by the masses as in my prejudiced view lager (I'm not including quality european Pilseners in this) is just the cheap lazy option. The obvious choice is a session ale. I am not looking to get rat-arsed during the games and I don't want to waste beers that should be reserved for proper appreciation. I am not looking for a hop-bomb or something matured in whisky casks. I want something smooth, refreshing but still satisfying.
There is another option which I think would be a lot of fun and a good way to get into the spirit of things. I could pick beers from all the participating countries and drink them during the relevant matches. There is a major flaw in this though, what if some of the countries don't produce there own Beer? I would imagine the African countries would be a major stumbling block but the alternative would be to choose the beer of choice of that country. The other problem with this is it would take some organising and may prove a tad expensive.
The route that I think will be best for me is to bring in a whole host of my favourite session ales and work my way through them during the course of the tournament and hopefully by the time Stevie Gerrard climbs the steps to lift World Cup aloft I will have it sussed. Oh come on I can dream can't I?

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Kettering Beer Festival


This weekend sees the return of the Kettering Beer Festival organised by the Kettering Rotary Club and Kettering Rugby Club. The event takes place on the grounds of the rugby club at the end of Waverley Rd in Kettering. This beer festival is a particular favourite of mine, not because it offers over 50 real ales or it raises large amounts of money for local causes, but because it takes place about 30 metres from my house. Now if I wasn't a beer lover I might not enjoy the prospect of drunken revellers gathering so close to my home but as I will be one of them I shant complain! The good thing about this event as opposed to other events held on the grounds it is inhabited by real ale lovers and every one knows real ale lovers aren't the types to get rat-arsed and go looking for trouble.
 This is the 4th year the event has been held and previous years have been a great success. A musical act is provided each evening and we even have an oompah band appearing! There is always a good choice of ales from local breweries and from farther afield. My only criticism would be that they could do more to make it family friendly and put on something to entertain the children.
The first night is tomorrow Thursday the 3rd and it runs till Sunday but I wouldn't expect many ales to be left by then. I will be making a couple of appearnces there and will give a report next week.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Wolves Angels and Dragons

Sounds like a synopsis from a Harry Potter book but this is just a selection of beers and brewers from my latest reviews.
With names like this the oppurtunity is there for some decoractive bottle labels and these did not dissapoint. We have Golden Jackal from the Wolf brewery, Howlin Red Ale from Fallen Angel and Double Dragon from Felinfoel.

Golden Jackal

The Wolf brewery can be found in the village of Besthorpe central Norfolk and have been brewing since 1995. Founded by Wolfe Witham (obvious choice of name then) who's passion for producing quality ales was first realised in his hugely popular Reindeer brewpub in Norfolk. Major investment in 2006 saw them move to their current site from where they are trying to get the upperhand in the competetive East Anglia market.
Golden Jackal unsuprisingly pours a rich gold with a lacey white foam. A 3.7% abv session beer has a pleasant sweet malt aroma with pepper and berry fruit notes. Citric bitterness on the palate but nothing too dominating. Leaves a pleasant dry mouthfeel with a floral finish. This is not an impact beer but is certainly refreshing and a good beer to start a session on. Taking this beer in context I score it a solid 3.5 out of 5.

Howlin Red Ale
Fallen Angel are microbrewers based in East Hoathly, East Sussex. These unassuming brewers are making waves with their diverse range of ales and their provocatives artwork. With a range that encompasses Lemon Weissbier a dunkel bock and even a chilli beer these aren't your average traditional English brewers. I wasn't so brave to try a chilli beer so I opted for this potent 6.4% abv amber-red ale. Pouring with a red tinted head that fades quickly this is a deceptively light bodied beer. A sweet aroma somewhat reminiscent of a floral tea. The palate is met by a very tangy fruitiness with elements of apple and honey.  A very bitter finish leaves mouth feeling a little too dry. The high level of alcohol is apparent with a biting kick. Slightly peculiar beer but not wholey un-satisfying 3 out of 5.

Double Dragon
Felinfoel takes it's name from the Welsh village that is home to this long established Welsh brewery. Founded by David John in 1878 the brewery has remained an independant family concern ever since. They have their place in history as being the First British Brewers to put their beers in cans.
Double Dragon is a 4.2% traditional British ale. Amber in colour pours with a rich velvety head. Toffee sweetness and citrus fruit on the nose. A smooth medium bodied beer with hints of apple and grapes. A nutty pleasantness finishes with light bitterness. A satisfying easy drinking beer I score at 3.5 out of 5.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

The further demise of Bass

http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/industry_sectors/consumer_goods/article7136607.ece

This article in the Times reports of how the monster that is AB Inbev are looking to offload the brand that was once synonymous with British brewing. The distinctive red triangle logo that the ale is recognisable by boasts the record of being the countries first trademark. Bass Pale Ale was sold throughout the British empire and was the biggest beer on sale in the world during it's heyday. The company grew bigger throughout the 20th century buying out many other breweries and merged with Charrington United Breweries to become Bass Charrington. Bought out by AB Inbev (Interbrew at the time of purchase) Bass Pale Ale has been brewed under license by Marstons. The brand has suffered from a lack of marketing and a lack of interest from the massive lager producing company and now faces the final indignity of being palmed off again to whoever comes up with the asking price of 10-15 million. Marstons have announced that they won't be bidding and there has been a luke warm responses from other areas of the industry. Is this another nail in the coffin of an ale that helped make Burton the brewing capital or is a saviour waiting in the wings?

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Coopers Sparkling Ale

What do the Aussies know about brewing Ale? On the basis of this beer it would seem quite alot. Based in Adelaide and founded by Thomas Cooper in 1862, with that surname beer must have been in his blood. This institute of Australian brewing has managed to survive the many hurdles that faced the industry during the 20th century not to mention the Australians thirst for the bland fizzy stuff. It should then be no suprise that this their flagship ale is one of definite quality.
This Pale Ale is bottled conditioned and can be poured clear or shook up and served cloudy. I did the latter. ABV 5.8%. Straw coloured gives a short lived head and has a near lager like fizz. The aroma is of roasted malt and citrus fruits. On the palate their is light fruitiness of apple and lemon and a lingering bready maltiness. Their is a satisfying bitter kick and a pleasant dry mouthfeel. This is perfect served slightly chilled on a hot day.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Best Job in the World

Beer-taster-wanted-for-best-job-in-the-world.

I just found this and was just starting to make plans for a move down to the capital but alas I saw the date at the bottom and my hopes were dashed. Not a salaried position but great oppurtunities to drink free beer and spend your free time doing something you love, good luck to the successful applicant! It's nice to see this tradition being revived but the question is will they be required to sit in ale in their leather trousers?

Hot Hot Hot

It was a scorcher of a weekend and with such weather one does get a bit of a thirst. I was only too happy to quench that thirst with a further sampling of my Beers of Europe collection mixed in with a good few of my own brews of a honey beer and a blonde beer. The only problem of drinking in such heat is the desire to guzzle your beer and not to take the time to savour it's offerings. The weather does call for something pale, crisp and sessionable and my choices were influenced by this but not totally dominated. My own brews are perfect for the weather which allowed me to be more selective in my choice making. I will be reviewing each of these beers over the coming days and hopefully my comments will be of use to those looking to sample these beers for the first time.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Patio Beers





We had a beautiful evening yesterday and it was the perfect weather to sit on the deck and sample a couple of my new beers. Joined by my wife (it was our anniversary I had to let her join me, only joking Angel!) this is the perfect way to relax and I did just that.
With this kind of weather something pale and hoppy is called for and I put my choice in the fridge for a short burst to get them to perfect serving temperature. I chose to start with Adnams Innovation followed by Wensleydales Forrester.

ADNAMS INNOVATION


This limited edition offering from the east coast brewery boast a powerful 6.7% abv. Bottled stylishly with a black label with raised writing and a silver name shouts out class. On the first sip you know they are backing this up with substance. By their own admission they are trying there hand at a hop packed American IPA style. This pours as promised a satisfying gold with an enduring white head. The nose is met with a subtle aroma of what I can best describe as toffee apple and slightly grassy. The taste is predominantly grapefruit with elements of Peach but the grapefruit doesn't overpower like in their explorer ale. Balanced with a caramel maltiness creating a smooth mouthfeel. Plenty of life and a bitter after-taste. All in all a very satisfying drink that I will score 4.5 out of 5.









WENSLEYDALE FORRESTERS BITTER

The Wensleydale brewery founded in 2003 can found in Leysdale North Yorkshire. They supply on cask throughout the Dales and also bottle their ales for a wider market. This is a brewery that seems very much in their infancy if their labels are any indication. The Forresters Bitter is labelled as an ideal session bitter and is a modest 3.7% abv. It pours a slightly cloudy straw colour and loses it's head quite quickly. The nose is met with strong aromas of caramel and butterscotch anticipating a sweet beer. I was suprised to be met with quite the opposite a very zesty lemon slightly spicey flavour. Their was little maltiness and a slightly sour feel on the tongue. A strong bitter aftertaste leaving the pallet with a pleasant dryness. I wouldn't personally fancy this as a session bitter as it wasn't smooth enough but nod a bad effort from a burgeoning brewery. I would score this at 3.5 out of 5

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Anniversary gifts

I am celebrating my 10th Wedding Anniversary today to my long suffering lovely wife. I am sure many of you guys can relate to how it helps to have an understanding spouse. My wife has always not only been tolerant but supportive of my passion. She takes an interest in the beers I sample and even has a taste herself even though she is in no way a beer drinker (strictly alcopops and Tia Maria.) She listen to me prattle on about beer trivia and does her best act of looking interested. She puts up with me taking over the kitchen when I am doing my brewing even though I know it grates to see my equipment and ingredients spread all over the worktops. She is also the Angel that balances out my Demon and keeps me on the straight and narrow. If I ever let the drinking become too excessive she is the voice of reason (or slap) that brings me back to my senses. She would probably prefer it if I was a tee-totaller and she didn't concern herself with my drinking habits but she accepts that will never be the case. To top off all of this as an Anniversary present she has bought me a case of beer from the wonderful people at Beers of Europe. I have an interesting mix of styles and a range of brewers new to me for me to sample and I will be writing my reviews as I 'work' my way through them. I thank my Angel for putting up with me for 10 years and I hope you can put up with me for 10 more and beyond.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Baby For Beer

Mans baby for beer swap
'A MAN was so desperate for a drink he offered to swap his baby for two bottles of BEER.

He now faces a child endangerment charge for allegedly offering to strike the deal for the three-month old baby girl.'
Now there are times when I feel like I could 'kill for a beer' but not literally and even though my kids can get on my wick at times I don't think I would give them up for just a couple of beers, it would take at least a case! Seriously though having kids should be reason enough to keep yourself on the straight and narrow when it comes to your drinking but to actually try to swap one for a couple of beers is beyond comprehension.
Maybe we should take this story with a pinch of salt, it may transpire that there is more to it than is being reported. The worrying thing though is this is perfect amunition for the neo-prohibitionists to highlight 'the evils of drink' The thing that makes this story reportable matter is how shocking it actually is and the reason it is so shocking is that it is a one-off. We all know this doesn't reflect the vast majority of drinkers but it will be cited in some corners as evidence of the path that drinking leads you down. The only suprising thing is that a picture of real ale wasn't used!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Stag Do

My friend of many years is getting married soon to his girlfriend of many years and Mother of his two beautiful Daughters. Saturday was time for the obligatory Stag Do. The afternoon was spent accumulating injuries and bruises while taking part in the masochistic sport of Paintball. After returning home for a shower, counting bruises and strapping up my knee (I was in no way one the oldest there but I do feel I am getting too old for that lark) we met up in the town for some food and the start of our drinking session at 5:30. I do love my Beer but I do usually drink moderately and it has been a few years since I have emabarked on a drinking session like this one that was to last about 8 hours. I would normally pace myself, you can't enjoy Beer when you are knecking it but there was no chance of that after somebody had the bright idea of all putting in a kitty (no animals were harmed in the making of this session.) The problem with this set-up is the fastest drinker dictates the pace and as most of the guys were drinking fizzy Australian piss it was quite some pace. I did manage to exert influence over the choice of drinking establishment for the first part of the session so we got a few cask ales in but as the evening carried on we were frequenting the trendier plastic pubs that serve a choice of some extra smooth and nothing else. At this point I was drinking Bottles of Corona (B.O.G.O.F.) so good they stick lime in the top to disguise the taste or Bulmers which although slightly better is far too fizzy.
The cask ales i did consume were the ever dependable London Pride from Fullers which although served in a run down pub was in great shape. I also enjoyed a Black Sheep Bitter a very nice session ale which slipped down nicely. I had a few pints of Marstons EPA, my first beer served from a 'Fast Cask' I have to say I didn't notice any difference in the quality to other Cask beers so it gets the thumbs up from me. A very pleasant Blonde Beer with Orangey citrus notes and a nice bitter after kick. A nice Caramely malt presence but a little thin in body with poor head retention. Very sessionable and one I will happily return to in the future. The only beer of any quality during the rest of the evening was a Wheat beer served in the Wetherspoons but I was too far gone by that point to even remember it's name.
All in all a good evening even if the beer choice was not always what I would have liked it to be and a hangover from hell was experienced the next morning (it was a stag-do it wouldn't be right if I didn't suffer)