Haslemere Beer Festival 2009
Here I am, a card carrying member of the Campaign for Real Ale, and you know what? I haven’t been to a proper beer festival since I went to the Great British Beer Festival in 2006. Bar pub based festivals anyway.
Well until yesterday when I popped on a train with Catherine, Tal and Simon for a day out in Surrey and a trip to the Haslemere Beer Festival.
Why Haslemere, which is, after all about a 90 minute trip on trains from my house? Well why not? Besides, Tal’s friend Matt lives there with his partner Laura. And Matt is Simon’s brother. And Simon went to the same college as me at university, but the year after. And at the festival we met Simon’s friend Neil who was also at the same college as me at university. But I didn’t know either of them.
Following this? No? Oh well.
Anyway with seven of us rolling up for the lunchtime session, we set off on our quest, which was naturally to sample every single thing they had available, bar Langham’s Hip Hop which had sold out the day before.
Racked up for the pleasure of punters were 43 ales (interestingly the tasting notes provided said there was only 42…) and 10 ciders and perrys. We decided to use the wisdom of crowds in order to score them – it being very fashionable these days thanks to Derren Brown supposedly predicting the lottery using it. 26 of the ales were locally brewed, coming from Surrey, Hampshire or Sussex, with the rest coming from further afield.
The actual results were interesting, not least as myself and Tal pretty much agreed on most scores, which I hadn’t expected given Tal’s normally a lager drinker. We set no standard scoring mechanisms, and went purely off instinct.
Most of the beers scored well, with the majority getting over 5 out of 10. To put this in context, we awarded 5 to Wychwood’s Hobgoblin. Hook Norton’s Old Hooky and St Austell’s Tribute – both beers that are widely available and are all beers I would happily sit down to in any pub anytime. These are great pints, but not the best we sampled on that day.
For our money, there were some very stand out beers. The highest score that came out was an eight, which four beers managed to go well.
One of those was Ballards’ Wild. This was described as a “dark porter” but was not black unlike most porters I’ve come across. This did cause me some confusion but it was a most excellent ale, described as “The Peak District in a glass!” by Catherine. An interesting quote given the brewery is in Hampshire.
Irving Brewery’s Invincible also scored well. This was a sheer delight to drink, and I declared it was “Not easily beaten!” And not easily beaten was it. Irving also had a second beer available in the form of Captain B which was the most unusual beer we tried. A spiced rum ale, it had a very distinctive, fruity and spicy taste. Very interesting, but a bit too sugary for most of our liking.
Most peoples favourite came in the form of Exmoor Brewery’s Beast. At 6.6% it was the strongest beer available and really packed a punch. Another dark porter, it had a very interesting and complex aftertaste. Catherine described it as “Genius” whilst Tal declared it “cheeky”.
But for me, the outstanding winner was Oakleaf’s Squirrel’s Delight. This was so good I ended up having a second half of it before we left, just to make sure I really did think it was as good as it was. And yes. It was even better. A beautiful vanilla aroma greeted the nnose, and with a perfect citrus flavour on the tongue. Sheer brilliance in a pint glass.
A little bit fruity
It was later on in the session when people made the crazy decision to try the ciders and perrys too, but try they did. Interestingly the scores here reached a 9 out of 10 with Mr Whitehead’s Midnight Special Perry. Tal proclaimed “it might rot your stomach, but worth it!” which says something. Black Rat by Moles also did well with an 8 – which Laura declared happily, “Oooooohhhhh!”
What were the scores, George Daws?
It was a great session, in a nice place and between us we managed to get through pretty much everything bar a cider and a perry and it is my duty now to go through the list, and mention some choice quotes.
|Hop||Hogsback||7||“Elderflower” – Tal. “The sucking mouth action you make after eating sherbert!” – Andrew|
|Autumn Ale||Hogsback||5||“It’s a bit blarry” – Catherine|
|Moondance||Triple fff||3 *|
|Alton’s Pride||Triple fff||4|
|Gilt Complex||Surrey Hills||4|
|Shere Drop||Surrey Hills||5|
|Hophead||Darkstar||7||“Wet” – Neil|
|Swift One||Bowman||4||“Smells nice!” – Catherine|
|Dropped||Havent||5||“Seems watery and thin to begin with, but does grow after a few sips” – Andrew|
|Stopped Dancing||Havent||5||Laura rated this an 8 and really enjoyed it.|
|Wild||Ballards||8||“Peak District in a glass!” – Catherine|
|Captain B||Irving||6||“Interesting, but perhaps too sugary?” – someone|
|Invincible||Irving||8||“Not easily beaten, but no squirrel!” – Andrew|
|I Can’t Believe It’s Not Bitter||Oakleaf||7||“I don’t remember it” – someone|
|Squirrels Delight||Oakleaf||8||“It’s the nuts!” – someone|
|South Down Harvest||Harvey’s||6|
|Beast||Exmoor||8||“Genius” – Catherine. “Cheeky” – Tal|
|Hobgoblin||Wychwood||5||“Smells like cigarettes” – Catherine|
|Old Hooky||Hook Norton||5||“It’s like bunking off school in a glass of bitter” – Laura|
|Gem||Bath Ales||7||“Shit hot!” – Laura. “Very drinkable” – Tal|
|Tribute||St Austell||5||“Tender and loving” – someone|
|Bettty Stogs||Skinners||7||“No comment” – someone|
|77 Lager||Brewdog||6||“Very nice” – Catherine|
|Rule Britannia||Titanic||4||“Fllloooorrrttttt” – Andrew. “Tastes of Tarmac” – Tal|
|XXXB||Bateman||5||“Taste’s like cold Bovril” – Tal|
|Charlie’s Angel||Springhead||6||“Smooth” – someone|
|Blonde Ale||Morrisey Fox||6||“Very refreshing” – various. “Neil has done us proud. Better than his acting” – Tal|
|Fallover||Daleside||6||“Smooth” – various|
|London Pale Ale||Meantime||7||“Interesting smell. Fruity. Taste’s like Barley Water” – Tal. “That made my leg go like this” – someone|
|Black Dog Mild||Elgood||7||“Fine” – Matt|
* – this caused some contention as I rated it 3 because it tasted of grapefruit and I really don’t like that particular citrus. However as no one gave me another score, 3 it remains! [back to the table]
And then for the ciders and perrys.
|Midnight Special Perry||Mr Whitehead’s||9||“Might rot your stomach, but worth it” – Tal|
|Newton’s Discovery||Mr Whitehead’s||7|
|Boxing Dog||Mr Whitehead’s||7||“Very sour!” – Andrew|
|Old Rosie Scrumpy||Weston’s||5||“She’s seen better days!” – Laura|
|Special Organic Vintage||Weston’s||7|
|Black Rat||Moles||8||“That’s polluting my life!” – Tal|
|Snakecatcher Medium Scrumpy||New Forest||6||“Oh wow! Oooh!” – Andrew. “Dirty tart!” – Neil|