I must start by clarifying a few points from my last post. Firstly, the outside bar at the Kelham is covered, also the beer from Ascot Ales was their "standard" Anastasia stout, which means their imperial version may well be pretty awesome. Also, I kind of took it as read that the decade beer festival related to the Tavern's first CAMRA award or beer guide entry. Speaking to Trevor Saturday night it appears its a decade since the pub reopened. I honestly thought it had been open far longer than that!
So to business, I had intended to get myself to the New Barrack Tavern for midday to have a good go at the ales on offer. As it turned out, I woke up in the afternoon. So started a day of "flexible" arrangements....
I chose to start proceedings at my regular haunt since I needed to get some change for the bus. Even at this late stage in the afternoon I wasn't completely convinced that I was in the mood for more beer. From the range available I ummed and aahed about having a low gravity starter, but when I spotted the Hornbeam Black Coral Stout my mind was made up. I have seen this beer in here a few times and its never let me down. I took the opportunity to escape the throngs of visiting CAMRA types in the front rooms and sit in the "school room" in contemplative peace before stirring myself for the next part of my trip out.
New Barrack Tavern
I have to admit that I rarely get to the NBT. Even though its not that far from the Double H it seems too much of an undertaking for some reason. Hence I have visited only once in the last 12 months, one evening in the summer en route to the Blake. It was dead, although the beer was nice.
The extremes of business and quiet are nowhere better illustrated than the Barrack Tavern. There was a beer fest on, it was a pleasant almost warm Saturday, and there were 3 people in, plus 4 in the beer garden. I took the opportunity to take a few pics whilst I supped a half of the Prescott Seasons Best, described as a winter warmer and a ruby stout and somehow being neither. As I was getting my snaps the barman commented that this would be a good time since it would be rammed in 10 minutes - a fact reiterated by Mr M in the beer fest snug.
And so it was that at 17.00 the pub was flooded with football fans and 3 extra bar staff appeared behind the bar! One minor problem was that the bar in the snug selling the festival beers was accessible only from that room. So in the initial rush no-one could be spared to work on the festival bar for quite some time. Ironically when someone did arrive, I had already got a beer from the other bar and said barman was distinctly under utilised.
My second beer was the Harbour Brewing Co Harbour Amber at 4.0%. Having rashly started on two stouts I wanted to calm things down a little. I knew that I should expect a sweetish malty Cornish beer and that's what I got. It was described by Mr M as "not unpleasant" and by myself as "inoffensive". Their weaker Harbour Light was still in the cellar, perhaps one best enjoyed in its locality.
I also had a half of the Andwell Porter from Hampshire which was very easy to drink, but surprisingly dry for a porter - the flavour was more suited to a dry stout but it was a nice drink and a beer from a brewery I've never tried before. New and unusual brewery offerings was going to be a feature of today. Next halves drunk were Woodlands Red Squirrel, a 3.9% beer that didn't suit being served by gravity, and a tasty Bristol Beer Factory Number 7, which was memorable mainly for some interesting fruit notes in the initial taste.
Interspersed between 2 excellent pork pies was my favourite beer of the festival the Craddocks Stout, which had just the right level of balance and strong roasted flavours I was after. My final beer was a half of the Triple F Comfortably Numb, which was a pleasant enough ale which could have done with a few more hops.
This was my first New Barrack Tavern beer festival and overall it was an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours. Its interesting to compare the range there with that at the Kelham. Broadly the NBT had a much more adventurous beer order but apart from the eggy Ashover I didn't find a bad beer at the Kelham. That said there seemed to be a few beers at the Barracks that were very competitively priced. If I am really lucky I may be able to pop in in the next few days to to try the Castle Rock Hebridean stout.
Back to the Kelham next and I had only a couple in here. A half of the Yorkshire Dales Colt Park Wood couldn't match the brilliance of the Bleak House, but I really enjoyed my half of the 5.5% American Blonde from Brewshed in the outside bar. Alas this was quite a brief visit and when I left about half 6 the place was rammed. I had to leave, since I had a dream about salami bites at the Fat Cat.....
Alas on arriving it transpired that the dreamlike promise of salami bites was likely to remain so as they had not sold them for a year or two now. So I had another excellent pork pie and a very interesting Kelham beer called Big Black Blue Sound, Kelham's take on a Black IPA. This was a very satisfying beer, but not as hoppy as I was expecting. I didn't mind though, and it was a nice accompaniment to my snack as I sat outside in the beer garden.
I also popped back to Shakespeares, this time for a half of the Summer Wine Brewery Zenith IPA. This was one of the best beers of the night so far. Even though it was served a trifle cloudy, it was fresh tasting and bursting with all the hops and critrussy zest I was hoping for.
I ended up at the 1854 much earlier than I had planned. In fact, I was going to go from there to Nether Edge to try out a few pubs but that really wasn't feasible since it was getting late, and also, my chosen attire of a T-shirt and shirt was not having the insulating effect that I was expecting. Here, with the bar busy with a private party, as is often the case on a Saturday, I ended up having the best beer of the night. The Abbeydale Deception was bursting with flavour and served in perfect condition. Had I not been a trifle tired by this stage, I reckon I would have sunk another (few).
My final port of call was the Bee Hive. The Blue Bee beers were on sale as always, as was Sequoia from Thornbridge, but I had a pint of Abbeydale Dark Angel, 4.7% and, I think, £2.60 a pint. Granted the Hive is not exactly a great place to sit drinking by yourself in but the beer is very good value and on my 3 visits has always been well kept. A great way to bring the days wandering to a close!