tonight I had been aiming to take it easy. To slip home quietly after work, not having been left to lock up, nipping to the shops for essentials and creating a leisurely meal then spending the remainder of the evening in front of the telly. Then I remembered tonight was Children In Need night. Where good telly went to heaven. The waining careers of peripheral or has been figures resuscitated for schmaltz strewn discomfort, admittedly with a worthy pay off for charitable causes.
Luckily at work someone mentioned my inevitable attendance at the Shakespeares beer festival. Which I had, erm, remembered. In my unused memory. So now I had to fanny about going to the pub after work, seeing people I knew and liked, and partaking in the rigmarole of drinking beer.
Still, it could have been worse - I could have been sat in front of the computer screen, driven senselessly mad by the sh*t combo of Orange snoozeband and Internet Explorer with Blogger, a double act who's flaccid unresponsive death jerk of a typing portal will lead me to actually smash the keyboard to pieces with my fists. I realise Google Chrome maybe better, but that's only one out of three problems solved. But I digress (breathe, calm, breathe....)
Shamelessly poor technology aside I arrived at the Shakespeare to bear witness to a seething throng of punters, some curious, some oblivious, many excited, and some taking it far too damn seriously. Portus was with me, and I bought him a lager and myself a Revolutions Masquerade Black IPA (4.5%, £2.80). This was a dry, ascorbic hoppy beer with an unforgiving bitterness. Just a slight extra facet of balancing flavour would have made it impeccable. As it was, it seemed uncompromising with none of the redeeming features that usually faultless Revolutions beers have, which was a shame. I could admire its bite but not its intent.
Portus had to leave soon after and I went upstairs to find the helpful lass who'd served me downstairs in the bar. Alas the upstairs "festival" bar wasn't officially open at this point; but being a top bar person she offered to pour me a half in a pint glass and let me take the beer downstairs with her to pay. The upstairs bar was to be manned later on, but this was a good example of the usual excellent Shakespeares service.
From said haunt alas the beer was less commendable, that being the Marlpool Straw Gold, 4.2% which I had long wanted to try, not least because I fancied a trip to the Queens Head where the brewery is based. Alas, whilst this may not be a best example, the overriding feature was hazy and sickly sweet honey flavours. Not to my taste at all.
Up next was a dark and pale combo - halves of Red Willow Heartless Chocolate Stout (4.9% £2.80) and a half of the Tryst Hop Trial Nelson Sauvin, 3.9%, at the same price. The Tryst started well but became a bit one dimensional, not a surprising trait for a single hopped beer but a suggestion that the malts used to balance its flavours weren't suitable. It was at least a refreshing drink. The Red Willow meanwhile was even more disappointing. A heavy cloying chocolate free slick of a stout, with a grim burnt edge, perhaps made worse simply because of my expectation? I don't know, but I was very disappointed, and left a bit in the glass.
Thankfully things improved greatly from here on in. A pint of the brilliant Fyne Ales Hurricane Jack Blonde (4.4% £2.80) and a half of the Allendale Winter Dunkel were impeccable, with the Fyne perhaps edging it, if only for a slight smokey sweet aftertaste to the Allendale. Based on staff recommendation, and my own curiosity, I really wanted to finish on the Porter Geist from Raw (5.9% £3.10) but it was getting late and I wanted to get home and get some food - although the pizza sold in the garden (?) smelt and looked fantastic.
Other breweries beers you may wish to seek out for yourself over the weekend include :
Not to mention the fantastic LocAle offerings on the bar including, of course, Abbeydale, plus Geeves and Welbeck amongst others.
So, although a fleeting 3 hour visit, (and despite being enraged by the fact the programme lists 3 full beer fests and 1 mini one then above lists this as the third!) this was a great start to the festival for me, and no doubt based on how busy it was, a great second day to proceedings for Shakespeares. And all beers were priced between £2.50 and £3.10 a pint, so very good value.
Get down quick before it runs out!