last year I missed the great July booze up that was Sun Fest, this year I managed to go twice. Now in its 9th year, here's what I saw, drank, and most importantly, remembered.
I met Tash on Friday in town. We've both had, and indeed still have, a cold, and some sort of fever. Tash didn't want to head straight off to the festival so I joined her in the Grapes. We sat in bright hot sunshine around 15.30 supping cool pints of Abbeydale Moonshine, and listening to the conversations on the back terrace. It was bliss, but I wanted a slightly wider choice of ales. I left Tash to acclimatise and headed for Sun Fest.
Arriving before 17.00 I remembered that you gain entry in a tent in the car park, and found it straight away. For a tenner, I got a glass and a voucher in £1's and 10 pences, and headed for the beer tent next door. First beer was a lovely refreshing 3.5% pale, Rune from Fyne Ales. I sat at a table in bright sunshine, and relaxed. This was a good start.
Next up was another good beer - this time from Chadwicks Brewery in Kendall, and their lovely Spring Hop. A deliciously refreshing, herbal, hoppy pale which went down well. I was now joined by Patrick and Kate, or David, as she is known in polite company. They had started on the Elland and something else, and both were OK, but thereafter all our choices started going downhill.
I tried some Sentinel beer next for the first time. It was really cloudy, but tasted OK, although am not sure it was very balanced. Zest fest was zesty, and hoppy, but possibly not quite ready.
My next beer was a half of the Black Iris and Hand Drawn Monkey smoked Chilli farmhouse IPA. It didn't taste of chilli. It didn't taste of IPA. It didn't taste of farmhouses. It tasted of watered down orange juice with smoke. It was initially interesting, and eventually vile. As the band FFS said - collaborations don't work . This would remain the case until the next day......
Meanwhile, Patrick tried the Cloudwater Grisette. Apparently, hype states that Cloudwater are officially the best brewery in the world. Luckily, I had seen no such hype - but still was mightily unimpressed with this beer. A very feint taste of hops on a sea of nothing. It tasted ever so slightly of saison in the middle but little else. Humph!
I spoke to Pat Morton next and asked him what he had liked - he immediately recommended the Single Speed Mosaic from Fixed Wheel Brewery. This turned out to be much better, and was a favourite of a few people. I then tried some Astaroth on keg from Oakham Ales. Having always loved their beers I had high hopes for this - but it tasted strange. Tinny, disjointed, although when jointed, hopped lovely.
I tried a Quirky brewery gold next but that was poor so moved onto something far better - Mallinsons Cha cha cha. Well balanced pale and hoppy was what it said , and what it delivered. I finished the Friday night visit with a half of Acorn Gorlovka, always a go to dark ale, and it was lovely.
The next day I arrived about 15.00 to meet Rich Hough and friends. It was Rich's birthday and much was planned, starting at the festival. It was, by the way, also the birthday of Diane from the Fat Cat. Beers and best wishes to both. We were joined by Kath, Rich's brother Ed, Anthony, John Clarke, Mark, Steve, Yvonne and others to wish Rich well. And to drink of course. Which reminds me, the other thing that happened was that I tasted some far better beer.
I started on a half of the Elland Pacifica, a 4.6% Golden Ale, and this started things off nicely. I then tried a keg beer, and discovered one of the brews of the festival. Buxton and Wilderness Brewing Co in Arizona did a 6.7% brown ale called Bitter Recognise. Clear, crisp., hoppy and with lovely balancing malt, this was a fantastic beer.
I thought about trying the Burton Bridge Burton Ale but went instead for the Brass Castle - at least, I think I did. Alas, no memories exist of this beer which was, one assumes, delicious. Rich let me try some of his excellent Abbeydale Collaboration pint of Griffin'd Ale from Abbeydale and Griffin Claw in Detroit. Claims of it being a beast of an IPA were treated with some suspicion by me but by eck, it was packed with hops. Excellent! This was tasted whilst I supped a third of the Fernandes 6.0% Stone Circle IPA - a lovely balanced beer, although less hoppy than I recall the pre Ossett IPA's of Fernandes being.
My final two beers were Great Heck Black Jesus, a 6.5% Black IPA, which was on good form as Great Heck beers usually are, and I finished on a half of Siren Undercurrent Oatmeal Pale. This was perhaps a little over carbonated but as always with Siren beers was on great form.
Overall then, after a promising start and a very icky middle, I thought the beer range was very good, as it always has been. It just took me longer than I expected to find the best beers of the festival, which for me, were the Chadwicks Spring Hop and Buxton and Wilderness Bitter Recognise. Looking forward to sampling the wares on offer at the decade festival next year.