yesterday I braved the threat of downpours and the rigmarole of travelling right across the city to go to the Rising Sun beer festival "Sun Fest" on Fulwood Road, Nether Green. The festival is still on today all day by the way.
One thing I noticed straight away was that it was in fact, sunny. it really was bathed in the golden glow of sunshine as I arrived, and to my surprise, it didn't rain apart from a spot or two all the time I was there. Well done to the organisers for dabbling in a bit of harmless dark arts to ward away the rain.
The other thing I noticed was it was rammed. I got there earlier than planned at just gone 5PM but it was twenty minutes before I got my first drink. Since the festival had grown inexorably since my last visit I assumed any one of the four tents I could see would house the beers but the beer tent is behind the ones visible. I found it by following people with empty glasses, then got directions to the ticket tent, and then queued 5 deep at the bar.
I envisaged this might at least keep me sober if nothing else, but at 15 minutes a drink I wondered if I'd clear my £8.00 token card before closing time. The card, if you haven't been before, is basically circles indicating a pound and squares for 5 and 10p amounts which are marked off with a pen every time you buy. You can hand the cards back in if they are unfilled and get the money back or donate them to the festival Charity.
Anyhoo, my fears proved misplaced since it soon became obvious that the sea of punters ebbed and flowed liked the tide. The next half I went to buy took less than a minute., walking straight up to the bar and getting served. By now I also worked out that the references against each beer were U, M, L and B, meaning their height on the stillage, and the numbers ran numerically from left to right. So to save time you could, usually, head for where you knew the beer was. Ingenious.
I bumped into Steve, erstwhile scholar and libator from the Red Deer the other night, and we got chatting and making our way through the beers. On my first card I tried the following :
Brown Cow Cowasaki Pale, 4.3
Barley Bottom Cobbydale Stout 4.0
Downton Apple Blossom Ale 4.3
Dark Star Saison 4.5
Oates Golden Oates 4.1
Raw Dark Peak Reserve 2011 6.0
The latter beer took me onto my next card, and was a useful tool in guiding my mate to a next beer. Because by this time I'd been joined by Carlos, Wee Keefy and Jambon and they were made aware straight away of the tricks, idiosyncrasies and rules and set out to get refreshments. Carlos found it ten thick at the bar inside so his quest for a pint of lager was thwarted, but we had noticed there were some Keykeg beers including a Hop Studio Pilsner, so we sent him to the tent to get some.
Unfortunately, after we had secured ale, he was told after about 10 minutes queueing that the lagers were only served in the pub, even though this was listed on the beer list as being in the tent (I have studiously re-read every word and it doesn't state its in the pub). Luckily he'd had a taste of the Dark Peak and had that but considering that the Kirkstall Framboise was on in the tent this omission didn't make sense. Surely, put all the Abbeydale ones in the bar plus two or three in the tent, (as they did), and all the festival beers, including Keykegs in the tent? If you queue for ten minutes for a beer that all along was at the end of a totally different queue that's poor.
Anyhoo, this annoyance was tempered by the realisation that Carlos had a taste for some darker beers so he got to try the excellent Kirkstall Black Band Porter and the legendary Abbeydale Black Mass.
The rest of my tipples were :
Tydd Steam Golden Kiwi 4.1
Crouch Vale Yakima Gold 4.2
Dark Star Revelation 5.7
Abbeydale Black Mass 6.66
I didn't fancy finishing on the Black Lurcher (not that its particularly much stronger than the Black Mass...) but anything dark delicious and dangerous is ideal for the final drink so the Mass was an obvious choice.
|Black Mass action|
Highlights of the festival beer wise were Crouch Vale Citra, Barley Bottom Cobbydale Stout, Dark Star Saison and Revelation and my favourite beer of the festival was the Raw Dark Peak Reserve. That said, there wasn't a beer I didn't enjoy, and the range was excellent. It was also interesting to note the benefits and drawbacks of gravity dispense - the Revelation was far better than on handpump, but the Saison not so good. Does this realisation sound familiar in terms of vessels chosen to dispense from?
And finally, I have to say, considering the huge numbers of punters, the volunteers behind the bar did the unenviable job of serving everyone about as quickly as was possible with admirable efficiency and patience.
So that was my visit to the 2012 Sun Fest, another triumph of beers and space and luck with the weather. As I said its still on today so get yourself up there and try some of what's left.