last night my camera tells me I was at Sheffield Brew Fest at the Bath Hotel. I also went to Peddler for half an hour. A pretty full day for me, and here are my thoughts on both festivals.....
Before I start, please note that you can see my pics on Facebook here assuming the link works. They are hardly detailed and mainly feature people drinking. The things is, that is really what Brew Fest was all about.....
I went Thursday after a "starter" at Shakespeares and found the festival rammed. People were standing outside the pub (but sensibly not on the road! ) drinking some of the 29 or so casks, 8-ish kegs and numerous bottles on offer. Myself and Miss N stood outside with Emily and the guy from Coach and Horses (Are you Adam?!) and talked beers for a while, before coming inside and somehow managing to find a seat. We started on halves of Blue Bee American Five Hop from Sheffield and Alechemy Summit Burst from Scotland. Both were very good.
We moved onto halves of the Northern Monk Blueberry Saison which (and everyone said thankfully") didn't taste much of blueberry, but was an excellent saison. I also tried a half of the Moor Illusion which was a refreshing if comparatively uninspiring beer, as well as the Anarchy Sublime Chaos Breakfast Stout at 7.0^, because I love it. I finished on a half of the excellent Summer Wine Brewery Cirachi, an outstanding Sorachi Ace Pale Ale at 5.9%.
On Friday I left work early and arrived at 16.30, to find seating and freely donated Wateralls pork pies on sale at £1.50. I had one, (the money went to charity) along with a half of Five Points Pale, and settled down. I got chatting with an older gent about the pies and then the beers. He had marked off on the flyer which breweries cask beers he had not found, and was quite disappointed. I explained that all the breweries listed featured somewhere at the festival, just some only on keg or in bottle. He was quite forceful in his rejection of such styles, stating that he "only drinks real ale, nothing else".
A couple pf years ago I would have been similarly, if not entirely in agreement but by trying good and bad keykegs and having always drunk bottles I couldn't agree, so listed some quality stouts, rye, pales sours and saisons on offer. This only annoyed the man further, telling me, with disgust, that he'd been to Cantillon, loved the brewery but hated the beer, and didn't like Belgian beer anyway. Seemed strange to have gone to Belgium, I thought..... I didn't even ask about German or U.S brews. Obviously the gent is entitled to his opinion and its good that he's so sure of what he likes but I couldn't help thinking he could maybe try one or more keg or bottled beers....
I later met up with Mike and Danny from Two Beer Geeks and got chatting to them whilst drinking the Atom Saison (on cask) and the Steel City, which seemed burnt to me - too much time aboil? Not an unpleasant brew though.
Yesterday I went to Peddler festival first. This was in a small yard and warehouse on Arundel Lane opposite the Lord Nelson pub. There was, as promised, street food stalls, all of whose wares smelled fantastic; there was, as advertised, live music, and a small amount of art. The "Craft Beer" aspect of the ads turned out to be the Hop box, who had two beers on. The Dark Star Hophead was lovely and about right on keg at £4.00 a pint, and I understand there was a saison on the night before but I was a little underwhelmed!
Up the Hill I arrived at the Bath about 18.30 to find it unsurprisingly busy. Many folks from the local beer scene were there and I eventually managed to secure a seat, along with a half of the Summer Wine Cirachi again, and the blueberry saison. I also tried the Black Jack Belgian Red, and the Ilkley Rye beer which was very strange but enjoyable. I was joined by Clare and then Miss N and we drank the rest of the night away, including more excellent Thornbridge Desert Sessions, and finished on Magic Rock Human Cannonball.
This was the busiest I've seen the Bath perhaps ever and there were some incredibly good beers on, and it was good to see people of all ages drinking cask, keg, can and bottle. Cask wise, the highlights were particularly the two Alechemy ones, and others from Ilkley, Hopcraft, On the Edge, Blue Bee, Five Points, Siren and Summer Wine.
If I had a grumble it was the prices. Apart from Blue Bee and Summer Wine (maybe) all beers were £4.00 a pint, or more. This seemed regardless of strength, so the stronger beers were usually better value, apart from Black Jack Belgian Red which was £5.00 a pint at 6.something%. The kegs would naturally be more expensive and were about right but the lower gravity cask was overpriced.
However, that was the only gripe and overall this was a fantastic festival, which, who knows, may even still be on now. The beer quality was in my opinion, excellent.
Well done to Jules and the team for arranging the festival, especially Ed and the Bath staff and the volunteers for working it. Lets hope the upcoming Sheffield Beer Festival can match it!