on Saturday, which is officially less than a whole week ago, I was at the Sheffield SU's Beer Festival 2018 in the student union, Interval Bar and Interval gardens. It was the first time I have been for many years, especially since the last time I had tried to go they had ran out of beer on something like Friday night. No such problems this time however. And this, back in 1994, which is in the past, was the venue for my first ever beer festival, aged less.
Its a sign of how little I knew about beer that almost all the breweries were new to me then, and also that there was only one beer which I really wanted to try. Having previously been out locally and drank quite a lot of Wards, Kimberley, Stones, and sometimes Websters, apart from fledgling trips to the Fat Cat and the Cask and Cutler my beer exploration was pretty restricted. This lengthy caveat supports my suggestion to Geoff Macdonald or Dave Daykin behind the bar that I should start on a half of the strongest beer at the festival. Despite their attempts to warn me otherwise, I ignored them and went ahead having a half of Orkney Skullsplitter. At 8 point whatever it is. Followed by a half of Arkells 2B. I had a lot to learn....
Funnily enough this year I also started on a plus 8% ale. Weird Beard Cardinal Wolf (I keep thinking it needs an e....) was an 8.4% DIPA served on keg, where hops are best, and was rather bloody delicious. Having bumped into club Lycett and Ally and Malc, I wandered up into the bright sunshine to join Clan Cawthorne and their birthday celebrations for Richard. Or another male human name with an A in it. The sun was baking, the company was ace, I hadn't needed to piss away any of my meagre funds on a festival glass so had enough for a few beers, and I was happy as a puppy with two cocks.
Up next came another Cardinal, and further sunning whilst I chatted to the assembled throng of folk and soaked it all up. I then decided to have a break from DIPA and went for some Neepsend and Regather Tilamook IPA at 6.2% on cask, which luckily was a little chilled. This also proved to be a good way of restraining myself from plunging into hapless inebriation.
I may have moved onto a half of the Tiny Rebel Can you smell what the Bock is cooking, a gloriously hoppy beer which I can remember the taste of but not the purchasing. I then moved onto Abbeydale Lost Souls 2017 stout at 10% on keg. Drinking Bearded Lady Rum barrel on keg in the Tap was what first woke me up to the idea that keg had merit and value and the same criteria applied here - on cask, even lightly chilled, this beer would have warmed up far too much by the time you had sat in the sun supping it for an hour. On this occasion it was perfectly easy drinking, and the warmth of the sun merely served to release some of the more balanced and smooth characteristics.
I may have slipped in a further Cardinal but finished on a half of the Abbeydale Nelson Sauvin DIPA at 9% on cask. Far hoppier than their other cask DIPA, the only thing that let this down was a slight alcoholic sweetness. Mind you that perhaps necessarily buffeted you against the sledgehammer hit of the sauvin hops.
Now sober I realise there were far many other beers that I could have tried but actually, whilst the beer I tried was exceptional, this fest for me was about the excellent company of friends, baking in hot sun and feeling almost knowledgable about beer and what to taste. The whole experience wasn't even let down by the bizarre claim that I couldn't get money back for my unused tokens unless someone in the queue wanted to buy the same number. Luckily they did, but isn't that ever so slightly retarded?
I finished the night in the University Arms with the Clan Cawthorne and a pint of Abbeydale Black Mass, at 6.6% nearly the weakest beer I drank all day. I liked the SU beer fest, especially the weather, but also the lack of rigmarole and restriction on what I wanted and how I wanted to buy it. I returned my plastic glass when I left and felt happy that I had spent the afternoon with some fine folks. And also a trifle refreshed....