Saturday, 7 November 2015

Jay and Dee’s Trip to Birmingham Beer & Cider Festival 2015

Dee - We visited Birmingham Beer & Cider Festival for the second year running on the afternoon of Friday 30th October 2015.  The 2015 Festival was held at the New Bingley Hall, as it was in 2014, and the layout was much the same as last time.  Last year’s proved to be a big hit for us (click here to read about it), so we booked tickets early for this one and had been looking forward to it during the past few weeks.

The bus shuttle service was again in operation, running from the centre of Birmingham through the Jewellery Quarter to the venue.  The advantage of arriving early on for the afternoon session was that we didn’t have any problems finding seats.
We paid £20 each for entry to the festival, which included a glass and £12 worth of beer tokens.  We chose pint glasses this time rather than half-pint glasses as the design was the same with only the year being different.

With over 500 beers and nearly 100 ciders listed in the programme, it was important to organise them in such a way as to help the customers find their tipples of choice.  A number of larger breweries operated from their own bars while the rest were hosted by named bars including Lynne, Osbourne, Skinner, Carrot, Hancock and Tolkien.  We still didn’t get to try the ciders, perries, or bottled beers, as there was such a wide range of draught beers available.  Pints, half pints and thirds of pints were all offered, so we went for thirds to try as many of the beers as we could.

And here they are;

Dee’s Beers

Beer #1:  Pumpkin Ale
Guide said:  We’re brewing a real treat for Halloween – A rich ruby beer full of all the flavours you would expect for the spookiest time of the year, including pumpkin!  A burnt, smoky character is balanced with light citrus flavours from Styrian Dana hops and there is a lingering bitter finish.
Dee said:  Mahogany coloured mid-strength bitter.  Slightly smoky aftertaste but I didn’t get the citrus that was mentioned in the tasting notes, or the spiciness that I usually associate with pumpkin ales.

Beer #2:  King Korvak’s Saga  Dee’s Beer of the Festival
Guide said:  King Korvak’s Saga is a traditional Porter made from a selection of malts to impart roast, chocolatey flavours and lightly hopped with the classic British hop Fuggles.
Dee said:  From a Rodney Matthews/Dungeons and Dragons inspired brand comes this strongly flavoured Porter; Black in colour, with an aroma close to espresso and red wine.  An initially bitter taste gives way to smokiness.  A fabulous brew, best enjoyed on its own on a cold winter’s night.  I’m on an epic quest to find this one again.

Beer #3:  Water White Session IPA
Guide said:  Brewed with Sorachi Ale hops, this session ale has bags and bags of gutsy flavours.  Some people get lime and lemongrass and some get coconut.  So much more flavour than the ABV would suggest.
Dee said:  Quite a departure from Beer #2:  Golden in colour with a fresh citrusy aroma mixed with coconut.  These themes were carried on into the taste, which also delivered a slight sting in the tail with a sharp, bitter note.

Beer #4:  Spanish Main
Guide said:  Roasted Malts, Muscovado Sugar, English Hops, Black Pepper, Pirate Attitude.
Dee said:  Dark, spicy but also delivering a pronounced sweetness.  Went down far too quickly for a beer with 5.9% ABV.

Beer #5:  Flying Tonight
Guide said:  Smooth drinking with a clean hoppy aftertaste and a faint sweetness.  Brewed for Halloween, a hint of sweetness comes from the addition of a small amount of blackberry juice.
Dee said:  Although the commentary accompanying this beer mentioned Halloween, it had more of a a summery feel for me.  Bronze coloured, with a white head.  Bitter, hoppy and slightly fruity aroma followed by a dry, grassy flavour with a slight sweetness.  I didn’t get the blackberries in the taste but that wasn’t a problem.  I really enjoyed this.

Beer #6:  Local Motive
Guide said:  We’ve taken our session beer, brewed especially for the Cross Keys (Kippen), and turbo-charged it with Mosaic dry-hops.  Easy-drinking but loads of flavour.  Dominant flavours/aromas: Mango, citrus, earthy pine, stone fruits.
Dee said:  Copper-coloured with a strong, hoppy aroma.  Taste was packed full of citrus and hops.  Not one for me, but Jay loved it.

Beer #7:  Old Moor Porter
Guide said:  A full bodied Victorian style porter with hints of licquorice.  The initial bitterness gives way to a smooth, mellow finish.  A bronze medal winner in the Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2008.
Dee said:  Very dark brown in colour, with a strong aroma of chocolate and pipe tobacco.  Smooth to the taste and quite bitter and earthy in flavour.  A classic Porter.

Beer #8:  Purple Haze
Guide said:  There weren’t any tasting notes in the guide, but I found this on their Twitter feed:  “Well hopped Pale Ale with an infusion of local berries.  Naturally hazy vegan ale”
Dee  said:  Distinctive only for its slight purple colour.  It was ok and I don’t regret trying it, but I wouldn’t seek it out again.

Beer #9:  Town Crier
Guide said:  Town Crier is a full-flavoured golden ale with a big voice.  The elegant straw coloured bitter has a hint of sweetness which is complemented by subtle hop flavours leading to a dry finish.  The nose of crisp fruit is apparent with a refreshing balance of taste, a bitter which is supremely consistent and full of flavour.
Dee said:  This kept attracting my attention whenever I checked through the guide.  Was it an omen?  I decided to find out:  Light gold in colour, with an aroma of apples and pears, though it was by no means a cider or perry.  Very smooth and drinkable.  I would call this one a good quaffing beer.

Beer #10:  Snowflake
Sarah Hughes Brewery (I haven’t shared the link to this brewery because it misdirects to a site selling double glazing)
Guide said:  A classic winter warmer with a flavour of candy sugar, plenty of rich malt, slight creamy alcohol and plenty of berry fruits.  Rich and warming malt and alcohol finish.
Dee said:  At 8%ABV, this was one of the strongest draught beers at the festival.  A rich bronze colour with a fruity aroma.  A strong hit of alcohol on first taste, with a warming sensation to follow.  From then on it was one to savour. 

The strongest beer of the festival was the 15% ‘Cyclone’ by Fixed Wheel/Angel Ales.  I would have liked to have tried this but decided that ten samples was enough.

Jay’s Beers

Beer #1:  Turkish Delight
Guide said:  No tasting notes were available and I couldn’t find any on line.
Jay said:  Pale and Golden, quite dry.  Came with no tasting notes, but also came as no surprise that there was plenty of rose water flavour.  A nice starter but certainly couldn’t cope with a pint of this one.  Enjoy it on a summer’s evening in the back garden.

Beer #2:  Clear Cut
Guide said:  This is our flagship Pale Ale.  We use low colour malt for a lustrous, sparkling body, and bags of American hops for big flavours of pine resin, lemon, and grapefruit.  This is crisp, clean and thrst-quenching.  This is clear cut.
Jay said:  Another pale, super dry and hop-tastic drink.  Lots of citrus and grapefruit.  A good thirst quencher for the beer garden after a long walk.

Beer #3:  Portolate
Guide said:  No tasting notes were available and I couldn’t find any on line.
Jay said:  Dark, not thick as porters/stouts can be.  Nutty and quite short in the mouth.

Beer #4:  White Stout
Guide said:  White Stout is a very pale, full bodied, strong beer.  American Columbus hops are used throughout to give massive floral and resinous character.  A pale body supports perfumy, spicy hop flavours and aromas.  Intense bitterness is balanced by forest fruits and mango.
Jay said:  Dangerously drinkable at 7.2%ABV.  Struggled with a pale coloured ale being a stout at first, but it was light, fruity, citrusy, lingering and luscious…Then you fall over.  A definite contender for beer of the festival.

Beer #5:  Cherry Dark  Jay’s Beer of the Festival
Guide said:  This black bitter uses US and Slovenian hops and is infused with cherries that subtly come through on the aftertaste.
Jay said:  I love the Titanic Brewery.  Their Plum Porter is one of my favourite ales around at the moment.  This one is also very good, though the Plum Porter pips it at the post.  Tonnes of vanilla on the nose, then pure Black Forest Gateau.  Scrap dessert – let’s have a beer.

Beer #6:  Gargle Spanner Stout
Guide said:  No tasting notes were available and I couldn’t find any on line.
Jay said:  Oh dear! The first one not really to my taste.  Too earthy.  Gave it to Dee, who liked it and said something like; dark chocolate, flat and earthy.

Beer #7:  Smith and Pepper
Guide said:  A smooth, golden ale with a zing brought about by the combination of four English hops, with the addition of a delicate, natural ingredient to provide a delightful pepper finish.
Jay said:  Crumbs! That’s unusual.  Naming is accurate and the taste is growing on me.  Nice, light and golden after some proper heavies.  This is a great quaffer.

Beer #8:  Botanical Beer
Guide said:  It’s a modern twist on an age old technique.  Banks’s Botanical Beer has a secret blend of ‘Gruit’ (herbs and spices) to complement and accentuate the hops flavours – spicy, citrusy, peppery and floral.
Jay said:  Sharp and floral on the nose.  Tangy and tart first taste.  Light and refreshing.  Interesting on the tongue.

Beer #9:  Dandelion and Burduck
Guide said:  Dark stout with the flavours of your childhood, well if you’re about 40 or over anyway!  We usually only sell this in our own Badelynge Bar where it goes down a treat!  If you like those flavours you will love this!
Jay said:  Ace!  Luscious coffee stout, hint of childhood fizzy pop, but grown up.  Green Duck do it again :-)

Dee:  As with last year’s festival, the catering was of very good quality.  Early on in the afternoon we shared a great Cornish Pasty from Select Foods.  We went for the traditional pasty, which consisted of steak, potatoes and gravy encased in a neatly formed pasty shell made from light flaky pastry.
Later on we enjoyed a delicious but very messy (isn’t that the best way to enjoy them?) hot pork bap from Pickles of Harbourne, plus a bag of pork scratchings to…erm…keep our energy levels up.

And with that, our second festival was completed.  We’ll be back in 2016.

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