I am able to try an IPA from Nøgne Ø, of which we have never heard before. I find it has notes of varnish and isn’t overly drinkable – I can just taste alcohol rather than beer. Him Outdoors claims it’s ‘flowery’ – maybe jonquils then, as their fragrance gives me a violent headache. He has got an Imperial Stout so we swap – this is very, very nice; black with dark brown froth.
The boys turn up with a none-too-fresh-looking chilli in a beer glass. It’s a gimmick lager which bites your tongue from Mussel Inn. Why would you do that to a beer? It’s just silly. To be fair, when the Weevil arrives (two hours late) and wants to catch up, she aims immediately for something she knows she likes, the Monkey Puzzle Extra Strong Ale from the same place, which she announces is ‘a good starter’.
There are talks throughout the evening on such topics as ‘beer and cheese matching’, ‘brewing organically’, ‘the right glass for your beer’ and ‘women and beer mythbusters’. An announcement over the public address system keeps reminding us that these talks are on, but although I would like to listen to Neil Miller and Martin Bosley talk about food and beer, I don’t feel that now is the right time to do so when I am too busy sampling the delights myself – I’ll get a curry later; that will do for food and beer matching tonight.
I am bought a random beer which turns out to be an IPA from the Twisted Hop. My notes at this point read ‘Lovely. I like it. More of this sort of thing’. I am finding it increasingly difficult to balance my pen, programme and camera, and also to write coherent notes evidently.
As Him Outdoors talks to strangers he finds a long-haired ale-lover from Stockport. He actually lives in Auckland and has come down this weekend especially for the beer festival. He is in raptures over the Great End ESB at the Peak Brewery. We try it and I can see why. It is cask conditioned and served via a hand-pull it tastes like something I would expect to find in Coniston. It claims to be ‘extra strong and extra bitter’; my notes read ‘very strong, very fruity and a little bit extra.’ The Weevil reckons it tastes like a Scottish Cal 80, Bellhaven; she’s all for her comparisons.
When we try the Old House ESB from the Townshend Brewery, she decides it is like a Tetley's Mild from Haddon Hall. Just in case I don’t realise how high praise this is, she adds, ‘This is the best beer I’ve had in New Zealand’. The brewing chaps are a little concerned when she asks for ‘more of your finest flattest beer please’ until she bats her big brown eyes and tells them she loves it. I’m impressed too (by the beer rather than the eyes – I’ve seen them all my life) and although it smells slightly of cabbage, it is flat and fulsome and English-tasting.
We head back up to the Arrow Brewing Company for Some Wee Heavy Scotch Ale which is pleasant and sweet and, well...heavy. The chaps provide tasting notes which claim it contains flavours of toffee and orange brandy’. At this stage I think we should probably take their word for it. The Weevil notes, ‘Another flat one – but more fruity Kiwi style’. Him Outdoors has finished noting things. In fact, I think he has misplaced his programme but he has appointed himself chief photographer, hence lots of blurred shots of drinkers’ feet.
We save the best until (nearly) last and savour a drop of Pot Kettle Black from Yeastie Boys. It is still the best beer in show, and they have pretty smart t-shirts too. It’s like a Terry’s Chocolate Orange with hops and alcohol: very tasty indeed!The adjacent stall is the Green Man Brewery apparently trying to save the world one beer at a time. We join them by starting with an IPA, which is reminiscent of bananas and cloves in a totally nice and tasty, and finishing shortly afterwards with the Strong, which is strong and tasty. I must admit to trying this last time round and not remembering a whole lot afterwards. After a couple of sips of this blend of Dopplebock matured on whisky barrel wood and blended with Best Bitter, a similar thing seems to happen. Is this déjà bu?
So in summation, my top 5 in no particular order are:
Tobin’s Cask Ale – Arrow Brewing Company; Tricerahops Double IPA – Ninkasi; Old House ESB – Townshend Brewery; Great End ESB – Peak Brewery; Yeastie Boys – Pot Kettle Black