This was a slight letdown for me, admittedly I had been looking forward to this because last year’s event was really good, so my mental build-up was part of the disappointment but the lack of beers probably did it more. We guessed that there were going to be a few beers off when on entry we got an extra sheet of new beers sourced for Saturday & Sunday. However in the extra line-up there was a new brewery and a couple of favourites such as Ballard’s Wassail and Sambrook’s popular Wandle so it was looking good although we were a bit worried about which beers would be off.
On entry I got my free half token and wandered off to the bar to order Hogs Back’s ‘A over T’ as I like to start with the strongest beer I fancy from the line-up when go down the scale to the weaker ones. I wasn’t disappointed at all with this one, strong and sweet with a lovely long finish, gorgeous and better than the Thomas Sykes I tried last year. A friend ordered the Sarah Hughes’ Dark Ruby Mild and that really does deserve its reputation as a great festival beer and one that has gone on my list of trusted must tries for events. I am awaiting payday so I can get in a few bottles of these bottles for those self indulgent moments at home although so far I can’t see where to get the Dark Ruby Mild but Hogs Back’s online shop is now a bookmarked page!
The disappointment started when I went up for my second beer of the day, unfortunately due to space issues they didn’t remove a lot of the empty barrels so a typical conversation with the beer staff ran as below;
Me: ‘Can I have half of Old Slug Porter please?’
Staff: ‘Sorry, it’s gone’
Me: ‘Not a problem, I’ll have a half of Midnight Sun Porter then’
Staff: ‘Off again I’m afraid’
Me: ‘Comfortably Numb?’ (Desperate here with a small pleading note in my voice)
Staff: ‘Er…no, sorry’ (I was feeling very sorry for this poor guy)
Me: ‘Shepherd Neame’s Ghost?’
Staff: ‘Yes! We have that’
The staff were great and very helpful but there is only so much good bar staff can do when you are running out of beer even before 1pm on a Saturday. Partly I realise I will have some problem at a Spring Beer Festival as I do prefer darker beers and Spring is the time for lighter brews but the amount of beers were out was by 4pm becoming a joke.
The festival must have realised this was an issue by sourcing new beers quickly for Saturday and Sunday but a fair few were going for ones they really wanted to try because of the advertising, the suggested ladders should have been removed from the bars because they were impossible to do with the amounts gone. They did do printouts for bar listing beers off but beers were running out faster than they could update it.
The Shepherd Neame's Ghost was a lovely smooth stout which I am assuming is called something else as I can't see a stout called Ghost on their website yet. The Manx Pride was very citrusly so much so it shook you awake type rather than the hint of citrus suggested on the tasting notes which would make it a nice pint for a hot summer's afternoon.
From the new brewery Art Brew there was some interesting beers, the Tempest Stout was really spot on, big taste with a lovely long finish. The vanilla beer originally drew the attention of all three of the people I came with but when we first came in it hadn’t settled yet so it wasn’t until later on in the afternoon that we could try it when my partner got it as his next. If it worked then it would have been a interesting taste experience but the so-called ibeer was like taking a sip of a vanilla car freshener, it give amusement to my friend as my face was apparently a picture, serves me right for nicking a sip of someone’s else’s drink without asking whilst they nipped off to the toilets. Of course we shared the ‘joy’ around the table, just too strong on the vanilla and reminded everyone why you don’t make shandy with cream soda. My partner liked their Art Nouveau but it was a tad bitter for me but then I do find that with very hoppy beers with a low abv, however he has said that he would happily drink this as a session beer. Sadly we couldn’t try the Renaissance beer as that was off.
We did enjoy ourselves at the Beer Festival but it was nice to head back down the Falcon and order a beer and actually get your first choice. I am guessing that the success of this year's event caught them by surprise hence the problems we even got the same glasses as last October’s ones last year so they ran out of glasses too!
I know you don’t go for the glass but it is a nice keepsake… *sniff*