33rd Peterborough Beer Festival

Headed off to Peterborough on the 5pm train with ‘Rob’ @gxusm to sample the delights of the Peterborough Beer Festival—one of the larger ones (and bigger than Cambridge). Peerborough Beer Fest 33 Very fast to get into the festival, owing to a sensible system for paying in advance for glasses which avoided the double queue issue. Huge double-tent layout with lots of beers. We sat outside for a while sipping beer, which was pleasant until the dusk came and the wind picked up and we headed back into the tent which was balmy and busy by comparison, Michael arrived about an hour later and tried his best to catch up with stronger beers. Ate a lovely steamed steak and kidney pudding for dinner from one of the stalls (shame there was no mustard)! We spent most of the night sitting at a table in one of the hospitality areas, which was very hospitable, but I suspect we had gatecrashed along with everyone else who was in there. 10pm train back to Cambridge, before tottering home.

Beers for the evening:

  • Nobby’s — Nobby’s Nutz, a festival special golden ale, 4.2%. Good start to the evening.
  • Loch Leven Brewery — Golden Goose, a red coloured ale in 80/- style. Lovely.
  • Malt B Bewing Company — Old Reliable, another copper coloured ale, 4.2%  Good but not as impressive as Michael’s Thornbridge Colorado Red.
  • Brewdog5am Saint from Aberdeenshire 5% ruby ale which was lovely.
  • Het Anker — Gouden Carolus Classic, 8.5%. Chosen exclusively for the write-up in the Festival Programme “Gigantic thick head. Rich, creamy mouth feel. Banana is right up front with some peach and a hint of citrus”. How could I refuse? Nice way to end the evening.


Great British Beer Festival

On our way back from Southampton Michael and I dropped in to the trade session of the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court. BIG beer event, with lots of bars, somewhat confusingly laid out. I liked the Bombadier Bar/Bus, which we sat next to for much of the afternoon.

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I started with a dark beer from the ‘Young and Upcoming Breweries Bar’—Richmond Swale, a dark chocolate malt [described as (3.7% ABV) is a smooth full flavoured brew using chocolate malt amongst others, and traditional English hops]. This wasn’t the right beer for me (too dark) and I would have preferred Michael’s Prescott Hill Climb. Followed up this with a lighter, fruitier beer, Ulverston Lonesome Pine (fruity honeyed lemon zesty) which I really enjoyed. Jonathan sent me a note on twitter—

@JetPlane “Ulverston -> Lonesome Pine” – Ulverston (in Cumbria) is the birthplace of Stan Laurel (& where I went to school for a few years)

that added to my enjoyment! I was excited to see that Orkney Red McGregor was on the list, but sadly it wasn’t ready, shame, it’s a lovely beer. So I grabbed another Orkney Beer from the same bar (seemingly about 5 mins walk from where we sat)—Highland Orkney Blast (6% barley wine, oops!). Now I was on the strong beers my time was limited, and had for my last beer a wonderful draft oak-aged Flemish brown beer with cherries: Verhaeghe Echte Kriekenbier. Too easy to drink (and 6.8%).

The surroundings at GBBF are not nearly as relaxing as the Cambridge Beer Festival. A few times there was an awful pipe and drum band marching around (like an Orange March) promoting a brewery and the noise of chatter (even for the trade session) echoed around the hall. So I wasn’t too sad to leave the place, but was rather sad to leave the 790 untried beers!


37th Cambridge Beer Festival

The weather took a turn for the chillier yesterday cbf37_simple.png but was still great for the second day of the Cambridge Beer Festival.



Michael raided the cheese and scotch eggs, and I had a pork pie and plump Bottisham smoked eel (which was good, as good as eel can get). Jason and Dylan were sipping the mead—dangerous.

Christmas break in Oxford

This will probably end up sounding like a pub crawl.

We booked a couple of nights in Oxford to combine a trip to see Michael’s family and to have a quick break in a different town, and try some new pubs. Michael bought the new iPhone Good Beer Guide especially (and it was pretty good). On our way to Oxford Tony entertained us to a lovely lunch (spicy turkey tortillas) and Gemma took me out to visit the sales in Bicester Village. The combination worked a treat—I bought a Le Creuset Wok as I’d been impressed by Tony’s. Michael and Hannah played “Up Words”.

Ethos Hotel Oxford

In Oxford. we stayed at Ethos Hotel, off Abingdon Road. The hotel is new and all the doors have fancy electronic locks and keypads. Shame they didn’t have fancy sound insulation—we moved from our first room after 15 mins because of the couple next door who seemed set for a night of loud television and partying. The other room was great though and very comfortable. The hotels only 10 mins walk from town and we started off our trip with a visit to Jamie’s Italian restaurant. The restaurant is rather deceiving—it looks small from the outside as it’s only possible to see a small area of the seating—once inside there is a masses of room, and masses of people. It had a great atmosphere and really good waitering staff. The food was good: Michael had an antipasti plank and I had salt and pepper squid, then for mains we had some lovely pasta. Enjoyed the organic house wine (it was ‘rustic’):

Brilliant quality wine made from organic grapes, bought by us in eco-friendly tetra pak cartons and decanted for you.

Nicely balanced soft raspberry fruit.

After dinner we went to the first of our pubs—I need to refer to twitter here! Had a pint of lovely Razzle Dazzle at the Far From the Madding Crowd which is now my favourite Oxford pub. Lovely beer (I really enjoyed the Loddon Razzle Dazzle). Great atmosphere and free wi-fi. Nice sofas to relax in, and a good airy feel.


Followed this with a visit to Oxford’s smallest pub, the White Horse. Cosy and small, and sandwiched between two Blackwells shops. I had a pint of White Horse Wayland’s Smithy and Michael tried the Rudolph the Red Nosed White Horse: both good beers. Followed up with a nice pint of Shotover Prospect brewed in Oxford.

Wayland Smithy 4.4%

smithy-s_large.jpgThe power of the blacksmith is legendary so this beer combines the best ingredients money can buy and the skills of the traditional brewer to create a hammering good beer. Red like the fire at its heart and balanced with buckets of aromatic hops it’s enough to give other brewers the hump.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Whitehorse 4.8%
rednose-s_large.jpgAs the snow piles up against the door and the wind whistles over the Santa sized Chimney of the pub, it’s time to find a beer of noble heart and passionate tradition.Chestnut red in colour the extravagance of this beer begins before you even raise it to your expectant lips, the explosion of flavour will transfix the tongue, warm citrus and candid peel flavours mix with the dryness of a drawn out fermentation. New season hops reach for the sweetness of the purest English malt.

IMG_0577.JPG White Horse in Oxford

Next day we visited the newly refurbished Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archeology, opened by the Queen a dew weeks ago. The building was pretty impressive, light and airy and with fantastic modern exhibitions. Enjoyed the display of Britannia in coins and the art and architecture about the £61 million renovations. This quote from the Director in particular struck true:

because the curation of the exhibitions was great—the best I’ve seen. The displays started out to tell a story, and illustrated that with the art or exhibitions. That might be what you would expect from a good display, but here it seems to have been implemented with the story telling at heart, and it was very engaging.
Ashmolean Museum
Headed to another nice pub for lunch—the Kings Arms. Michael has some very rich traditional faggots (with lots of liver in them) and I had a (traditional for me) Scampi and Chips. The Young’s beer was very nice: I got a pint of Winter Warmer ale and swapped it for Michael’s Young’s Special, which was lighter and went better with the scampi.

King's Head, OxfordKings Arms
Had a wander along the river, past Isis Lock (linking the Oxford Canal with the Thames) and through Jericho, then for a rest back in the hotel (via a small coffee shop).

Isis Lock
Had dinner at a place recommended by a colleague, Chang Mai Kitchen, in a lovely old 1630’s building. Great locations and setting. The food was good we went for a nice spicy meal. Met with Tony at his recommended pub—the Eagle and Child Inn which was a bit disappointing—a bit cold and tables were a real state, and they were playing music (uncharacteristically). I had a pint of Amber Ale, which was fine. We pegged it from there past the closed Lamb and Flag (disappointing) and on to the Far from the Madding Crowd, for another beer! Had to wave goodbye to Tony at the stage, but we carried on the Royal Blenheim which was pretty quiet by the time we got there. Michael had fancied a gin martini, but he sensibly opted for a Burton Bridge Porter and I had a lovely Everards Beacon (and gently steered by the landlord, sitting on the wrong side of the bar).
Great trip to Oxford—bit of a pub crawl really, and very enjoyable for it. Visited Elisabeth for a cup of tea on the way home.

Another summer beer fest gone…

fulllogo-015.gifThat’s the end of the Cambridge Beer Festival, at least for me! We’ve been lucky with the weather, no rain! Great beer, and I think they very well might have sold the 80,000 pints they projected. Need to wait another 12 months for the next big event of the beer year!

Line-up of the latest beers:

  • Tydd Steam Barn Ale—From Wisbeach, 3.9%
  • Bewdley Old School Bitter—A full bodied, traditional flavour with hoppy finish, 3.8%
  • Concrete Cow Cock n Bull Story—Dark amber, malty flavour (named after the two pubs in Stony Stratford where the phrase originated), 4.1%
  • Hexhamshire Whapweasel—A burn in the Shire, a Curlew’s whistle is the origin of the name. A smooth strong golden bitter. Caramalt, Crystal malt and Goldings hops combine to give a smooth mouth feel, 4.8%
  • Hawkshead Lakeland Red—A Red Ale. Bitter-sweet. Malty and spicy, with a long dry finish, using Fuggles as the aroma hop.The red colour comes from Dark Crystal malt, 4.2%
  • Bragdy’r Nant Chawden Aur—lovely welsh beer, from Conwy, 4.3%
  • Poachers Monkey Hanger—Ruby red bitter, monkey hanger comes from a tale about a Hartlepool Shipwreck, 4.5%.

My top beers were all red (of course!): Keswick Thirst Blossom, Pitfield Red Ale, Tydd Steam Barn Ale.

Matt might have some photo’s from his Blackberry yesterday, threatened to put them on Facebook: (and here they are (below) added 24th May

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36th Cambridge Beer Festival

Had fulllogo-015.gifa couple of short nights at the Cambridge Beer Festival, dinner and a couple of pints.

So far I’ve tried:

  • Keswick Thirst Blossom—A golden bitter with a beautiful exotic fruit aroma, 4.1%
  • Moonshine 800 Years of Innovation—brewed in Cambridge and described as “Gruit ale, sweet Gale, Wormwood, Caraway and Wild Rosemary are used instead of hops to flavour this ale. It is said Gruit ale stimulates the mind, creates euphoria and enhances sexual drive!!”. Sadly, it smelt like a drain and I poured it away (it was the end of the barrel mind)
  • Wolf Straw Dog—Pale and refreshing, this clear wheat beer is brewed in the German style. Soft German hops added to the brew give a wonderful aroma and slightly sweet taste to leave the imbiber wanting more!, 4.5%
  • Pitfield Red Ale
  • Green Tye Union Jack, brewed in Much Hadham, “A copper coloured bitter, fruity with a citrus taste and a hoppy citrus aroma and a balanced bitter finish”

The Keswick Thirst Blossom and the Pitfield Red Ale were best so far (both red beers). Moonshine had brewed a whole series in celebration of Cambridge Universities 800th anniversary this year.

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Booze on the Ouse, St Neots

Had a great day at Booze on the Ouse, this time at St Neots. The bus out wasn’t one of the highlights and I arrived a little bit queazy but sure that the beer would help me recover!


Graham had:

Michael had (mainly half pints of):

  • Potton ‘The Village Bike’

The weather was really superb, and we spent the whole time outside of the (rather dull) Priory Centre, in the full sun with a lovely view over the Ouse. It was quiet outside. The area was nominally the smoking area, but luckily hardly anyone was smoking. All four beers I had were great: the most interesting being the  CaracoleAmbree‘ which was incredibly lively out the bottle, with over half a pint of head. No duffers! The Belgian Beer selection was really good, so I had more foreign beer than I normally would.

Tydd Stream 'Flatlanders Gold' Graham, Booze on the Ouse More Booze on the Ouze

Booze on the Ouze
In the evening we had our first BBQ of the year, which was uplifting! It was dusk by the time we ate our M&S burgers (indoors by then). We shared a bottle of Green King Abbot with dinner to continue the theme of the day. One of the problems of daytime drinking is that you sober up by the evening, which is now for me!

Winter Ale Festival

waf_13_logo.pngThank goodness for Twitter! Thanks to Twitter I remember what I had to drink last night at the CAMRA Winter Ale Festival. I had a 25 min queue to get in which wasn’t great, and then I ended up on my own because Michael couldn’t face the queue (and I don’t blame him!).


  • Devil’s Dyke Winter Ale, made in Reach in Cambridgeshire. 4.2%
  • Hopshackle Historic Porter, made in Market Deeping, Lincolnshire, 4.8%
  • Iceni Men of Norfolk was quite chocolaty, from Mundford in Norfolk, 6%

Had a chat with Hilary and her partner, and had a taste of his 10% Elveden Harwich Charter Ale, from Thetford, which was very nice indeed. These were all half pints but even so I was pretty tipsy! Met MIchael at the Free Press afterwards for an IPA! I think overall the beers were weaker this year.


Cambridge Octoberfest

image1286250167.jpgMichael came to the CAMRA Octoberfest last night and tried six beers. The best were the Sparkling Moon and the Smokey Moon from Cambridge Moonshine. Apparently the “ridiculously strong” German bock was also good (8 %). Still lots left to try this afternoon.

Green Tye, Autumn Rose, tawny colour fruit and hops.
Saffron, Silent Night, dark ruby porter with port and red grape juice (very rich, possibly a good beer for generating a hangover).
Milton, Aecht Bertucler Rauchenbier (7%)

Bull Box, Mid Life Crisis 4.5%
Paulaner Oktoberfestbier 6%
Hopshackle, Double Momentum, 7% Old English style IPA

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