Scribblings from the hard shoulder of the Information Superhighway

Hunting Beer

On Friday, while much of the world was watching the opening of the Beijing Olympics, I attended the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) at Earls Court in London.

This was the 31st GBBF and (I think) the 19th or 20th Ive attended.

This was a fairly poignant afternoon, as my good mate Jon Cheese had attended the GBBF with me in the past; Jon died at the end of August last year, and last years GBBF was the last time my son Gaz and mate Paul had seen Jon alive.

The afternoon became doubly poignant when we learned that Michael Jackson (The Beer Hunter – not the other one) also passed away last August. In fact he died on the same day as Jon, from a heart attack. They were both 65 – well Jon was three weeks shy of his 65th birthday, but whos counting.

Jon and I had met Michael on a number of occasions. Jons wife Jan arranged for Michael to give a tutored beer tasting at Hornchurch library, and a most enjoyable evening was had by all.

At least we know who Jons drinking with, in heaven.

Over the afternoon we sampled a number of fascinating beers, only halves you understand, and strictly for research purposes. These are the ones I remember making notes on:
Landlord (4.3%) Timothy Taylor – this is a classic British ale, and a personal yardstick. Its a full bodied dark amber ale with a slightly nutty taste that distinguishes it from other bitters. Id give this 5 stars every time and its a great beer to kick things off with, setting a high yardstick.
“Chocolate Cherry Mild” (3.8%) by Dunham Massey (I just HAD to try this one!) Dunham Massey are a new micro brewery in Manchester. This won best beer at this summers Chelmsford Beer Festival. A classic, dark mild, The cherry and chocolate flavours came through nicely. Id give this 4 stars, but if they were to brew the same flavour into a full bodied porter, then this would be a world beater.
“Clotworthy Dobbin” (5%) by Northern Irelands Whitewater brewery; I have no idea where the name came from. This was a good, mid bodied dark ale, coming in at 3.5 – 4 stars. The same brewerys “Solstice Ale” (4%) had a rich ruby colour, and was a classic bitter, again 3.5 – 4 stars.
“Eastern Spice” (4.5%) from Okells brewery on the Isle of Man was a bright, very pale bitter, which boasted flavours of Ginger, Coriander and Chilli. And it didnt disapppoint, the initial bitter taste brought with it the merest hint of ginger, followed by a strong coriander flavour, reminiscent of a classic wheat beer. I was wondering where the chilli had gone, but after a few minutes I noticed a slight tingle on my lips. This would be fantastic to go with Thai food, or maybe a midsummer barbecue. 4.5 stars.
Shepherd Neame from Faversham in Kent chose the GBBF to launch their new Canterbury Jack (3.5%) ale, a pale hoppy session beer. They describe it as having citrus notes and the aroma of grapefruit, I found it insubstantial and unsatisfying. 2 stars.
I then decided to experiment with some darker beers…
“Comrade Bill Bartrams Egalitarian Anti-Imperialistic Soviet Stout” (6.9%) – or just “Soviet” on the pump-clip from Bartrams brewery in Suffolk – was, despite its socialistic protestations, a classic Imperial stout. Full bodied, midnight dark and with a rich bitter chocolate flavour. At 6.9% this was deceptively dangerous, it didnt taste as strong as it no doubt was, and one could easily find oneself far worse for wear than expected. 5 stars – no question.
“Bad Medicine” (6.3%) – by the Ulverston brewery in Cumbria was my discovery of the day, another rich, fully bodied porter, with a difference… this one tasted like it had a couple of shots of good espresso coffee added. Another 5 stars.
By now my palate was getting seriously jaded, and despite the Kangaroo burger I was starting to feel the effects, so I moved back to more mainstream beers, and concluded an enjoyable afternoon with a pint of:
“Bombardier” (5.2%) by Charles Wells brewery. Bombardier is being marketed as the beer of England and its another classic bitter, with a rich, dark copper colour and a fine hoppy taste. I finished the session as Id started it, with a real classic. 5 stars.
All in all a splendid afternoon.