Cans – Festival Drinking for the Craft Wanker

So I’ve decided to start reviewing drinks I have at home?

No, not really. Mainly because there are enough beer blogs out there, full of people with far better taste buds than me.

But I figured, seeing as Sonisphere has one of the best metal/rock line-ups in a good 6 years (not the Friday though) that I’d actually go to a music festival and stare-down the annoyance of a lot of other people and the experience that is camping.

A quick word that the beer of the festival is Trooper Ale, an unholy (in a most metal sense) alliance between Iron Maiden and Manchester’s Robinsons Brewery. I have nothing against this beer. I’ve had it in bottles and on cask and while its something I’d call average, it is certainly more welcome than Carlsberg/Tuborg or Strongbow.

But of course I will only be drinking that in the arena section, so what will I be drinking on the camping site?

In days of yore, it was just pallets full of Carling, Fosters, those small kegs of Heiniken and in my latter festival years, boxes of cheap red wine and rum & lemonade hastily pre mixed in plastic because of the “no glass” policy.

But I’ve grown, I’m older, I have an income to which I don’t have to subject myself to cheap, bulk buy crates of mass-produced lager.

Now I can be not just a #craftwanker in my own home, or in central Manchester (or Didsbury, or Chorlton) but now in a field of mud and shit surrounded by 60,000 followers of the metal subculture and all its offshoots.

It also gives me a chance to expand my tastes beyond the usual dark side I’m more prone too, take on some more American Brewers and also see what this beer-in-a-can thing is all about.

The majority of the beer was bought from The Liqour Shop.

But once I’d got home I realised that on a few occasions on trips to Wetherspoons, procured cans from Sixpoint Brewery. You know, part of the Wetherspoons “posh pub” rebranding, which sees them able to offer Yankee “craft” beer at below market rates, leading to some speculating as to whether the over-pricing that is rife in this market will finally come to an end. It won’t.

I thought I’d shoe-horn the 3 beers from Sixpoint into this review. And since they are reduced in a “Summer Sale” to £1.99 maybe they aren’t performing that well, but it depends on your core clientele.

So, my two rules for this were:

Room Temperature – I can’t chill them at a festival, so they will be at ambient (not warm though, I’m not a total heathen).

Out of the Can – the first and last mouthfuls were taken from the can, prior to pouring into a glass, because I’m still at home, I want a photo record (#photocraftwanker) and I’m not drinking out of plastic or completely out of the can unless I have no choice.

All cans, as far as I know, were 355ml.

First off was the much heralded All Day IPA by Founders Brewing (age verification nonsense). At 4.7% I don’t suppose you would drink many of these in a day, its not a “session ale” in the English sense of the word. Very enjoyable. Put it one my festival list.

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What? I told you I don’t do tastings. If I get an overiding sense of something I’ll write it down, but with these things it’s all hops of a muchness for me. It’s either a yarp or a narp.

And I’m not going to go on about IBU’s either.

Next was Dale’s Pale Ale by Oskar Blues Brewery. 6.5% and not my thing. Narp.

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Ska Brewing were next up with their Euphoria Pale Ale. Now I found their Modus Hoperandi IPA to be rather lacklustre. But the 6.2% Euphoria was very nice. Marked on my list.

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Flying Dog Brewery seem to be the most ever-present of the American brewers I’ve seen represented. They even had a permenant place in the fridge in one of my regular haunts (and at damn sight cheaper than you’d find it even in a bottle shop, how I don’t know). Not had a bad Flying Dog brew yet and the 7.1% Snake Dog IPA was no exception. Yarp.

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The Big Swell IPA by Maui Brewing Company was next. 6.8%, smooth and enjoyable. Not my favourite on the list, but on the list nonetheless.

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I then tried The Crisp by the aforementioned Sixpoint. Chilled (in the pub) it was palatable. At ambient it tasted like a mass-produced, slightly tart and too sharp lager. Nope.

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Back to Maui Brewing Company for their 6.0% CoCoNut PorTeR. I’m still in the camp that thinks that whereas IPAs are something Yankees (and Aussies, again I will review their beers soon) have got almost down pat. But I still approach their darker beers with a sense of trepidation. True to my taste buds, I didn’t get much in the way of coconut, toasted or not. Not a bad beer, on my list, but I’ve had far, far better porters, which is not a slight as it is my favourite style.

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Bengali Tiger next. Imagine going into a pub and asking for a can that hasn’t been in the fridge. I think it’s an indictment of some staff in Wetherspoons that I wasn’t asked to leave. This beer, also had chilled and not all that welcoming at ambient is 6.5% and utter gash.

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Finally came the final Sixpoint brew called Sweet Action. 5.2% and I actually like it; chilled or at room temperature. It appeals to my tastebuds. On the list.

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So, there you have it. 9 canned American beers.

2 average. 2 fucking horrible. 5 worthy of taking up space in my tent.

More will be consumed by the time Sonisphere comes around, in the interest of fairness, these will be written about too.

Rock On.

Bolton CAMRA Beer Festival 2014

So, a week after this thing started (taking place between 24th – 26th April 2014) and a further good few days after Beers Manchester reviewed it, here is my review of this wonderful little event.

It is held at the Bolton Ukrainian Club or maybe this Bolton Ukrainian Club (I think they are the same, maybe someone got locked out of their twitter account?)

This is the 2nd time the event has been held here.

About 12 minutes walk from Bolton train station and add another 10 minutes if you get the bus, which you should, because then you can go to Great Ale Year Round.

You should do, apart from being a great bottle shop and micro-bar in one, they also sponsored the volunteer t-shirts…

Bolton Beer Fest Itinerary
Bolton Beer Fest Itinerary

The beer is served by the half pint, the prices ranged from £1.10 to £1.70 per half.

This was met with chagrin by one bloke, bemoaning that some drinks were over £3 a pint (only 2 were + the ciders, all priced more or less by their ABV) who’d brought his own bottle and must have last been to a beer festival in 1976 when beer prices weren’t at the mercy of the escalator.

Of course with any kind of festival that entertains people by their hundreds you will get some moans…

Some even complained there were too many ‘local’ beers…I suppose if you’ve tried them you wish for more choice, but there is no harm in having them again if you liked them first time.

I had a small moan about the festival last year…

I went to this event in 2013, I didn’t have this blog to write about it and I was fairly new to twitter.

If ever my paranoia about not going to the early sessions of a beer festival have haunted me it was the 2013 hosting of this event.

Basically the people of Bolton love dark beers and they had very nearly ran dry on the Saturday I went down – this was broadcast to me constantly (and innocently) over twitter as almost a tease.

But I still got down there and had a damn fine time with what beers were left (there were plenty of others to go at).

This year I went to all sessions. I tried more or less of all the drinks. One of the reasons this has taken so long to compose is how do I review the 50+ beers I tried over the 3 days?

In short, I can’t.

In shorter, there was only 1 beer I truly didn’t like and I didn’t like it when I first tried it and was experimenting to see if my palate had changed, it hadn’t, it is still pants.

But I still can’t review 49 beers. So I figured I’d just review the festival itself.

17.

17 Milds, Stouts and Porters.

17.

Now I did here chatter that this time there were too many dark beers. But I’m never going to complain about that. Too many dark beers is not a statement I’d ever be at odds with.

Though I can understand people’s trepidation. But that still left 33 non-dark beers to go at, plus the 8 Ciders & Perries.

As did the steady stream of punters coming through the doors, milling around the fairly large, open planned main hall, or sitting in the back area/dining room.

The food was never more than £4 and ranged and it was all good stodge. Curry, chilli, burgers, sausages, veggie lasagne and Steak Canadian with lashing of onions, plus a few sarnies.

It was here that I met the aforementioned ‘Beers Manchester’ or rather he met me, after all, I’d been coyly expressing my the love of my anonymity and it is fun trying to put faces to people’s twitter accounts, or in lieu of a photo, their words. I was picked out by Dan and Gina of ‘Great Ales’ and my thoroughly underwhelming appearance was well and truly divulged.

Still the necessary social lubrication was in abundance that I didn’t have to find my usual quiet spot, plus I can chat given (much like Baccara) a certain mood or because of the relentless friendliness of all those in attendance.

Oh, I can’t, I have to mention some beers…
Deeply Vale Brewery had the always excellent DV8 4.8% stout and their Tipsy Porridge Stout (5.5%) which one beer of the festival.

Other excellent and purely coincidentally dark brews were:

Five Points Brewing with their Railway Porter (4.8%).

Great Heck Brewery and the Voodoo Mild (4.3%)

Ramsbottom Craft Brewery and their very quick selling Chocolate Porter (4.2%)

The 6.0% Manifesto Strong Stout by Revolutions Brewing Co.

Three Quarter Porter (4.5%) by Stringers.

Outstanding Beers and their 4.4% Red.

Blackedge Brewing and their 4.6% Dark Rum. Their One Citra (4.3%) was also a highlight of the lighter ales.

Along with Hand Drawn Monkey Beers with their 2.8% Smaller IPA.

So with that it is thanks to the many volunteers; Gill, Graham, Linda, Peter, Jez and all the others, and the kitchen staff and the staff of the Bolton Ukrainian Club.

Same time next year I’d hope.