Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Anglia Craft Brewers Real Ale Festival

The 4th annual showcase was held at The Victoria Inn, Colchester on the 7th November, billed as a festival of future champions, I don't think I am in a position to disagree with this statement.

There were 15 beers presented, covering a range of styles dispensed straight from both the cask and keg.

Entry to the festival was by ticket only, purchased in advance and limited to 100. 12 x 1/3 tasters plus some food was excellent value for £12.

In addition to the above there were 3 tutored tasting sessions, which one of my friends (Justin Mason @1970sBOY*) very kindly signed me up for prior to my arrival. Sessions 2 and 3 were well attended, and allowed me to sample all of the beers available, unfortunately session 1 took place before I got there.

The festival introduced me to a style of beer that I was originally completely unaware of - Braggot**, which hails from Cornwall. There were two versions of this beer on show, and both may have been true to style, but, they were not for me. Notes of honey, mead, medicine, as well as some apple sour flavours, simply confuse me, not sure I will revisit any time soon. Although with predictions of a hop shortage in the near future perhaps this style of beer might be brewed by more people.

There were a couple of hop bombs that stood out for me - HopHopHop @ 7.2% by Jon Wood and Something Hoppy @ 4.8% by Colin Miller. Still amazes me how these guys do this, perhaps the use of magic and ancient rituals?
HopHopHop was a rather wonderful India Pale Ale, using Summit, Cascade and Centennial hops (reading from official programme notes now) with great lingering bitterness. I managed to have this twice. My own notes "Hops! Big, chewy and balanced".
Something Hoppy is described as a stronger session golden ale, made with the birthday boy of malt - Marris Otter and hopped with German Brewers Gold. My notes - "Does what it says on the tin".

There were also two standout dark beers - Cherry Porter @ 5.5% by Colin Miller and Salamander @ 6% by Claire Barrett. Qudos to both of these brewers, Colin for being very consistent (I also enjoyed his offering last year, another dark beer) and Claire for sharing her first brew with all of us.
Cherry Porter was based on an old 1850 recipe, utilising real cherries as well as El Dorado hops. I definitely got cherry on the nose, lovely mouthfeel, with a bitter lingering finish.
Salamander is a chocolate chilli stout, using Marris Otter and Chocolate Malt mash, using Northern Brewer hops and home grown chilli's. The chilli chocolate is prevalent on both nose and palate with a lovely warming mouth feel finish.

All of the beers, whether to my tastes or not were well presented/made, and all were worth a try.
I have been to the last two home brew festivals hosted by the rather wonderful Victoria Inn (@victoriainncol) and will hopefully be at the next one.

Until next time, that's all folks! (Apart from the bits below).

*Justin, I am sure, will be sharing his thoughts on both the beers and brewers in the near future (some of whom he accosted sorry - interviewed), so, keep your eyes peeled for that blog.

**Braggot is a form of mead made with both honey and barley malt. It typically uses 1/3 or more malt and may have as much as 50% malt.
An ancient drink popular in medievial Europe, traditionally without hops. Chaucer and others wrote about the merits of Braggot, though its origins are much earlier as both mead and malt based drinks date back to ancient times.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Untappd and me

In one of my recent blogs I let it be known that I had become an Untappd supporter, effectively I now subscribe by paying a small fee per month. The only other one I currently pay for is Endomondo, a fitness app that I use to track my running.
Now, you may ask why I have done this, what's the point? What do I get for my money?
Good questions, and I shall endeavour to answer them.
I love lists and stats, hence an app such as Untappd appeals to this side of me, it is also very orderly and very neat, another plus for me (it is possible I have a touch of OCD). My access to lists and stats has now increased thanks to being a supporter.
It serves as a diary of the beers I have tried, many a time I have forgotten I have had a beer, then I see that star in the top right hand corner and realise that at some point, somewhere, I have tried it. At this point I often look to see what I had rated it previously, and the comments I noted in the past, perhaps I have changed or the beer has, if so, comment and rating might both be updated.
While attending a local home brew festival recently, a friend of mine was chatting to one of the brewers, his dark beer had gone down a treat and i asked him if he had brewed and presented a beer at the same showcase in 2014, he confirmed he had. I searched, found him, and upon checking discovered that i thoroughly enjoyed his offering from last year too.
I like the fact that your check-in and comments can be shared via your social media vehicle of choice, sometimes it can open a real discussion point. On other occassions, it can be commiserations, something that happened to me the day before I went to Indy Man Beer Con, when I went to a friend's wedding. My choices on the day ranged from the bad, the ugly and the OMG what were you thinking?!?!

Badges! I love 'em. For me it is all part of the fun, especially true during bottle shares and beer festivals. The badges certainly came into their own in September when a number of people donated to MacMillan (#bigbeerynight) based on how many badges were collected over an agreed period. In fact, one person, who shall remain nameless (@MylesLambert) got a six bagger for one beer check-in. Needless to say, abuse soon followed!
I am part of a community and by paying a relatively small sum of money each month i feel that i am contributing to that community. I have a number of friends on Untappd, some of them i know personally, some i have met and some i will probably never come into contact with, but, i do like seeing what others are drinking and the comments/ratings that come with the check-in.

There are some who have fallen out of love with Untappd, and, that is ok, not all relationships are meant to last. For me, Untappd adds to the beery experience, and for the foreseeable future i intend to remain a fan.