I hadn’t done too badly. I had scoured the supermarkets, browsed the bottle shops, ordered online and surveyed the service stations. I had found 42 of the 50 beers on the Year in Beer list.
The trouble was, I still needed to find the last eight.
I may have four months to go until the end of the challenge, but you need to plan ahead. If I don’t find the beers, I can’t drink them. If I can’t drink them, there goes the Year in Beer challenge.
Where do I look next? It’s not as though one of these beers is just going to magically appear in front of me. Is it?
In April of each year, Tuckers Maltings in Newton Abbot holds a beer festival. The sun was shining, it was a Saturday. Newton Abbot is only about 20 minutes away from us by bus. It would seem silly not to make the most of this opportunity.
Despite Saturday being the last of the three days of the festival, there was a healthy supply of beers still being stocked. This situation was being heartily addressed by the large crowd, who were doing their best to drink the place dry before it closed at 11:00 that night. Entering the festival, you are presented with a programme and a commemorative glass. And what should I find within that programme? One of the final eight!
And not only that, it was one that I had imagined would be very hard to track down. The Liberation Brewery is based in the Channel Islands and I hadn’t seen any of their beers in any of the shops (on and offline) that I had visited. Yet here it was. Part of a South West beer festival 20 minutes from my front door. Amazing. I will give Liberation Ale my full attention in April’s Year in Beer entry, but suffice to say that I was very pleased to be sat in the sunshine supping that particular beer.
The festival had a great array of beers from across the South West (including the Channel Islands!) and I made my way through several over my time there. Having found some Liberation beers, I made the most of the opportunity and tried their IPA as well (well balanced between zesty and malty). There was a premium ale from Bays with some nice flavours in the middle but not a great deal else, an RCH beer (Double Header) with a great balance of malts and fruity overtones and a dark lager from The Rebel Brewing Co (Bulhorn) that had satisfying malt flavours. By the time I came to An Howl from Penpont brewery, my critical abilities had regressed to scribbling “nice!” in the margin of my programme.
I left the beer festival a happy (and slightly merry) man. A beer festival may seem like a magnet for greying men with beer bellies, and I would be lying if I said that they were not admirably represented, but it is a lot of fun for anyone with even a passing interest in good beer. With the sun shining, a burger van (a good one!) parked outside, live music playing and, in a move that is surely going to get the club secretary seriously reprimanded for arranging that fixture, a local league football match playing next door, there was lots to keep you occupied. Plus lots and lots of beer.
But even after unexpectedly crossing off another beer from the list, I still have seven to find. Yes, I can probably order them in bulk from the breweries, but that’s not the aim. I don’t really want to have to order an entire case just to try one beer.
So the search continues. As at the end of April, these are the final seven I am missing:
- Ilkley Brewery Siberia
- Kelham Island Pale Rider
- Otley O-Garden
- Triple fff Alton’s Pride
- Monty’s Sunshine
- Ramsgate Brewery Gadd’s Black Pearl Oyster Stout
- Cairngorm Black Gold
If you happen to spot any of these on your travels, you couldn’t let me know could you? Cheers!