The beer necessities

For the mirror shows many things. Things that were, things that are, and some things that have not yet come to pass.


And that leads us nicely on to today’s blog post about beer festivals. Doesn’t it?

To be a little bit more specific, today we’re looking at festivals that have happened, festivals that are about to happen, and one that has not yet come to pass. See, it all makes sense suddenly. Doesn’t it?

We will start with a quick mention about the festival that is about to happen. The 2014 Tuckers Maltings beer festival will be held in Newton Abbot from today through to Saturday. This fantastic old malthouse will be home to 250 local South West beers and, with entertainment, food and t-shirts (yes, that really is the fourth promotional feature listed on their website) then there is something for everyone. Unless you don’t like beer. Or t-shirts.

Mrs RB and I both had a great time last year and we will be there again this year on Friday so please say hello if you see us and we can raise a glass together.

Maltings Beer Festival

As for the festivals that have been and gone, Mrs RB and I spent last Saturday afternoon at the Bay Horse in Totnes enjoying their Easter Beer Festival. You may remember that the Bay Horse is home to one of the people behind our favourite new local brewery, the New Lion Brewery, and we were pleased to see that they had two beers on the list. We will come back to them, though, as there were plenty of other breweries to try as well; the pub had put on a good selection.

Bay Horse festival

I started with Barum Original from the Barum Brewery in Barnstaple. This was a light and lively beer, golden in colour with a hoppy aroma and a nice fruity flavour. A good starting point and a chance to have a beer from a brewery I’ve not tried before. Terrible website though. Next up was Church Ledge from Noss Beer Works, another new brewery for me. This was a good follow-up to the Barum Original: another hoppy, light beer, an IPA in this case, with a nice zip to it.

It’s worth pausing at this point, nicely refreshed as we are, to have a truly delicious burger from the excellent Kitchen Table barbecue. Thai pork for Mrs RB and lamb and garlic for me, with bread rolls from the local Seeds2Bakery and a heap of coleslaw and salad. And then back to the beer.

Kitchen Table BBQ

There’s a burger in there somewhere

Mrs RB had moved on to the New Lion Brewery Totnes Stout, a vegan-friendly stout that was surprisingly light, with hints of cereal and a generally tasty disposition. I was trying the Dry Irish Stout from Isca Ales, not least because this Devon-based brewery starts with the letter I, a letter that has been hard to come by so far in my Devon A-Z challenge. This is a very dark beer, with tan and amber hints to it. It’s also a dry beer, starting with coffee and chocolate flavours before cutting off quite quickly at the end.

I am a fan of Teignworthy beers (brewed at Tuckers Maltings, home to the above-mentioned beer festival) and it seemed an opportune moment to try Easter Daze, a sweeter beer with some red berry flavours (and I could taste them, I promise). This is a richer beer and it may have been even a little too sweet, but I quite liked it. Mrs RB is a sucker for ruby beers and was trying Silverton Ruby from Exe Valley brewery, which is nicely balanced with some nice roasted malt flavours and a dry finish.

And we cannot finish this run down without a mention of the second New Lion Brewery beer, the strongest on the list. Their American Pale Ale is hop-heavy, as you might expect, a dark copper colour infused with lots of American hops. We really liked this; it has a slight sweetness that just takes the edge off of the hop bitterness to balance the beer. A great beer to finish on before we toddled off into the late afternoon sunshine to catch our bus home.

The sunshine wasn’t quite so apparent back in January for the Exeter and East Devon CAMRA 2014 festival of winter ales. Held at St James’ Park, home to Exeter City football club, it was transformed for one weekend only into a home for beer-swilling middle-aged men. Normally it’s home to… hmm, let me rethink that.

CAMRA winter 2014

There was a selection of over 60 beers and they all tended towards the heavier, more robust end of the spectrum, as befitting a winter beer festival. Some highlights for me were:

  • Festive Frolics from Branscombe Vale: not quite as sweet as the Whistlemas below and more balanced because of it; very pleasant.
  • Solstice from Tavy Ales: described as “brown, with a strong fruit aroma, malty sweet cream soda taste, dry marmalade aftertaste”, which I couldn’t really disagree with, as it turns out.
  • Dark Night from Clearwater Brewery: darker and with more malt flavours, this had a slightly unusual, but not unpleasant taste.
  • Indiana’s Bones from Summerskills Brewery in Plymouth: very smooth and very sweet, this isn’t one you could drink a lot of (well I couldn’t anyway).
  • Winter Glow from Exe Vale (they of the Silverton Ruby mentioned above): last year’s festival winner, this is a strong 6% and it tastes it too; smooth, sweet and balanced, I wrote down that this was very “fall-over-able”. I fear I may have been getting a bit carried away.
  • Old Market Monk from Holsworthy: up to 6.1% by now and starting to feel it, this is a sweet and malty beer, with no real bitterness and some interesting coffee aromas.
  • Whistlemas from the Beer Engine brewery pub: a fruity, sweet beer that wasn’t at all bitter, but was still a nice beer (it’s 6.8% by the way).

Penguin glassYou have to remember that, as with most festivals, you are only drinking half pints, or sometimes even just thirds, so this isn’t quite as debauched as it may first appear. Having said that, the alcohol content of these winter beers was higher than average, and it did start to take its toll after a while. That may explain why it suddenly seemed like a good idea to finish off with a half pint of the 8.1% Devil’s Walkabout from the Topsham Brewery. It was meant to have a fresh, crisp apple aroma but that was sadly lost on me. What I did get was a smooth, warming beer that tastes as strong as you might expect from that ABV. It doesn’t try to hide its alcohol content, but embraces it fully.

It was a good way to finish, before we plunged back into the cold winter’s afternoon to go in search of some food and the bus home.

“But wait”, you cry, “those are the beer festivals that have been and the beer festival that is happening now, but what about the one that has yet to pass?”

Keen watchers of the Upcoming Events page will know that the Occombe Farm Beer Festival is coming up on Friday 6 and Saturday 7 June. They will also know about as much as me about the event itself. We’ve not been before, although it sounds pretty good from the website, and so I cannot tell you anything more about it. All I know is that it’s great that we get these opportunities, every now and again, to spend a few hours trying some different beers; beers that you probably wouldn’t get to try otherwise.

Why not search out a local festival near you and see what’s on offer?



6 thoughts on “The beer necessities

  1. Looks like a great time.
    I just bottled a batch of IPA yesterday. It’s conditioning now in the garage where it should be about 50-55F for the next few weeks. Should be tasty!

      • It does take time and is an involved process. I only brew once in a while. If you brew every month or so you can learn the ins and outs and become good at it.
        My batch cost about US$60 to make and I got about 5 gallons of the freshest ale possible.
        A friend of mine actually grows hops in his back yard, as does a neighbor. I’m going to use their hops for my next batch.
        Give it a try. Don’t buy one of those boxed kits.

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