National Winter Ales Festival 2012

It’s National Winter Ales Festival time again and time to indulge in all it has to offer along with some of the other great ale houses in Manchester.

No visit to Manchester would be complete without a trip to The Marble Arch home to the always impressive Marble Brewery, I arrived at 12:30 to find it already a bustle of brewers, trade folk and beer lovers of all kinds. I started with a Marble Port Stout, a little dark and heavy at 4.7% for an opener perhaps but the title sucked me in. No mistakes here it’s rich, succulent and does exactly what it says on the tin, good call.

As I was at the bar I noticed one of the brewers handing out samples of a new beer, which he then proceeded to circulate with around the pub with glasses of dark delight, checking the posters on the wall I could see it was the 1888 Ginger Stout and had only been launched at 12pm that very day. I opted for the obligatory taster (of course, free beer tastes best) before ordering a bottle to share with Steve from Aletalk.

Not surprisingly it’s a great beer and the ginger works really well in the stout. There were a few folks giving out WOW’s etc “this is really heavy on the ginger”, nonsense, the ginger is really subtle in the background of what is a really chocolatey stout. It reminded me of a good quality Belgian chocolate interlaced with stem ginger. I really wish I’d bought a bottle to taste again at home. 😦

No time to cry over missed beer opportunities, it was onward and upwards with another Marble classic in the remaking Lagonda Trial No6. So named I believe as the are trialling new hop varieties in the original recipe, if this is a trial I say make it, it tastes ace!! Last call to the bar before I hit the fest courtesy of the back of a kindly brewers van was back to the Port Stout, I know I should have tried another but hey, I liked it.

So I finally arrive courtesy of my Chauffeur(ette) driven limo and am personally welcomed to the festival by the Lord Mayor of Manchester, local combo Elbow playing an acoustic version of “On a day like this” in the background, Guy Garvie whipping the crowd into a frenzy to announce my arrival, or was that just too many beers at Marble??? 😉 Anyways I was in and despite well laid pans for a steady start I launched myself straight into a Hawkshead NZPA. I’d tried a very small sample of this New Zealand hopped beauty on a visit to the Hawkshead beer house accompanied by head brewer Matt, this time I got to savour it in all it’s glory, definitely up there with the best of 2011.

Magic Rock were next on my to find list, Rapture and another massive hit for me from 2011. I have had loads over the year from the bottle, but only once on cask back at the North Bar launch. Cracking balance red all, loads of malt but with the ever presence Magic Rock hop kick, bloody marvellous.

Time to explore something new in the form of Okells “Aile” (Smoked Porter), this was decent enough but not quite up there with some beers I’ve had from them. Pleasantly smoky as the name suggests, but lacking just a little something which could have been the massive hops from the previous Rapture encounter. Continuing on the dark side I went for another Hawkshead beer and one of their classics, Brodies Prime, rich dark and malty as a malty thing. I like, loads..

Another newbie for me was Windsor and Eton Conquerer Black IPA, a real class act here and a perfect black IPA one of my favourites on the day and a must revisit beer/brewery. Whilst in the vicinity I stumbled across another old favourite Thornbridge Sequoia, this is an American amber ale, quite sweet and fruity but really drinkable, a nice change from the black stuff.

After a long discussion on the subject of Viven Imperial IPA with GroveBrewBri, we took a short detour to the foreign section in search of it’s stablemate Troubadour Magma. Very similar to Viven a real tropical fruit aroma and flavourfest. Note to self: “You must try these beers side by side”. In fact we should have done there and then as both are on offer, if you’re reading this prior to a visit go for it and report back, PLEASE!

Whilst we were there I was alerted to another beer by Paul from Source Deli, this was a German weiss, Andechser Weißbier Hell. It’s really light fruity and refreshing with a delicious clove spice finish, an absolute perfect mouth freshener after all the darks and high abv ales. Incidentally I had their Christmas Doppelbock back on Christmas day, it was superb and should be on your next years Christmas beer shopping list.

As you can imagine things were now getting serious, several hours of beer was taking it’s toll so what I really needed was something light, a nice session beer perhaps, absolutely NOT. It was Impy stout time and as I’d spent a good portion of the day with their head brewer Karl, I opted for a Liverpool Organic Brewery Imperial Russian Stout a first for me I have to say and if this is anything to go by a great brewery. The IPS is rich and dark as you’d expect, loads of coffee and chocolate but retains a nice fresh hop aftertaste that some others lack, check it out.

Last call was upon us, after all we still had the fabulous Port Street Beer House to visit before the train, I opted for a beer I’d heard loads about from another great Cumbrian Brewery Coniston. This was their rather delicious No9 Barley Wine, a real beer to savour, sweet, fruity and very smooth with a lovely warm feel to it that really warms your cockles. I’d love to revisit this again with a big fat cheese board and munch my way through it testing as I went.

So that was it, visit over and time head for Port Street Beer House where in short I ended the day in stark contrast the cask ales of the day I opted for three examples of keg, Odell‘s Red Stout which was a little disappointing if I’m honest, Maui Ginger Saison which wasn’t and finished on a stinker with Stone Brewing’s Oak Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale, lovely.. Sadly the I missed Magic Rock’s Bearded Lady which was also in attendance, but time was against me and I’d missed her after being dazzled like a deer in headlights by the beery delights on offer.

A really great day was had by all, or by me at least with some time beer and equally fine folks. There are sooo many beers that I would like to have tried but didn’t because of this and that, but they are there for the next time. The full British beer list is here if you are still going along by the time you read this, if you get to try any I’ve mentioned let me know what you think.


12 thoughts on “National Winter Ales Festival 2012

  1. hullo

    if you liked the W&E Conqueror (and only a fool wouldn’t!) you should search out their Conqueror 1075, which is possibly even better (even if, at 7.5% it’s more of a sipping beer).

  2. Wow! you certainly made the most of it. I take it they were serving thirds? 😉
    I’m rubbish at festivals if it’s just the one day….I just can’t cope with the choice!

    • They were indeed mate and I’m not ashamed to say I had a few, on the day it was a mixture, I’d say 70/30 split in favour of the half measure. It’s great as it gives you more opportunities to get around a few more beers. Mind you I have found that more often than not, the third slips.. 😉

      I went with a wants list and deviated from there..

  3. You missed the following:

    Ascot’s Anastasia’s Imperial Stout
    Carignorm Black Gold
    Marble Chocolate Marble is stunning
    Moor Old Freddie Walker on tap – wow
    Oakham Atilla – one of the top bitters in the country
    Pictish – both – awesome brewery



    • Aaah you are so right there Thomas, the trouble is there were so many that I could have had if I’d had more time and someone to get me home.
      To be honest out of your list I love Marble Choc but have had it loads recently so just didn’t make sense, we get Oakham around my locals regularly so the same applies again and I have had the Cairngorm I’m sure before.

      I did have the Anastasia in my sights but missed. it…

      The one I could really kick myself for though, is Moor Old Freddie Walker. It was on my original must try festival list and I didn’t have one at the festival in the end. To add insult to injury it was also on at Marble Arch earlier in the day and I didn’t have it there either, reason, because I was going to have some later….I’m an idiot!
      #EPICFAIL 😦

  4. Pingback: National Winter Ales Festival 2012: The Winners « The Good Stuff

  5. Glad to hear that you enjoyed the Ginger Stout; it came out pretty much exactly as we wanted it to, with the stout being the star in the brew whilst the ginger provided a gentle warming aftertaste. Its definitely one we will be doing again, and will be joining the regular bottle line up we have at the moment.

    We’re also very happy with Lagonda Trial 6, altough to balance out the strength issue (an exceptionally long run off due to sparge problems cause the ABV to rocket), we have produced number 7 recently which should be out in trade currently and number 8 which is currently in tank fermenting as we speak. I should probably explain the reason that we have taken Lagonda back to the draweing board is due to problems securing organic hops in order to produce it to the old recipe. To this end once we have settled on a new recipe, then Lagonda will be back as both a cask and bottle product albeit a non organic one.

    • Cheers guys, great to hear from you. Glad the Ginger is a keeper, I really want to try it again and this time savour it a little, I was a little like a kid in a sweetshop that day always wanting the next beer.. 🙂

      Thanks for the update on Lagonda and the explanation for the change, I think a few folks had to make changes to recipes last year due to hop availability, all good that you are making the effort to try and test again as it is a top notch beer and deserves the time spent.

      Look forward to seeing you guys again soon.

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