Birmingham Beer Bash

988543_504585336279325_346701567_nTomorrow is a very special day for some very brave, committed and probably slightly bonkers friends of mine, for they have done something that I have longed to do.

Last year changed my perception of what a beer festival should be like forever.

Commencing with Hawkshead who were the first for me who had opted for the all-embracing approach of good beer served how the brewers intended, be that cask, keg or bottle. Mixed with fine food, a warm friendly atmosphere and surely the prettiest location. Then I visited the De Molen Borefts Festival which had the most eclectic mix of the worlds finest beers under one (two) roof/s I had ever experienced, it and was my first introduction to bitterballen. Finally we saw the birth of IndyMan who for me still hold the bar as the UK’s finest and in doing so have a lot to live up to themselves in 2013, a fact I’m sure they are relishing in trying to achieve.

But the competition is hotting up…

This year we’ve had similar events popping up all over the UK which is a great thing, I’m not against CAMRA festivals in any way you understand, but what I love about the likes of the above and Liverpool Craft Beer Expo for example is that the thinking is different, a fresh approach without the constraints of a rule book which needs a bloody good overhaul.

BPypgP3CMAAJ7WpEnter stage left David Shipman or Otherton Ale Man as he is also known, father to Birmingham Beer Bash and leader of a fine body of folks of a similar mind. Reading back over Dave’s blog you can see how this has slowly come together after a lot of hard work, scary meetings and dedication.

Having recently organised a much lower key Twissup event in Macclesfield even without the massive finical implications of they have had to content with, I have some idea how he and all of the other organisers are feeling right now.

A mix of excitement, a screaming impatience and mostly, fear.

BOrCrd8CQAAs-8_Will folks turn up, will the beer be ok, will anything go wrong and a thousand other little niggles and doubts will be swirling around heads tonight and I doubt a lot of sleeping will happen.

Knowing these guys though the fears will all fall away when the doors open and folks flood in. The beer list they have pulled together is impressive to say the least, again with no rulebook shackles imposed so as to bring something for every taste and opinion. There are side events of break out seminars and beer/food matching dinners etc too. Finally the guys have brought street food vendors of various cooking styles in house for those of you who’d prefer to munch as you go. Check the bookable sessions out here and here.

I have tickets for the Friday evening and Saturday afternoon sessions personally, so if you are about come and say hello, lets drink beer and support what promises to be a brilliant weekend of beer.

If you’ve not yet got tickets you need to act fast, some sessions are already sold out and you REALLY don’t want to miss this one. Tickets available here ->

BP9AsDgCAAQ-R4QBirmingham Beer Bashers, I salute you and wish you the very best of luck.




Hawkshead Summer Beer Festival

Just back from a mammoth two-day stint at Hawkshead Brewery‘s Summer Beer Fest. Time is extremely tight as we do a quick turnaround for tomorrows jaunt across the Channel, but I couldn’t let the moment pass and miss the opportunity to pass the praise this event deserves and to post a few photographs to give you a flavour of what you missed.

There was something here for everyone, a fantastic well thought out beer list set across three bars, with food and entertainment served up in the open central courtyard. The weather was kind to us too, with dry sunny weather being the order of the day making an afternoons drinking extremely pleasant in idyllic surroundings.

Top three beers for me were the Marble-Hawkshead collab Little Evelyn available on cask and keg, Hawkshead’s always awesome NZPA and the absolutely superb whisky barrel aged Brodies Prime making a triple podium finish for the boys from Staveley. That in itself is a measure of how good this festival was with the home brewery pulling out the stops to get something special on the bars.

Further top marks for the inclusion of a keg bar, YES you read that correctly a KEG BAR at a festival, with FREE entry too, how novel..

We had a thoroughly enjoyable couple of days in the company of some great people to numerous to mention, but you know who you are.

A little stunner


Hmmm a keg bar and wait, doesn’t that bloke

Stupendous beer list, with directions on where to find it

A member of the Lymestone Brewery Fan Club

The emporium of NOM

Brodies Prime sausage with lashings of fried onions and chilli sauce, washed down with Hawkshead Damson and Vanilla Stout..

This should read Phils BAR. Mmmmmm KEG

Cheers guys!

UPDATE: See further reviews of this great festival from Nick at The Beer Prole here and Andy from Beer Reviews here.

Hawkshead “Well Hopped” well done!

Several weeks ago I was lucky enough to be sent three sample bottles of Hawkshead Brewery‘s “Well Hopped”range. They look great, I love the simple, clean branding, it shouts HOPS!” to your subconscious, let’s see how they are on the inside.

Windermere Pale is the big brother of the regular session version of the same name only stronger at 6% abv compared to the cask quaffable 3.5%. The aroma is big on grass and nettles with hints of fennel. The taste is fresh, crisp and very bitter, a little like an under-ripe Galia melon crossed with a Bramley apple. Strangely though, although the bitterness is long-lasting the finish brings sweetness that makes this really drinkable, much like its sibling but far more dangerous.

Cumbrian Five Hop is as far as I know a completely new beer featuring a blend of 5 traditional and modern hops, Fuggles, Goldings, Bramling Cross, Citra and Amarillo. This one is a very different animal altogether, the nose is far more mellow for starters. Light lemon and grapefruit is the order of the day suspended in sweet caramel. It’s more of a savouring beer, being more full-bodied with less of a sharp bite, although that’s not to say it’s not an easy drinker as it also hides the 6% abv very well. Juicy citrus fruits, kiwi plus a little aniseed form the main taste sensation recipe with a soft chewy malted body drying nicely to a pithy bitter finish.

*Update: The brewery contacted me today to say that Cumbrian Five Hop was not a completely new brew although is so in it’s newly “well hopped” form. It was created roughly two years ago for release in J D Wetherspoons and was called Citrillo, from there on in it took the new name.

New Zealand Pale Ale (NZPA) is no stranger to my taste buds. I first came across it when visiting the Hawkshead beer hall last year, was lucky enough to drop in as Matt Clarke (Head Brewer) was just about to take a special guest on an impromptu tour, I joined them and had an NZPA as company for the duration. It remained one of my top beers last year and shows no change in 2012, I’m just so glad it’s part if this range now so that more people get to try it.

NZPA is a massive green incredible hulky hop beast of a beer and is an equally big mouthful as that description. Grapefruit, gooseberry, lime and grape form the basis of this flavour explosion, invading nose and palate with equal vigour, all blend together beautifully in a light biscuit and light pine resinous body that just screams DRINK ME. I really wondered if I’d feel the same about this beer after trying the others, I do and it still sits firmly atop the Hawkshead tree in my opinion. A true classic!

The beers are available at various fine beery outlets and at the Hawkshead Brewery Shop. Better still get yourself down to the Hawskhead Summer Beer Festival, I really can’t wait, if you are going be sure to say hello, see below for full details.

A big thanks to Gemma for sending me these, really appreciated.