Hook Norton beer festival, July 2016

A tale in two parts. I’ll start with the beer first, and then talk about the beer festival itself afterwards. On with the beer.

We begin with Yubberton Goldie, described as “a refreshing IPA style beer with strong hoppy character”. That sounds right up my street.

However, it was not an IPA, it was bitter but very thin and had no hoppy character. Nowhere near pale enough for an IPA either. So definitely not an IPA in my book.

Bravely, we soldier on to the next beer. This was an Alestock from Nailsworth brewery, a micro brewery in Gloucestershire. The description intrigued me as it appeared to be written to appeal directly to my palate. Listen to this :-

“more hoppy than a caffeine fuelled bunny on a bouncy castle, it is the perfect year round ale”.

That is my kind of beer. Sadly the liquid did not live up to these words. If it’s hops you want, look elsewhere. This had none. A big let down, just a below average golden ale. Not unpleasant, just not hoppier than aforementioned bunny. Shame.

I get knocked down. But I get up again. You’re never going to keep me down. We travel further down the M5, to Newton Abbot (big town as my cousin who grew up in a nearby village calls it!) and the Teignworthy Brewery for their Old Moggie. This was described as “a lovely golden ale with a good, hoppy citrus taste”.

Not as described. Good bitterness here, but once again it needs more hops.

Onwards, ever onwards. Much closer to our host location now, with Loose Cannon brewery from Abingdon. This was described with the following words:-

“the use of only pale malts really allows the hop’s unique citrus flavour to shine unabated.”

Nope. Good bitterness, and certainly the best one yet, but I just wasn’t getting that unique citrus flavour of grapefruit. A shame, but it wasn’t a bad beer at all.

We must not be downhearted. Soldier on.  This time we cross the border to a favourite region for drink production, Speyside (more famed for its whisky though). Speyside Craft Brewery are a brewery I’ve come across before, having had their deliciously balanced Findhorn Killer (named Hoppy McHopface by me).

Today’s offering was Dava Way, an English pale ale with elderflower flavours. At last, a beer that lives up to its billing, this was really nice with lots of elderflower flavour. We make our own elderflower cordial (recipe will follow one day) so it’s a flavour I like and it works well here.

Next up we move to Mighty Oak brewery, from down my way in Maldon, Essex. This beer is Captain Bob (the punchline of a tasteless Robert Maxwell joke from the 1980s). This is described as “a traditional deep amber coloured bitter brewed with Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand”.

It is exactly that, bitter hoppy sweetness with a classic Nelson Sauvin hop profile. Definitely my favourite so far.

We move on to another familiar brewery,  Butcombe in Bristol. I’ve had several of their beers in recent years. Today’s offering was their July 2016 special, Hop Eye. The blurb says “an intensely complex and hoppy light golden beer that contains hops from 13 countries”.

Another one that delivers on its promise. This was the hoppiest beer of the day (you’d hope so with 13 hops in there). It’s a lighter hoppiness but still very pleasant.

On we go. A little closer to our location again, with Windsor & Eton brewery (double posh!) Conqueror is their Black IPA, described as “a black IPA, rich, complex and very distinctive.”

However, we are back to false advertising. This is not an IPA. It’s not a black IPA. It’s not a Cascadian dark ale (another name for the black IPA). Once again, it was a pleasant ale, but not a black IPA. Look for something like Vertigo from Salopian Brewery for an excellent example of this.

Our time at the beer festival is running out. On to one final beer. We cross a different border this time, to Swansea for Tomos Watkin and Sons and their “Kickass”. The tasting notes say “refreshing bitterness, tropical fruit flavours and a dry finish”.

Another one that sounds like it was made just for me. Not as pale as I was expecting, but good maltiness with a balanced sweetness in there too. A good finish after a bit of a disapointing start.

So, a few words on the beer festival itself. It is held in a field. A field on a farm. A field with long grass. On a lovely summer’s day like today, it’s not too much of a problem, but if any of the rain that was in the forecast had arrived it would have been a different story.

One of the main attractions of the festival for us (apart from the obvious beer) was a stage with live bands on throughout the day. However, they were inside a marquee, which meant that if you got too far away (not all that far really) you couldn’t hear the music. We ended up sitting in one of those places, so we couldn’t really hear the music after a little while (more people turning up and acting as baffles).

There were several food options around including a nice looking pizza van, fish’n’chips (from a van), a hog roast and also a burger van. The local scout group were selling filled rolls and cold drinks, as well as teas and coffees, and there were also ice creams and lollies from the local playgroup, and a little coffee van serving freshly roasted coffees, lattes and the like.

There were 140 beers on, around 70 barrels along each side of the beer tent. There were a couple of ciders which could be purchased with beer tokens, but they were gone within an hour or two. There was also a separate cider bar (cash only) but they only had a few ciders from one producer. Mrs MOFAD had one of them, which was described as alcoholic Calpol. That’s not a good thing.

It was a nice enough afternoon out, but we ended up leaving early, as there wasn’t enough to keep the interest of our non-drinkers, or those who had wanted a drink but couldn’t find much to choose from. No wheats, no fruit beers, no sours. Lots of bitters, milds, golden ales and similar, just nothing more modern in style.

We’ll probably explore other options for next year, it’s not like there’s a shortage of beer festivals 🙂