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    Saturday, 30 June 2007

    A Funny Thing Happened To My Beer

    I'm sat at home tonight enjoying a few beers safe in the knowledge that from tomorrow every beer will be enjoyed in the same smoke free air as I am currently enjoying.

    I have already had a bottle of Mommeriete Meibok and a bottle of Allagash White when I decide to make Alvinne Blond my nightcap. Wow, what a lively beer. My first pour gets about 5cl of beer in my Delirium Tremens glass and the rest is head. Ok says I, let it settle and try again. I get all the beer in this time, and hold the glass in hand concentrating on something else. Then my hand suddenly gets wet. The head has actually grown in the glass and is overflowing. It certainly appeared to have settled on first pouring, but no, it's like the mallow monster from Ghostbusters. I took a picture for posterity.

    By the way, the beer's alright, but nothing special, but it sure was a bit of fun. Thanks for listening!

    Friday, 29 June 2007

    Drinking at Home To Increase

    Online beer seller Rent-a-keg have sold twice as many kegs of beer in the last week than they do in an average month, as drinkers prepare to drink at home rather than in smoke free pubs. The range of beers available are prety dire to say the least, but obviously people who cannot bear to drink without smoking have dodgy palates and don't care about quality ales and lagers.

    I suppose it's a good thing though that rather than try unnecessary, and ultimately unsuccessful, protests these punters are staying indoors and clogging up their own homes with smoke.

    Obviously great off-licences like those I have previously blogged about will see an upturn in sales too, and well deserved for them it is. Evidence suggests that on sales will decline by 4% in the short-term, and will gradually pick up over time. Hopefully all decent pubs can cope with this issue.

    A Beautiful Frontage

    The picture on the left is the front of a former pub in Grendon, Northants. For me it's absolutely fascinating because it still has its old signage: "Praed's Noted Ale And Stout". It's very rare to see such wonderful signage on a pub, and is, of course particularly interesting because the brewery is no longer in operation.

    Campbell Praed & Company started brewing in Wellingborough in 1878. They were successful very quickly, and even as early as 1895 they were making annual profits in excess of £10000. One of the Praed brothers, Arthur, was one of the founding directors of a company called San Francisco Breweries Ltd. I am endeavouring to ascertain if that is actually what we know as Anchor Brewery, and would be interested if anybody has any information.

    In 1920 Praed's bought out a rival Wellingborough brewer W Dulley & Sons, which with the extra 53 licenced premises they inherited meant their beer sales almost doubled. Praed's continued to flourish and in 1949 the business was valued at over £725K, a huge amount of money obviously in those days. Then three years later their brown ale met with success at the National Brewer's Exhibition, thereafter being renamed "Prize Winning Brown". At the end of 1953 though and with 149 licenced premises in their estate the huge Northampton brewers Phipps came a-knocking, and things moved so quickly that a complete take over had happened by March 31st 1954. The brewery itself was demolished just two years later.

    I am not aware of any other Praed signage at all, certainly nothing could compete with Grendon. Eagle-eyed readers may spot the "For Sale" sign. I really hope that the signage is protected in some way. Certainly if any potential purchasers have any idea of spoiling the beautiful facade I will send the boys round.

    Thursday, 28 June 2007

    The Brunswick - Derby

    I am fortunate enough to have regular expenses paid trips to Leicester, Nottingham or Derby as part of my day job, and today I had a meeting, and thus a session afterwards in The Brunswick in Derby.

    Back in the mid 1990's Derby used to be the best city in England for a pub crawl, an accolade which is now held by Sheffield, although this week's floods have had a temporary effect on that position. No crawl of Derby was complete without a trip to The Brunswick, and bearing in mind its proximity to the railway station it made a perfect first or last port of call. Back then the brewery was independant and the head brewer was Trevor Harris who now owns Derby Brewing Company. The Brunswick Pub and Brewery now though are owned by Everards.

    Initial worries that the pub would go significantly downhill were ill founded and the guest beer policy continued. I think it's fair to say that the range of guest beers is not as good as back in the good old days, but when you add on the range of home brewed beers there is still an ample selection to choose from.

    The pub itself is a gem. It is multiroomed with four distinct drinking areas as well as an outside patio. One of the rooms is non-smoking, although of course all the others will be from Sunday, and the signs are already in situ ready to be unveiled at the weekend. There are a fair number of old train and railway photos on display together with the odd item of breweriana and old beer bottles. A colleague today stated that "the pub's not much from the outside but it's lovely inside". For what it's worth I think it's pretty special architecturally, appearing to be triangular from some angles.

    Food is available which is standard pub grub, but it's the beer we come for and each of the five beers I tried were in fine fettle. It's a shame I wasn't able to have a crawl of the city like I used to, but spending a few hours in 'The Brunny' is a worthwhile use of anyone's time.

    For the record four other pubs worth visiting are

    The Alexandra
    The Flower Pot
    The Babington Arms
    The Smithfield

    A visit to each of the five makes for a hell of a day!

    Wednesday, 27 June 2007

    New U.S. Beers In The UK

    Just as a heads up for my British readers, I am advised that James Clay have just started importing the following US beers into the UK.

    Flying Dog Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale
    Flying Dog Old Scratch Amber
    Flying Dog Snake Dog IPA
    Great Divide Titan IPA
    Left Hand JuJu Ginger
    Goose Island Summertime

    Apparently beers will follow later in the year from Terrapin and Victory Breweries.

    This is excellent news for all of us whether we seek new
    beers or not as these are all interesting highly rated beers. I hope to be able to get my hands on bottles of all of them.

    Let It Be Leeds

    No offence Leeds but if Carlsberg really do close one of their breweries in England, I really hope it's yours, not what, to be fair is the ugly monstrosity pictured left. However ugliness aside the brewery you see here is in Northampton, which I do care about.

    I don't really care for the products of either brewery, and the Leeds site does brew better beers, but I don't want to see brewing on such a large scale cease in Northampton.

    The Carlsberg brewery is roughly on the same site as the old Phipps and Northampton Brewery Co sites, and it would be a heinous crime to stop brewing on this land.

    We have already seen the wanten demolition of one of Mannings' old maltings, I would hate to see further evidence of Northampton's brewing heritage being destroyed.

    I am sure we won't find out for a little while which brewery will close, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

    Tuesday, 26 June 2007

    A Tale Of Two Tynemills

    I had an hour to kill in Nottingham today so decided to visit two pubs in the Tynemill chain. In my opinion Tynemill is the best pub chain in the country and they certainly have the awards to back up my opinion. Their pubs are pretty much centred in the East Midlands but there are a couple in Yorkshire. Personally I consider Northampton to be in the East Midlands so hurry up Tynemill and open one here.

    The two pubs I went to were deliberately chosen from amongst the eight in Nottingham so that I could visit the one non-smoking pub in the chain, and then its nearest neighbour. So I started off in The Kean's Head which is a pretty small one roomed pub with bare floorboards. It has a choice of six handpumps, although only five were dispensing beer on my visit. There is a reasonable range of foreign beers both on draught and in bottle, although nothing which might be hard to find. The pub serves excellent food, being the only pub in Nottinghamshire to have a star listing in CAMRA's Good Pub Food Guide. It also warrants a listing in The Good Beer Guide. As a sign of things to come, it is completely non smoking. As has become apparent I am in favour of the ban, and in a pub this size I would imagine it could have easily gotten smoky, and enjoyment of the good food would have been very difficult. Although it was quiet on my visit, there is no evidence that banning smoking here has had a detrimental effect on takings.

    After here I went to The Newshouse. This is a typical two roomed 1950s boozer, and is comfortable and welcoming. Eight real ales were on offer, with seven of them being part of a Summer beer season. Again the pub was fairly quiet and the main topic of conversation from those at the bar was the smoking ban. It's very apparent that everybody has different opinions, whether they be smokers or non smokers, and that's to be expected. However the concensus I am picking up from talking to people and listening to such conversations is that everybody will be complying, or at least reasonably minded people will be.

    It's hard to compare and contrast a smoking and a non-smoking pub while both are quiet, and with 'S' day just five days away I won't have the chance to do so again, but that for me can only be a good thing.

    Sunday, 24 June 2007

    Guinness Bosses Worried - So They Should Be.

    Guinness bosses are nervous that their impending brewery move will affect sales of their stout. Sales are already down in England and Ireland, which bosses blame partly on the drink at home brigade and the smoking ban which Ireland has had in place for some time. It is also believed that any change of brewery location sees a downturn in sales, although I wouldn't personally think that a move to another part of Dublin would have that much effect.

    Sales are buoyant in some foreign countries where Stouts have always been well received like Nigeria (although they much prefer the home produced stronger version). Suprisingly though sales are still good in the US, where a myriad of better stouts are available. The trouble is though that in the land where Budweiser is king, there are too many people who don't appreciate microbrewed stout. I am always astonished at the number of perfect ratings Guinness receives on RateBeer with comments such as "The Greatest beer in the World", "The perfect beer" and "Does it really get any better than this? Nectar of the gods. Everything a stout should be."

    Yet in truth it's rather a poor beer. There is barely any aroma, barely any roasty flavours and it really tastes quite watery, with no real depth of flavour at all. And don't get me started on that Nitrokeg head.

    So bosses should look over their shoulders at what their smaller competitors are producing. Some of our microbreweries are producing excellent cask stouts. Titanic Stout is a great stout in the bottle and cask; Darwin make a great Stout called Java Jolt with coffee in it, and I have had three great stouts from the Northamptonshire breweries: Hoggleys, Potbelly and Rockingham. So if sales do suffer, don't blame it on the brewery move, blame it on what has become a substandard product against some strong competition.

    Guinness will always sell well because of its history and heritage, and drinkers lack of adventure when it comes to trying new things, but hopefully more and more people will try small breweries' superior products and Guinness' nervousness will need acting upon.

    Saturday, 23 June 2007

    Welland Valley BF

    Unfortunately due to the crappy wet weather we're all suffering from at the moment, I was unable to make my planned visit today to The Welland Valley Beer Festival. That's a real shame because it's a well organised festival in a beautiful area of the Northamptonshire countryside and its border with Rutland. This year is the fifth festival, and is taking place in nine separate pubs in the Welland Valley area. These are:

    The George - Ashley
    The Talbot - Gretton
    Blue Bell - Gretton
    Red Lion - Middleton
    Castle Inn - Caldecott
    The Hatton Arms - Gretton
    Sondes Arms - Rockingham
    The Royal George - Cottingham
    George And Dragon - Seaton

    Each of the pubs has a varying range of beers on, and in total there are over 100 real ales across each of the venues. Entertainment can be found at the pubs including morris men (always a favourite at events like this) and jazz bands. Of course food is available too with hog roasts and barbeques being particularly popular.

    I think the local CAMRA branches are to be commended on their hard work selling this event to the pubs and thus ensuring real ale is a product which is popular in these remote villages.

    I was especially hoping to go for the first time to The Hatton Arms (pictured above) which seems to be have been very nicely renovated recently and has a good range of beers and real cider at all times, and The George and Dragon whose garden affords beautiful views of the beautiful Welland Valley viaduct (pictured). I am sure I will pay each of them a visit at some point in the near future.

    So it's with some sadness that this article is a 'what could have been' rather than a review of the festival, but blame the bloody weather!

    Wednesday, 20 June 2007

    Wetherspoons Confusion Over What Is Beer

    I was rather surprised on arriving home from work to find a brochure from Wetherspoons amongst the other various items of junk the postman delivered today. The brochure is entitled "Discover Wetherspoon" and there are over £50 worth of vouchers included to make savings on food, wine, spirits and beer. Maybe you had one too, and are wetting your tastebuds at the prospect of chilli con carne for £2.99.

    Now I would never eat in a JDW but I've certainly been known to nip in for a coulpe of halves of whatever guest ales are on offer, and the beer is usually good. The prices are certainly excellent, although it could be argued they are pricing small pubs out. JDW have, however, championed real ale since their formation, and their range of foreign lagers is pretty decent also.

    However what is really bugging me is their statement which is in this brochure and all their pubs: "Temperature of all our beers, a cool 1-3° guaranteed". This is simply misleading. Their cask ales are not, and should not be, served at these temperatures. So why don't they tell the truth? Do they care? Or are they simply not sure exactly what constitutes beer? The bizarre thing is that a lot of lager drinkers who enjoy their super-chilled product would claim not to like beer!

    Come on Mr. Martin; get your advertizing right.

    Monday, 18 June 2007

    Nuns Love An Excuse To Drink Beer

    I just had to copy this which I received in an e-mail from Belgian Shop

    "Fifty nuns drank half a liter of beer a day for 45 days, then stopped for six months. Then they took 400 milligrams of hops daily for 40 days.

    The result was a six percent reduction in total cholesterol among those with high levels, the Centre said.

    “We did it for the good of humanity,” Sister Almerinda Alvarez said.

    Good news, but the usual caveats apply. Taking up drinking beer, or increasing ones intake, is generally self-defeating. Even so, if you’re the type of person who eats a bag of pork rinds while watching the game, any health benefits you would receive from the beer would be counteracted."

    Firstly, I find it hilarious that Spanish nuns have chosen to hold this experiment. They have nothing to gain from doing it. Their medical findings really won't be taken that seriously by the rest of the World will they? Secondly they state they are doing it "for the sake of humanity". Come on, who are they kidding? They just like beer! And good on 'em!!

    For info: BelgianShop is an online shop which sells a vast range of Belgian Beer and glasses as well as other products.

    Sunday, 17 June 2007

    Ruddles Rhubarb - Blah, Blah, Blah

    If you Google Ruddles Rhubarb you will find the first hit is its page on RateBeer, and the second hit is a forum post on the same website. Indeed there is no reference to it at all on Greene King's website. Yet this is the beer which has just won the Te--o Beer Challenge. (sorry I cannot bring myself to type that word) It beat 63 other beers to win that accolade, unless of course you believe the same conspiracy theorists who say GK paid for the silver gong IPA earned in the Champion Beer Of Britain Competition a couple of years ago, and would therefore believe some sort of underhand tactics are going on.

    I don't normally go out of my way to taste GK beers but after my friend harrisoni on Ratebeer called it "truly truly disgusting, one of the worst beers in the world." and said: "Please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please, please.... I beg of you, do not buy this beer. It is truly, truly horrible. I threw mine away after about 1/3 of the bottle. It is disgusting. Do not what ever you do be tempted to buy it." I just had to try it.

    I need to say that I am pretty disgusted that GK choose to use the name Ruddles for this beer. The traditional brewery in England's smallest county would never have produced such a beer before the sequence of events which saw them now being part of the GK family. Of course the brewery in Langham is no more. Why didn't they just call it Greene King Rhubarb?

    So to the beer. It ain't good, but it certainly isn't the worst beer I've ever tasted. It has a nice reddy amber colour which does look nice in the glass. The aroma is just like rhubarb and custard sweets and the taste is also pretty heavy on the rhubarb, but I don't think rhubarb is such a ridiculous ingredient. There is a little bit of tartness which you would like from a decent fruit beer (even though Rhubarb is a vegetable). I think it works better than blackberries which to my mind always lead to a super sweet beer which tastes too much like pop. It does have cloying tendencies, it's certainly not a beer you'd have a session on, and the pasteurization is very obvious. I scored it a 2.2 on the RateBeer scale, and that's not too bad. I'm glad I didn't pay for the beer as I don't like T--cos or GK getting my money, and I now never have to drink the beer again.

    Saturday, 16 June 2007

    A Side Issue To The Smoking Ban

    Clearly now that smokers will have to go outside from July 1st, another issue is going to come to the fore: noise. As this article demonstrates, local residents are beginning to complain about the extra noise late at night from pub goers who are enjoying their habit in the open air. I am a huge fan of extended opening hours, even if I don't personally get to enjoy them, so would be disappointed to see pubs being forced to close at 11pm simply because of this issue. However local residents' complaints must be taken seriously. I really don't want to take sides on this issue, but I do know I wouldn't ever buy a house in close proximity to a pub.

    Thursday, 14 June 2007

    RateBeer 3000

    On June 13th I had my 3000th rating since joining Ratebeer. It was particularly nice that I shared the beer, a 750ml bottle of Ecaussinnes Archiduc de Nivelles with haddonsman, a fellow Ratebeerian. I had the beer in The Criterion in Leicester on a mini pub crawl around what, I believe, is one of the best three or four beer drinking cities in England. The beer wasn't especially spectacular, but it was unusual enough, being spiced with limes, to honour the milestone.

    Thanks are due to all the great people I have met and shared many great beers with over the last four years. Here's to the next thousand which of course started with the next drink; a rather dodgy Greek lager!

    Tuesday, 12 June 2007

    Hogs Back Visit

    My latest trip out was to Hogs Back Brewery Shop. The brewery can be found in the village of Tongham, just off the A31 Farnham to Guildford road. The road is called the Hogs Back!

    The brewery was born on August 4th 1992, and has grown pretty rapidly since then and has met with pretty decent success culminating in its 9% barley wine: A over T, winning CAMRA's Champion Winter Beer of Britain in 2006. I have followed Hogs Back's success from the start as the brewery is situated just a few miles from my place of birth.

    They have built up a huge reputation in their neighbourhood with their beers guesting all over the Surrey/Hampshire borders area, and, of course, beyond. But what has put them particularly in the public's eye is their shop, situated within their premises. The shop sells all their available draught beers in quantities as little as 4 pints, as well as draught ciders from local producer Mr Whiteheads. The off licence always seems to be busy with people buying carry outs for home consumption, whether it be a night in front of the tele, or a party or function.

    What is of particular interest to me though is the bottled beers they sell. They stock in excess of 150 different beers, mostly from the UK, but with a small range from Europe and further afield. The foreign beers are well chosen and I have found Westvleteren there in the past, albeit three or four years ago. I would certainly recommend going there if in the vicinity, and if you live local, to support them by buying their draught ales. For me it's an extra excuse to go visit my family who still live nearby

    Sunday, 10 June 2007

    Visit To Beers Of Europe

    I have made five online orders from Beers Of Europe, but earlier this week I made my first visit in person.

    Even though the address makes it sound like it's in deepest darkest Norfolk, it's actually just off the A10 main road from Kings Lynn to the South, and is signposted from the main road when you arrive at Setchey village.

    For me the selection available online is better than any other off licence in the UK, and the postage charges of £7.95 next day delivery regardless of the number of beers ordered is superb. It means it's not really necessary to visit them unless in the neighbourhood what with petrol prices the way they are.

    Anyway, I was in the area so paid them a visit. I hoped that the selection would be even better than online, but it's not. Beers were available which the website suggests are sold out, but there aren't any additional beers. Therefore it's pretty obvious that the website is more accurate than most.

    The shop is huge. They stock over 500 different beers easily. It would be pretty daunting for the uninitiated, but as a seasoned beer shopper I enjoyed strolling round. Their prices are excellent; none of the beers I bought were more than £2 with most of them being German 500ml beers.

    In conclusion go visit if nearby but ordering online is definitely more cost effective. Companies like this need our support and hopefully if we do support them, they will feel confident enough to import more quality brews in times to come.

    Friday, 8 June 2007

    Tastier Heineken (not)

    Apparently a 2cm head on your glass of Heineken will make it taste better!

    The company are therefore advocating drinking their lager in UK pubs, in oversized half pint glasses with plenty of room for the head. There appear to be no plans to introduce oversized pint glasses, and campaign bosses are trying to encourage more people to drink the smaller measures.

    My cynical mind tells me that the beer will soon enough be served with a huge head in a pint glass meaning a less than adequate (and legal) pint will be served. Let's face it, most male lager drinkers drink pints and wouldn't be seem dead drinking 'girly halves'

    So this is just a clever plot to get more beer out of each barrel!

    And I'm not even going to cover the ridiculous claim that the head will add to the flavour experience!!

    Submarine Runs On Beer

    Well almost. The submarine that was launched today by Camilla using a bottle of beer brewed by the crew, will apparently never need to be refuelled.

    Three things spring to mind:

    1. Good on 'em for using beer rather than the usual and totally un-British champagne
    2. If I smack a bottle of Frog Island Croak and Stagger against my car door tonight will it run forever without my visiting the petrol station again?
    3. Where can I get my hands on a bottle of that beer?
    Somehow I doubt number 2 will come true, and number 3 is pretty unlikely also!

    Thursday, 7 June 2007

    More On Old Northamptonshire Breweries

    Since writing this article, I have got my hands on this book. I can whole heartedly recommend it to anybody interested in either brewery history or the county of Northamptonshire.

    Reading up on such breweries as Northampton Brewery Company, Phipps, Mannings, Smiths of Oundle, Campbell Praed & Co, Dulleys, Hopcraft & Norris and many, many more is a fascinating insight into the
    brewing industry of yesteryear. It has invigorated me to search for anything still remaining relating to these breweries. Especially though I want to find old livery on buildings and existing pubs. I know The Old White Hart in Northampton has a great pub front, but there will definitely be others.

    I also will search for breweriana relating to these old companies. If anyone has any information or can help me in my search please leave a comment, or contact me - my details are on the left hand panel.


    Tuesday, 5 June 2007

    Beer Of The Month May 2007

    May was a reasonable month for beer hunting. I tried 72 new beers, scored 15 new breweries, and visited three CAMRA festivals and one pub festival. I have written about the three CAMRA festivals at Rugby, Cambridge, and Northampton. Additionally I paid a brief visit to the Herefordshire Beer Festival at The Malt Shovel

    None of the Herefordshire Beers lit up my life, but I did experience good beers at all of the other festivals, as well as the odd good bottled beer and beers from other pub trips.

    Rugby Festival saw me enjoy Bushys Old Bushy Tail, a beer which had great fruits and bready malts. Cambridge Beer Festival brought me Kilderkin Double, a great attempt at an Abbey Double from a fairly new English micro; Vierzehnheiligen Nothelfer Silberbock Hell, a Heller Bock from Brauerei Trunk in Germany; and a good perry and cider from Seidr Dai and Gwynt y Ddraig respectively; two good small producers from Wales. Day one of Northampton didn't bring me beers as good as the following two days, but they were in June.

    Good beers I scored in pubs were the two hoppy beers from Atomic which were Reactor and the stronger Bomb; A nice suprise was Elgoods Double Swan which was also pleasantly hoppy especially for Elgoods. I also enjoyed Buntingford Highwayman IPA. This was another beer with good hops.

    The best bottled beers I had were Alcazar Bombay Castle IPA, Samuel Smiths Organic Cherry Fruit Beer, Williams Brothers Joker 5, and, a total surprise, Ruddles County which of course is now brewed by Greene King.

    On the Ratebeer scale the highest scoring beer was Bushys Old Bushy Tail. This gets second place and best non-English beer.

    However, I have to award my Beer Of The Month and Beer Of The Month from a new brewery to Kilderkin Double. Not only did I enjoy this beer but I was happy to see an English brewer attempting this style of beer.

    Monday, 4 June 2007

    Cider Sales Higher Than Ale Sales

    Figures released this weekend show that the value of home drunk cider outweighs that of home drunk ale for the first time over the last twelve months.

    Shoppers spent £453 million on cider against £447 million on ale. Lager, of course overtook ale some years ago.

    Now I like a good cider. In fact at many beer festivals I go to I move on to cider quite rapidly if I feel the beer quality isn't all it should be. The problem here though is that this huge increase in cider spend is all down to the new phenomenon of "cider over ice" lead by Magners.

    I can't directly comment on these ciders as I've not had the 'pleasure' of trying them yet. But comments on Ratebeer are none too positive. Of course the vast majority of ale sold for home consumption is not real ale just like these ciders are not real ciders, but pasteurized commercial beer is so much better than commercial cider. I had half a pint of Blackthorn last night. Bleeaach!

    I honestly believe these are going to be a short-lived fad. The Caffreys phenomenon didn't last too long and alcopops are not as popular as they once were.

    Hopefully the good stuff will see a rise in sales position again before too long.


    Northampton Beer Festival

    Northampton used to have two CAMRA Festivals: One in the Autumn at the County Cricket Club, and one in the early Summer on a piece of land surrounded by both a canal and a river. This was called Nunn-Such Island, and access was over a footbridge which after a few pints became a bit of an adventure. As the toilets were the other side of the bridge, it did become a bit of a hazard to say the least.

    Neither of these festivals still occur. I presume the Cricket Club either became too expensive, or they just were no longer interested, and Nunn-Such Island naturally went the way of Health and Safety regulations and festivals were banned there.

    Northampton then went a few years without a festival as a suitable venue could not be found. All of a sudden last year, a festival was mooted and then arranged at Delapre Abbey, which as can be seen from the website is a 900 year old building which has housed its fair share of nuns over the years.

    The festival takes place on the courtyard and the beers are kept in a marquee with seating outside as well as green areas to lay on should the weather be good. The weather in 2006 was pretty cold and windy, and the
    marquee really proved too small for everyone to shelter. This year, though, everything was bigger and better, including the weather which, after a huge downpour on the Thursday evening, was lovely thereafter. The marquee was three times bigger and thus the beer range was bigger too. The programme promised 121 beers, and I reckon that was about accurate. There were about a dozen ciders/perries also.

    Every Northamptonshire brewery was represented with at least three of each brewery's beers available. Additionally there were two test brews for Phipps Brewery which I have written about here.

    There was a fair selection of Welsh breweries represented but sadly no Scottish.

    A festival beer was produced by the small Summer Wine Brewery in West Yorkshire. This was my first beer from this brewery and I also had my first beer from Spitting Feathers Brewery in Cheshire.

    I sampled 23 beers and one cider during my three visits. The odd few were poor but the vast majority were good or even better. I particularly enjoyed three beers from Alehouse Brewery from St. Albans. Alehouse seem to have the knack of hopping their beers in quite an extreme way for a British brewer, but balancing perfectly with the malt levels unlike some other highly thought of brewers.

    My Beer Of The Festival was Rockingham Black Forest from Blatherwycke, Northants. This was a beautifuly balanced stout, said to be conditioned for two months at the brewery. It is a smoky fruity stout with a low level of roastiness but very tasty.

    The festival has a good atmosphere on each of my visits, but was particularly busy with lots of families present on the Saturday afternoon, where free entertainment was provided by The Sealed Knot. This was great fun, but the loud cannons were two much for a lot of the young ones including my two year old daughter.

    All in all the festival was a great success. There was still plenty of beer left on Saturday at 4o'clock when I left and I hope that remained the case up to closing time. I was worried that the trek to the toilets would prove too much but it wasn't as bad as I thought. I say roll on next year, and I am sure even the nuns would have approved.

    Friday, 1 June 2007

    Phipps Brewery

    Well, blow me down. Less than a week after this blog entry mentioning lack of information about Phipps Brewery ,the Northampton CAMRA Beer Festival has two beers from "Phipps Brewery". A detailed search of the internet does not provide any evidence that the brewery has started. Even Quaffale has no confirmation that they are brewing.

    Further research though, and chatting with the staff, shows that the beers are actually being brewed by the members of the Phipps family at Hoggleys Brewery in Litchborough. Apparently there has been a lodging of the company name Phipps Brewery and a plant is ready to start in Overthorpe on the Northants/Oxfordshire border, but they are not yet in a position to brew beers commercially from these premises. The beers at the Northampton Festival are therefore test brews with the festival being the ideal opportunity to ascertain how well they might do in the free market.

    I tried both beers on offer: Newbottle Beer at 3.9% and Purston Gold at 4.1%. Both beers suffered slightly from diacetyl but were perfectly drinkable. I preferred the Newbottle which scored 3.4 on the Ratebeer scale whereas the Purston Gold scored 3.0.

    Both of them had the diacetyl in the aroma showing signs of being not quite ready, but they were well brewed English ales with a nice balance of hops and malts. They won't set the World alight but they are perfectly drinkable. I was told that the beers had been going down well at the festival, particularly the Newbottle Ale, so here's hoping that the positive feedback from customers at the festival gives them the confidence to start brewing on their own plant, and that Northants has another decent real ale brewery.