Posts tagged ‘ale’

November 7, 2013

Counting down the hours

It’s really quite nerve-wracking. There’s less than 100 hours to go before people can pay good hard-earned cash (I am assuming it is hard earned, anyway!) for a beer of my making. There is nothing I can do to influence the end product. Short of delivering it (tomorrow I believe, if not already) there’s nothing much the guys at Blackjack can do either. And then it is in the safe hands of Chris at the Craven Arms in Birmingham until the big day on Monday.

So, for those of you don’t already know, clear your diary for Monday evening at 7pm. You’ll need to get yourself into Birmingham but fingers crossed the results will be worth it. At the very least there’ll be a host of other great Blackjack beers to enjoy and you’ll get to meet the guys too. Plus me. Still, you can’t have it all…

And if you can’t make it into Birmingham on Monday then there will be a few other opportunities to try Phoneticus. It’s coming home to Penkridge, and it will be making its way to a few as yet unspecified venues. Let me know where you see it, and what you think if you do get to try it.

October 14, 2013

Going cuckoo

When I set myself the target, at the start of this year, not only to get some experience of brewing in a commercial setting but also to produce a commercial brew of my own, I didn’t expect it was going to be a trivial task.  Within just a few weeks, however, the excitement was already mounting when I got an offer to do just that.  It was therefore one of the big disappointments (for me) of the Birmingham Beer Bash when that beer was not available as planned, due to the brewery’s decision to sell-up days before I went to brew with them. 

After the time spent planning and preparing it was quite a setback, and with the all-important beer festival on the horizon, opportunity to get things back on track looked slim.  But, one conversation at the Beer Bash changed all that, and now I find myself just over a day away from a visit to Blackjack in Manchester, to brew a version of the American Pale Ale that I created at the start of the year and had a great result with at the Saltaire competition in April.

So, last-minute disasters permitting, it looks like a reality, and in a few weeks you might just be lucky(*) enough to sample Otherton’s first foray into the commercial beer world.  Watch this space for the brewday report, and let me know what you think if you get to try it later in the year!

(*) assuming all goes to plan!
July 23, 2013

T-3 the build begins

It is both exciting and scary to see the cask and keg bars coming together today. Exciting because we’re getting close, and scary because, well, we’re getting close.

Having that final access to the venue gives some opportunity for getting to grips with some of the last minute details, to make sure that how we planned things is in accordance with how things are, or at least how we can rearrange them to be. You also start to feel a sense of the space for the event, rather than having to imagine it the way you want it. It throws up some interesting alternative views on how things really need to be and makes you question lots of things that you thought were all set and decided on.

It wasn’t just about the bars today, either. The beers are all coming together nicely now, with a few extra deliveries swelling the ranks. No further changes to the beer list but for an additional unexpected offering. Who are we to say no…

 

January 3, 2013

So long, 2012

Well here we are, at the start of a new year, and for me that also (roughly) marks the start of my second year of this blog. A perfect opportunity perhaps, to take a look back on the past year, and forward to the next.

I actually started this blog on Dec 23rd 2011 with a little pre-Christmas warm up, but blogging proper began in January first with a look at local pubs, and then I asked the question that led to my most popular post (based on number of views, anyway) of the whole year – where is the Birmingham Tap? So, almost a year later, do we have the answer? Well, things have certainly started to change. December saw the long-awaited opening of the new Brewdog bar in Birmingham, which was quite ironic timing for me – two weeks before it opened a change of job caused me to be London-based almost every day and travelling a route that avoids Birmingham, rather then being in London for just part of the week and travelling through New St to get home even on those days. Of course, one of the inspirations for that post was what is perhaps my truest “local” – the Euston Tap, so there’s still a silver lining…

But is Brewdog Birmingham the answer? Well, no, and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful by that. Brewdog bars are great, and when I have the chance I’ll be a regular visitor, but they still lack for me the full breadth that places like Euston and Sheffield Taps or the Craft chain provide. So Brewdog is a start, but only that. Fortunately there is more to come! Further new bars are expected to open in the area later this year that should be the perfect compliment to the Brewdog offering and finally bring the breadth of choice that Birmingham hopefully deserves. It has even been hinted at that the operators of the Euston and Sheffield (and other) Taps have been looking for premises. Whether or not there is a “Birmingham Tap”, there should soon be a great range of beer on offer that finally puts Birmingham on a par with other cities.

As I’ve gone through this first year of writing, I’ve perhaps inevitably been trying my hand, and searching our both a style and a purpose in what I write about. Subject matter has included observations on drinking and the bar scene in Birmingham especially, my own brewing endeavours, beer festivals, and various other subjects as they came up. Naturally I hoped that I could look back at the popularity of various posts and determine what worked best for me in order to focus in the future. Well, that didn’t work. My second most popular post was of a completely different subject to the Birmingham Tap – the Saison brewday that recently took place – while in third place was a review of the inaugural Twissup in Birmingham. Three completely different posts on completely different subjects. I guess I’ll have to find other ways of deciding what to focus on in my blogging for the coming year, or just keep up the random approach I’ve had so far…

Going back to that Twissup post, this was a big event in the past year. It brought together a number of bloggers and tweeters in the region, and as a result I’ve got a number of new friends, more than just acquaintances. Saison a’Trois wouldn’t have happened without that initial meeting, and hopefully 2013 will see further developments that can be traced back to that first meeting. Since then, over the Christmas break, the second Birmingham Twissup attracted an even bigger crowd and I’m sure the next one won’t be far away. Twissup wasn’t the only event I attended in the year, and the European Beer Bloggers Convention was another great opportunity to meet more fellow bloggers, drink some great beers, and learn a bit more about this blogging lark.

The autumn saw one of the real highlights of the year drinking-wise with IndyManBeerCon somewhat redefining the beer festival. Is it too soon to be eagerly anticipating this year’s event which will no doubt be bigger and better? Something to aspire to in the Midlands perhaps? We’ll have to see what can be done…

On the home front, brewing progress has finally picked up following a slightly difficult time as new and larger equipment was put together (a task that is far from complete although now advanced enough to be reaping benefits). An exciting possibility of a commercial opportunity arose part way through the year, although all is quiet on that at the moment. It is still potentially on the cards though, and in the meantime I’m focusing on getting the beers I make right, and keeping an eye out for the right opportunities if they should come up.

So that’s the highlights for me. But what of the year to come? Well I have a few plans and ideas. Firstly on the blogging side of things I know I have to get writing more regularly. It has been tricky this year – work often eats up all the available time and the new job gives no respite from that. Although I’ve averaged about two posts every three weeks there have been some big gaps, and even if I don’t write a greater number of posts I’d like to keep more of a steady momentum. I’ve got to keep up with reading other people’s blogs too – there’s been so much good stuff lately and I know I’m missing more than I’m getting to see.

This year the brewing is going to step up a gear too. I think I’m starting to hit my stride now – I just need to get all those irritating little jobs around the place done to make each brewday go that much easier, and now I’ve made the dual steps to fully temperature-controlled fermentation and liquid yeasts I’ll be expanded the beer repertoire accordingly. I’d like to take the opportunity, if opportunities can be found, to get some hands on experience of a commercial brewday (all offers gratefully considered!), but the real challenge I’ve set myself is to get a recipe made commercially, somehow (again all offers considered!) – both of those should give some fantastic experience as well as valuable blogging material!

It’ll be tough to deliver on the challenges I’ve set myself, but it should be fun trying. Hopefully at least some of you will drop by to keep an eye on progress, and thanks for reading during this past year. Here’s to a fabulous 2013!

December 6, 2012

Saison a Trois update – primary fermentation

It’s a bit of a techie update this, and to be honest I got bored writing the first draft, so heaven only knows how you’ll get on with this slightly (I think) improved version. I did think there might be someone, somewhere, out there who has followed the brewing of Saison a Trois and is interested in details of the fermentation, but to be honest I couldn’t find any way to make it even remotely exciting! You take your own chances…

Before embarking on this project there was a fair bit of research done into what yeast to use and how to handle its particular quirks, and with various (mostly internet) sources of information not necessarily all entirely agreeing, here’s our experience to add to the mix. We chose Whitelabs WLP565 Saison I. It is widely suggested that this yeast is one of the several strains that together form the house yeast used for Saison Dupont so it seemed a good basis for our own effort – of course it could be that it was only actually suggested once and then widely replicated around the internet, but I haven’t seen anything saying it isn’t true so I’m prepared to go with it. From this choice two themes emerged from the information available – firstly lots of reports of stuck fermentations and failure to attenuate out to the expected level; and secondly a suggestion that the yeast likes temperatures somewhat higher than the typical ale yeast range. Perhaps even as high as 32°C. So we resolved to go for a warm ferment and see what that resulted in.

Before we go on perhaps I should explain more about how my temperature control for fermentation is set up. It all takes place in a large insulated cupboard into which a fermenter (aka a big blue barrel) is placed. In the cupboard is a heater controlled by a PID that switches the heat on whenever the temperature (according to a sensor within the cupboard) falls below a set temperature and off when it rises above the target. Actually there’s a 1 degree buffer either side of the set temperature so that the heater isn’t constantly switching on or off, but you get the idea. So the fermenting beer sits in an environment at or about the desired temperature, and raising the cupboard temperature will allow* the beer temperature to rise too.

* I’ve found this volume of actively-fermenting beer will naturally rise about 2 degrees above the surrounding air temperature in this set-up due to the heat generated by the process itself.

Cooling is a slightly different arrangement – the FV is wrapped in several loops of beer line connected to a reservoir and pump. When the temperature of the beer (this time monitored by a probe in the FV itself) exceeds the target set on a second PID the pump is switched on. This then circulates water from the reservoir, through a beer line chiller unit and round the FV. This direct cooling is quite effective and can be used to drop the beer down to just a couple of degrees after fermentation is over.

Back to the saison then. At first the temperature limit was set to 24°C and after 24 hours the fermentation was going strong. On day 2 the temperature settings were stepped up to 26°C with gravity already down to 50% attenuation by this stage. On day 3 it was time for another step up to 28°C, and the gravity had further dropped with plenty of signs of continuing activity. I was then away for work overnight but once back on day 5 things were clearly slowing down and we were close to the expected final gravity*. Despite setting temperatures up to 32°C by this stage the cold weather was limiting the heating capacity of the cupboard and the slowing fermentation was no longer producing as much heat itself so we peaked at about 28.5°C.

* actually it appeared to go some way below the expected gravity, but a later check for equipment calibration showed that slightly inaccurate readings were being obtained and adjusting for this the gravity was exactly in the right place at about 90% attenuation.

After another day at that level the temperature was dropped right down ready for transfer to a secondary vessel and on day 8 it was transferred across. This is the point at which fruit was added. 2kg of frozen blackberries were heated to pasteurize them and once cooled enough they were added to the secondary FV and the beer added on top of them.

As I write this that FV is sitting in the cupboard at about 16°C, and the remaining yeast is clearly enjoying the small amount of sugar the fruit has provided. Estimates are that no more than one point of gravity has been added by the fruit, so it won’t significantly change the ABV, but the effect on colour is much more significant, and hopefully will add some great flavour too. We’ll find out in a few days when it is racked off to the wooden cask for ageing.

November 28, 2012

Saison a Trois – the brewday report

I’d be surprised if anyone reading this wasn’t already well aware of what a fabulously sociable thing beer is (notwithstanding all those of us who quite enjoy a solo pint, as The Session a few months back proved!).  Equally it is often remarked that the brewing industry is a pretty friendly world and that seems to be backed up by the various collaborations that seem to be getting more popular these days.  So when an idea began to form (over a few beers, obviously) that myself, @MarbleTim and @ckdsaddlers could brew up a collaboration of our own, well it seemed perfect.

Of course, being a drunken idea, it was never going to be a simple affair.  By the time we parted that evening we’d already settled upon a strong dark saison, which was to be aged in a wooden cask with a helping hand from a little Brettanomyces.  A few days later and we’d added a fruity secondary fermentation on blackberries into the mix and from that point on we never looked back.

It wasn’t without its difficulties though.  For starters we didn’t actually have a wooden cask, and it quickly became apparent that the only way we were going to get one small enough to be any use was to buy new – a second-hand wine or whisky barrel would have added flavour and complexity but at 55 gallons the size just isn’t practical.  Eventually a nice new chestnut (less intensely woody than oak apparently) 30l cask was sourced and so we were well on track.  But to fill a 30l cask you need at least 30l of beer.  Actually you need more, as even over the course of a few months aging there’ll be evaporation – the whisky distiller’s angels’ share – and we really need to top that back up.  And it felt wrong not to have something to bottle when the main batch went into the cask, so we could get an earlier idea of how it would turn out while we were waiting for the aged version to be ready. 

So the target was 50l.  Not a problem in theory, given that I’d already got the makings of a 100l brewery in progress.  But that is the key point – in progress.  Not finished.  Still, nothing like a bit of incentive to get on with a job.  A 60l fermenter complete with a cooling coil, was quickly ready but the real challenge was the mash tun.  There was always the option of mashing twice in my tiny (by comparison) original mash tun, but this wasn’t an ideal solution and even with two mashes it was going to be a tight fit to get enough wort to end up with 50l strong enough to ferment out to around 7% ABV.  Having decided that the only solution was to crack on and get the new mash tun finished, and realising that I needed to get off the fence and either make the last bits I needed or get them bought, I finally put my hand in my pocket and, despite some hiccups along the way, am glad I did.  The insulation may have still been a work in progress on the morning of the brewday, but it did the job and a last minute reconfiguration of the plumbing work didn’t hurt either.  There may have been more satisfaction about making every last bit of it myself, but if I’m really honest, in 12 months time I’d probably still be waiting to get around to it and instead I can now get on with brewing instead.  Or rather, focus on finishing off all the other jobs that are still outstanding…

So, finally, as a result of that slightly drunken conversation back in July, on a cold and frosty morning last weekend we finally got to turn our plans into reality.  By half past 9 the liquor tank was warming up nicely as Chris and Tim turned up raring to go, and so we quickly got underway.

Our planning over the previous months had seen the theme of “three” firmly embedding itself, not least in the chosen name of our brew, “Saison a Trois” (which should explain the regular appearance of that hashtag on Twitter recently!) and so we started off with preparing our grist made up of three different types of grain – barley, wheat and spelt, and before long were mashing in the largest grain bill that the Otherton brewery has faced to date.  The mash was deliberately on the cool side to get a higher than normal level of fermentables – we wanted this to finish on the dry side, while the spelt will hopefully give an increased perception of body to avoid it being too thin. 

The grain bill...

The grain bill…

Mashing in

The start of the sparge saw the christening of the new sparge arm (see my previous post on that subject) which I’m pleased to report was a definite success, and before long we were collecting a lovely dark wort into the copper ready for the boil.

Sparging

Sparging – or as Chris put it: “swirly thing alert”

By this stage it was becoming apparent that, unlike some of my recent solo efforts, this was going to be a well organised brewday and we were able to relax with some tastings of the last two Otherton efforts – including a porter straight from the fermenter which needed to be emptied before the saison could go in – as well as some bottled treats that Chris and Tim brought along for the occasion.

First runnings

First runnings into the copper

Hop addition

Transfer

The boil came and went without incident, three hop additions of Bramling Cross to maintain the theme, and before long we were chilling and transferring, and then it was time to pitch the first of the yeasts that will play a part in making this beer.  Allegedly the strain of yeast used in Saison DuPont, or at least the main one of the blend, we had settled for WLP565, and a healthy starter was pitched following transfer.  Two days later and this was already fermented down to half the starting gravity, and another day on it has passed 75% attenuation while still looking lively.  With this yeast strain supposedly favouring warmer temperatures the normal rule book was thrown out and gradually the temperature is being allowed to rise up by a couple of degrees a day, towards a maximum of 32C targeted by the end of the week – fingers crossed this really does work the way it is supposed to, because it feels very unnatural letting the yeast get so warm!

Starter

The yeast starter (split between demijohn and flask) alongside a better known example of its heritage.

Fermentation

So that’s it for now, until the target gravity (tests have indicated this should go down to 1006 in primary fermentation) is reached and it can be racked off onto the blackberries for a couple more weeks where it should pick up some fruity flavours and an interesting tinge of colour.  Then it is into the cask for a few months for the majority, where the second yeast addition comes courtesy of a couple of bottles of Orval – a handy way to get a little Brett into the cask and an enjoyable task to empty the majority of the bottles out first.  Tough work, but someone has to do it.

The cask!

Bend from the knees…Fortunately this lifting technique was only demonstrated while the cask was empty!

That cask is currently sitting (almost) ready to go, filled with water to allow the wood to swell and seal.  After an initial bout of incontinence mostly caused by an ill-fitting bung, all is holding well and so we are, quite literally, holding water. 

The final stage, once the beer has aged sufficiently (and I guess there’ll need to be some regular sampling, just to make sure…) will be the final bottling – anything left over when the cask is filled up will go straight to this step too – with a suitable third yeast addition to get them nicely carbonated.  We’re thinking a champagne yeast would suit the style and strength well and some sturdy bottles with cork and cage will provide a nice finishing touch.  Watch out for these next summer, just in time for saison season, when hopefully I can provide an update on what it tastes like and whether all the effort was worthwhile!

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September 7, 2012

Pubs and children

It’s amazing how quickly time flies by.  It’s already nearly a week since I got home from a very enjoyable family holiday in Cornwall.  Obviously any holiday with a three-year old involved is going to involve a lot of child-friendly activities, and this one was no exception.  But a family holiday is also about just getting the rare chance to spend a bit more time together, and to me it is very important that it is a holiday for everyone, so in my case that means dragging the family to a few of the local pubs and hopefully getting to try a few beers that are not readily available back home or even better completely new to me.

As I’m generally doing the driving on our holidays, this rather limits the opportunities for me, but lunchtimes and evening meals are always good times for a half pint or two along with a bite to eat, and are actually reasonable value compared to .  All it takes is to find somewhere serving food that is child-tolerant.  But it also ideally has to be the kind of pub I want to have a drink in, so as not to squander what is a fairly limited opportunity.  I’m not a fan of the chains of “family pubs” that more often that not have a play area and hordes of screaming kids, and at best a pretty bland and uninspiring selection of ale.

We were very fortunate on this holiday to be able to go into a few very good pubs who were more than happy for us to take a young child in with us, and their menus generally catered well for children’s meals.  Dragging a hungry child in and out of pubs until you find a suitable one isn’t the best strategy, and so there were a couple of occasions where we had to go with the safe option – though actually the two Wetherspoons pubs we fell back on at these times actually were up there with the best in terms of the beers I had so everyone was happy.  A tolerant attitude to families with children meant I could visit the kind of pubs I would choose to go to on my own, or with friends.  Brewpubs like the Driftwood Spars at Trevaunance Cove and the Blue Anchor at Helston.  Friendly local places like the London Inn at Summerscourt or the Ship Inn at Looe.  And lots more.  And the first two mentioned were perfectly welcoming even when we were there just for a drink, not even for a meal.

Of course there is the whole argument about how children shouldn’t be allowed in pubs, they are places for adults, but pubs also need to attract as many customers as they can and I’m pretty sure we justified the tolerance of the places we went into by taking with us a good-mannered child who knows how to behave in a place that is for grown-ups.  I know we did in fact, because of the comments we got at the end of many of our visits.  But then, over the past four years we’ve taken our daughter into pubs and restaurants and taught her that she needs to regulate her behaviour.  When she was very young there were a couple of occasions where we had to take her out of somewhere because she was playing up, but the lesson quickly worked and we get the benefit now by having much more freedom to take her with us to the kind of places we want to go while we’re on holiday together.

My only complaint really, is that it is quite difficult to know how a particular pub feels about you going in with children.  One of my sources of information about pubs while out and about, the Good Beer Guide, indicates if a pub has a dedicated Family Room, but unless it happens to be mentioned in the general description places that are happy for you to take children into the main parts of the pub aren’t identified.  Even pubs’ own websites don’t always make it clear (although the presence of children’s options on an online menu is a good clue sometimes!) and we had to go into a few places in the hope that it would be alright – fortunately either a children’s menu or a quick check with the staff quickly clarified that.

So, publicans. Make it easy for me to identify you as somewhere that is happy to allow well-behaved children and I’ll be more than happy to give you my custom (if your beer selection appeals too, of course!).  Don’t tolerate bad behaviour though – that spoils it for the rest of us.  The pub isn’t a creche but there is no reason why it should be out of bounds to families.

 

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June 25, 2012

Some brewing karma restored?

After the utter disaster that was the (supposed) smoked porter – still flat as a pancake but now developing the flavours it was meant to have! – the next brew was approached with trepidation to say the least. A lot of lessons had been learnt however, and changes put into place. Two weeks ago the brewday took place and having just kegged the results I finally feel able to write about it without tempting fate too much.  As a reminder the catalogue of disasters can be found here.

On the day things started out well with the ingredients all accounted for in advance, the HLT in the right place (which was in itself a revised location from original plans) and the newly rewired pump was in and tested. A good early start meant the water heated up in good time for a mash-in before breakfast. Minor failure at this point meant no bacon sandwiches but we can overlook that.

Hoses recirculating hot water all stayed where they were put, the OG pre-boil was in the right ball-park and post-boild was pretty much spot on. So far so good. A minor hiccup with the counterflow chiller meant a slightly warmer transfer than intended but it quickly cooled to an acceptable level ands the yeast was pitched. A good starter saw it off to a flying start.

After a few days it was ready for dry-hopping. Final gravity was a bit high, but OK, and the taste was good.

Another week on and clearly the transfer to secondary for dry-hopping had roused the yeast and the gravity was now exactly where it was supposed to be (minor lesson – need to rouse this yeast! Would have preferred to ferment lower before the dry hops went in). It is tasting good too, and a bit of time in the keg now before serving should complete things nicely.

So, it feels like I’ve had some brewing karma restored. The new bag of grain has performed fine which only reinforces that the previous one was a significant part of the problem. And the biggest lesson of all from the previous brewday was always learn from what went wrong – it may not have produced the beer that was intended but it has certainly helped this latest batch go absolutely swimmingly.

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June 21, 2012

So is it a *beer* festival? Really?

Let’s imagine there’s a city – we’ll call it Davestown for sake of argument – which has had an annual beer festival for many years. But Davestown Beer Festival only sells real / cask ales. Some enthusiastic upstarts want to hold a festival celebrating a more diverse range of beers – including many that don’t fall into the real / cask ale definition. A festival that is perhaps more befitting the broad term of Davestown Beer Festival. But obviously calling it that would be confusing at the very least – there can’t really be two. And there’s no intention to compete with the existing festival, the plan is to complement it, so there’s no desire for creating antagonism with the organisers of the existing festival.

So how do they name their festival? Some useful adjective to better describe the scope of the beers on offer perhaps? But what? It’s about good, or even great beer, but calling it the Davestown Great Beer Festival feels like a dig at the existing Davestown (presumably not so great by implication!) Beer Festival. Good Beer or Fine Beer have the same problem. What other term is there? Davestown International Beer Festival? Well that might work as long as there is definitely a good showing of international beers, but that isn’t necessarily the case, or the focus might be primarily on British beers. What else can the organisers do? Perhaps it can be Davestown Craft Beer Festival? Well it works, but as we all know Craft is a hugely subjective term and causes all sorts of disagreement. Could it even alienate key parts of the target market for the festival who object to or interpret differently the use of the word?

The problem is the original Davestown Beer Festival has (in hindsight, and no doubt without any ill intentions) rather unfairly taken the generic term and used it for a very specific purpose – real / cask ale. So there’s a need to have a word to help categorise this beer festival as something other than a real / cask ale beer festival. I don’t mind if that word isn’t craft, but I don’t know what else it would be.

And if it is craft, then a clear explanation of what that is understood to mean by the organisers of the festival is essential so that everyone else can at least understand what the event is all about, even if they don’t necessarily subscribe to the same definition of craft themselves.

In the meantime the debate about the “C” word rages on, particularly recently with this post from Hardknott Dave and this one from Zac Avery.

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June 12, 2012

Penkridge Jubilee Beer Festival – a review

It’s a week now since the beer festival here in Penkridge officially came to an end, although some of the festival beers were still kicking around later in the week – i should point out that not all had been brought on at the start of the festival so this wasn’t a case of beer hanging around too long, just the ones that didn’t make it onto the taps earlier getting their chance. So, this was something of a first for the village. Was it a success? Will it be repeated?

Three pubs all got involved and all had a different approach. One brought more handpulls into use than they normally would, and had about six ales and ciders on at a time. With a quiet word to the right people the beers waiting in the wings were coming up direct from the cellar too, in absolutely stunning form. The place was quite rightly heaving and it is all a good sign for the future here when proposed brewing activities start on site. Smiles all round from the landlord and a buzzing atmosphere reinforced how well the weekend’s events were going.

The next venue was not known for being a beer destination, much more as a (good) restaurant, but this was a preconception they wanted to change. To demonstrate how much more they can do they set up an outside bar alongside the BBQ with six ales, and although the weather didn’t really help, early on the third day the first of these had already run out. Had the weather improved this would have been a runaway success, and despite that I think they achieved what they set out to do and proved they can cater very well indeed for the ale lover as well as their restaurant side. I look forward to seeing more from them in the future.

Finally the third venue was, sadly, a bit more disappointing – logistical issues meant that their input wasn’t ever going to be as strong as originally intended, and with just three handpulls available it was a case of cycling the festival beers through as quickly as possible. Subject to them being consumed of course. Unfortunately the beers on the Friday night had been on all week and weren’t at their best, and two days later were still on – a catch 22 situation because there was little temptation to drink them with so much other good beer available elsewhere.  As a result most of the other very tempting beers on the list didn’t even make it on over the course of the event. However the Oakham Citra which came on on Monday was replaced again by Friday which shows that a good beer in good condition will sell, and so it is just a shame that the first impression of the festival here was marred by the beers available for the first few days.

So, was it a success? Yes, definitely, overall and for at least two of the pubs involved it seems to have been a great weekend. I’ve yet to get full feedback from the landlords but conversations over the weekend suggest they’re were more than happy.

Will it happen again? That remains to be seen. Even if the combined event doesn’t take off I’m certain there will be more beer-focussed events at pubs in the village on the back of this. But it would be great to repeat this in even bigger and better style next year, and with the parish council also considering an annual event to build on this year’s jubilee weekend there may be a place for a Penkridge Festival in future.

In the meantime the Penkridge Round Table are planning a beer festival for later in the year and so an exciting range of beer will return to the village in just a few months’ time. Knowing the RT guys they will be putting a lot of effort in and aiming to raise plenty of money for some very good causes, so best of luck to them and please support if you can.

Maybe Penkridge will now be starting to earn its place on the beer map…

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