Simon Huggins's blog

Sun, 01 May 2011

Reading Beer Festival 2011

So I've spent most of the past few days drinking in a field in Reading. The beer festival is always a good event and this year was bigger and better than before with more choice of beer.

The additional bank holiday was very useful and meant that there were two full days for the crowds to spread themselves over. This along with the larger capacity this year which was also helped by the lack of rain forecast all meant that we didn't end up with quite as enormous a queue as last year and that it took a good long while before it was one-in, one-out. We queue jumped with our Ale Trail tickets though.

Dickon and I made Wednesday evening, Thursday afternoon and evening, Friday all day and Saturday all day. I managed to get through 60 halves of different beers in that time.

The beer was all impeccably kept as you'd expect but this was all the more impressive given the concerns over the hotter weather before the beer festival. Breweries definitely adapt to people's tastes or their perceived tastes and it seems that milds, porters and stouts have in general got a little sweeter. Also Dickon appreciated that there were more pale ales and hoppier ales at the festival than there have been in previous years; some years the festival has been used as a good example of "May Mild Month" to the possible detriment of other styles. This year with the bigger range every style was well represented.

As ever for me the porters were the stars really and I especially liked:
Mighty Hop - Black Pearl Porter
Box Steam - Steam Porter
Bingham's - Total Eclipse
Plain Ales - Inncognito
Two Towers - Jewellery Porter

In the bitters I really enjoyed:
Bays - Topsail
Arkell's - Moonlight
Dark Star - Partridge Best Bitter
Bewdley - Worcestershire Way

Also whilst I only had a sip of Dickon's pint before the barrel went I always find Thornbridge Jaipur very tasty.
Oh and Art Brew should get an honourable mention for their Lemon which whilst I didn't manage to try at the festival I did have some a few days before in the Hobgoblin; it's a nice drinkable pint that doesn't feel as if the lemon has been forced into it.

Bingham's are in my list above and their Total Eclipse is a fantastic Black IPA. This is a style that I'm very glad to see and wasn't something I knew at all until earlier this year. We're very lucky to have Bingham's; all their beers are superb and they brew down the road in Ruscombe. They managed sales into lots of the ale trail pubs we went into so I'm sure the people who really care about beer in Berkshire already know about them but if you're just passing through or you see one of their beers on at another beer festival then do try some.

On the down side the over-sweetening went too far for me with Bristol Beer Factory's Bristol Stout and Harviestoun's Black Watch IPA. Also Best Mates beer tasted really quite strange; a couple of friends tried some independently and neither liked it.

Five years ago we all looked younger

I'll stick my photos up on my flickr at some point.

Right, where's my bacon sandwich?


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