Saturday, 1 November 2014

Jay and Dee’s Trip to Birmingham Beer & Cider Festival 2014

Dee: "Only a mild hangover this morning, but lots of debris from last night to sort through and tidy up.  However, that can wait, as we have an important review to get typed up.

The Birmingham Beer & Cider Festival 2014 was held at the New Bingley Hall, on the outskirts of Birmingham City Centre.  It was a large venue with plenty of seating and various bars situated around the edges and centre of the main hall.  A second room hosted music, games, catering and more beers.  The layout was good and the venue had enough capacity for more people than were there on the Friday afternoon that we were there.  A special mention must go to Johnsons of Henley, who ran a shuttle bus service to and from the venue, which was probably just that bit too far to walk to from the city centre.

At over 300 beers to choose from, not to mention the bottled beers and the cider and perry bar (no pun intended), we were never going to get to sample everything, but we tried to include as wide a variety of different beers as possible; lights, darks, smokies, hoppies, stouts and porters.  Apologies to the Cider and Perry people, and any breweries who wanted to be included here.  Maybe next year."

Off we go then…

Hank Schrader’s Coconut & Cardamom Porter
Guide said:  Lovely, dark porter, brewed with sorachi ace and cardamoms.  Finished off with bags of toasted coconut.  Beautiful
Dee said:  Smooth, intense porter flavoured with toasted coconut.  A new taste sensation for me.  An early contender for best beer of the festival.

Reverend Earl Simcoe
Guide said:  High class brew using the fantastic Simcoe hop.  Hints of bergamot from the Earl Grey give this beer a real twist.  Brewers especially for this festival.
Jay said:  Very citrusy on the nose and first taste, then very hoppy and astringent, a bit like strong Earl Grey.

Hooky Mild
Guide said:  A dark chestnut coloured ale, full of roast malt flavours and complimented with superb dry hop aromas from East Kent Goldings
Dee said:  A light refrain after the gloopy, smoky assault of previous samples.  Hops weren’t too strong, which I liked, and there was a slight maltiness to the end taste.

Smoke Bomb
Guide said:  Unfined and unfiltered bitter with a light smoky nose and Bavarian smoked ham and citrus flavours matched with dark smooth toffee malts.
Dee said:  Got the smoked ham flavour straight away.  Didn’t get the citrus or toffee but that was ok.  The smokiness won through for me.

Guide said:  A big punchy character of grapefruit and in particular, fresh crushed gooseberries.  This is a big hitting beer.
Jay said:  Yum!  BIG hit of grapefruit

Autumn Twist
Guide said:  An amber beer with a bubbly white head with an aroma (of) light sour cherry fruit.
Dee said:  Nice one to start with.  Not too strong but decent flavour.

Autumn Mist
Guide said:  A green hopped pale ale with fruity aroma and sweet taste.
Jay said:  Quaffing beer.  Perfect for a summer’s day in a beer garden.

Guide said:  A pale hopped session beer with hints of sweetness.  A subtle elderflower aroma balances the hops.
Jay said:  Cor! Nice dry finish.  Elderflower was indeed subtle.  Another sunny day ale.

Gollop with a Zest
Guide said:  A blonde beer with a floral start and a citric finish
Dee said:  I can't put it better than the guide with regard to taste.  The brewery is local to us, so I hope some of their beers arrive in some of the nearby pubs.

Full Bore
Guide said:  Lovely malt flavours, made with Devon honey.
Dee said:  Lived up to its name.  Pronounced malty flavour with a slight sweetness from the honey.

Factory Steam
Guide said:  Copper, with biscuity notes and a firm bitterness, with fruity, woody and minty notes.
Jay said:  Bleuch! Not for me this one..
Dee said:  Jay gave me this as I liked it.  Very earthy taste which reminded me of nettle tea.

Urban Fox
Guide said:  A black London porter.  Blended from five different malts and four varieties of traditional English hops – including First Gold and Golding.  With layered bitter sweet malt flavours of chocolate, treacle and toffee, and hints of citrus and orange notes from the hops.
Dee said:  A rich coffee flavoured porter but with some very subtle fruity flavours.  One of the best beers of the festival for me.  

Papa Jangles Stout
Guide said:  Dark and chocolatey with complex malt flavours.  Cookies and Cream.  Rum and Raisin.
Jay Said:  A good juicy stout.  Got coffee but not cookies, cream, rum or raisin.

Guide said:  A dark wheat beer which uses a mixtureof wheat and caramelised barley malts.  This beer has all the characteristics of a wheat beer.
Dee said:  A sharp citrusy tang to this one.  Great continental style wheat beer.

Hazelnut Mild
Guide said:  Hazelnut mild, malty, nutty with dried fruit
Jay said:  A revelation, nutty gorgeousness.  Yum! My beer of the festival.

Russian Imperial Stout
Guide said:  The floral character of the centennial hops in this beer is enhanced by the inclusion of rose buds, lending a hint of Turkish Delight flavour to the beer.
Dee said:  The strongest beer on tap at this year’s festival, but it was the guide that enticed me to it.  Like drinking molasses.  Didn’t get the rose flavour but it was a super-rich, elegant drink which would be best enjoyed on its own on a cold winter’s evening.
Jay said:  Still no Turkish Delight but a very smooth, decadent drink. Drawing room, wood fire…

Guide said:  Pale ale with US hops, giving a floral grassy aroma and citus flavours combined with malty character.
Dee said:  Light, hoppy taste which was not too overpowering.  I had this at tea time as an accompaniment to Jerk Chicken and Rice and Peas, and they went really well together.

Pumpkin Ale
Guide said:  Amber ale brewed with real pumpkins.
Dee said:  We had to try at least one pumpkin ale as it was Halloween.  This was ok, but I would have preferred a bit more spiciness.

Ghost Town
Guide said:  Cherry oatmeal stout brewed for Halloween
Jay said:  Woo hoo! I was the first taker for this beer after waiting for it to come on all night J  Lively but no cherries.  Very appropriate for Halloween.

In order to arrive at our beer of the festival, we both sampled each other's beers, so, after much deliberation, our top 3 beers were;

3.  Fuller's Russian Imperial Stout
2.  Slightly Foxed Urban Fox
and the winner:  Brass Castle Hazelnut Mild.  A terrific beer.  We should have had another celebratory pint of it really, but we were too full by home time. 

Now for the food;

Dee:  We wouldn’t have been able to sample all those beers without some food inside us, so the caterers also deserve a special mention.  All of the food we sampled was of very high quality.  I enjoyed Barbequed Jerk chicken with rice and peas from Jamrock Catering.  The chicken was spiced just right, with the heat coming in small bites from the pickled chillies which were optional.  The rice and peas were a lot lighter than I was used to, and certainly more so than when I cook it.  There was a lot of rice but that was ok.  I went for all the trimmings which in addition to the pickled chillies included a fresh salad of lettuce, red onion and tomato, and a creamy spicy coleslaw.
Other sustenance included a scotch egg and a very good quality pork pie from Pickles of Harborne.  Oh, and a bag of T&Js pork scratchings.
It may sound like a lot but we needed it to soak up all the beer.  Well, that’s our justification and we’re sticking with it. 

All in all then, a great festival and we’re already looking forward to next year’s.

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