Convenient for me, this beery spectacle is held in my new home of Manchester (this place just keeps getting better!) and even more awesomely, owing to my great skills at being a barman and knower of lots-o random crap about beer (I'm not normally one to blow my own trumpet.....but I do fucking rock behind the bar), I was giving free tickets to get into the trade event by the head of the local CAMRA branch because, it was, in his words "great to see someone so young taking such pride and interest in working behind the bar". (side note - I was sacked from this job less the a month later......I wont go into the details, but basicly, J.D Wetherspoons don't give a flying fuck about good service, only care about how much money the can milk from customers) so I was able to be there when they announced all the winners and to make sure I could get in to try them before they were consumed by all the beardy-sandle people (sorry about the stereotype.....but it makes me chuckle).
Being the geeky git I am, I took pen and paper so I could take notes (also to doodle if I got bored.....or drunk enough to start drawing random crap) and other comments to make writing this here blog easier and so I didnt have to strain my brain too much trying to remember what I tried. I wont bore you with everything I tried, but I'll tell you about my picks of the bunch......and also the worst and most evil brew at the festival.
The first brew of note was kinda chosen just for its name. Black Sabbath by Brunswick (I'm a metal-head.....of course I was gonna try it) is a wonderfully dark (yes, I know.....total shocker given the name) strong mild. Punching in at 6% ABV, it had all of those great attributes associated with a good mild- rich chocolate, sweet autumnal fruits and a dash of coffee, but being stronger then the average mild (must....fight.....urge....to make.....yoga bear joke!), it had a good hit of alcoholic warmth that just seemed to amplify all the flavours and just let them tingle down your tongue and right to your cockles.
Next brew was chosen because it was brewed back down south (Kent, not Sussex....but its close enough for me). Goacher's Old 1066 Ale is a beefy (it doesn't taste of beef, but ya know what I mean) 6.7 ABV barley wine that is full of deep complex flavours of sinfully rich chocolate maltyness, sweet dried fruits, redcurrants, plum and the slight tartness of a Bramley apple, giving it a superb taste that demands to be respected and and savoured on the tongue.
Now for my favourite beer of the festival. A delightfully golden barley wine punching in at 8.5 ABV and packed full of the warming flavours of brandy, marzipan, a hint of honey and stewed fruits makes Coniston's No 9 Barley Wine a deeply satisfying brew. Its depth of character and its unbelievably smooth body for such a strong beer means that it should come with a warning label reminding you of its strength.....but I would probably ignore it anyway for such a fantastic beer.
Time for the sin bin (or perhaps it should be sin cask??). Tasting of fairy liquid, stale water, that really crap chocolate you get in advent calenders and something that the brewers must of thought was orange, but turned out to be a urinal cake, Amber brewery's Chocolate Orange Stout was just foul..... beyond foul..... in fact, so beyond foul that I cant think of a word fitting to describe it with out making one up......it was vomarseshitingly bad!!
It was a great day full of beer, laughter and some other things best left unsaid (the toilets got pretty bad) and I look forward to next years event. Hopefully I will get round to writing more soon.....but until then, take care!!