Saturday, 20 August 2011

The worst beer festival ever?

Well possibly not, but it is certainly the worst beer festival that I’ve ever attended. I always look forward to the Ipswich Beer Festival; it is I think my favourite beer festival. Well it was. But as of today it is no longer. This year is the 29th and for all the time I’ve known and loved it its home has been the Corn Exchange in the centre of the town, and always at the end of September. This year it has moved. It is now in August and situated on the Ipswich Waterfront. On paper this would seem like a smart move, and in terms of attendees and beer sold I have no doubt that it will be considered a success. But I didn’t like it. It appears to have become part of ‘Ipswich Maritime’ a festival highlighting an up and coming part of Ipswich centred on the quay. A very nice part of the town. But the beer festival was shite.
So what was wrong with it?
Well, where do I begin? The directions/signage to the beer festival were very poor, I had to fight my way through crowds of very dozy fuckwhats milling about aimlessly and whose sole purpose for living was to get in my way. So by the time I found/reached the beer festival I was well cheesed off. The festival location was shoved at the furthest point from the station that it possibly could be on the waterfront. It is now an outdoor event which is very bad news. The emphasis has shifted to eating and entertainment rather than real ale! There were long queues to get glasses and beer cards, and there wasn’t not enough seating that was vacant or near the beer action. When I go to a beer festival all I want is a good selection of quality ale, somewhere to sit and chat and enough quiet to hear yourself think. I don’t want entertainment. I don’t want a family area and I only want one or two food stalls. I can tolerate a t-shirt stall but I don’t want anything else! And I most definitely don’t want to be outside. The amount of shelter that had been provided was well under estimated as when the rain started, late afternoon, the two beer tents filled up to capacity making it hard to  move about. Then there were the toilets. Portable loos are always bad news and unusually portable urinals had been provided, but there were no washing facilities. The lavatorial dark ages. I always travel with antibacterial hand wash gel in case of situations like this, but I suspect many don’t. Expect an outbreak of Montezuma’s Revenge in Gippeswick tomorrow.

On the plus side I had a great chat with a complete stranger about Lundy. This was due to me wearing my Marisco Tavern: Lundy Pub of the Year... Every year since 1868 t-shirt; guaranteed to break the ice at parties. And, by and large the beer was of sound quality. Two particular highlights were Blonde from Saltaire weighing in at 4%, a pale golden ale with subtle hints of vanilla and Juicy Fruit chewing gum, and Native from Whitstable a brown beer with 3.7% of malty sweetness and lashings of hamster bedding. None of the beers that I had were anything less than acceptable but I was so pleased to leave.
If the future format and location remains the same that will have been the last Ipswich Beer Festival that I ever attend.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Dark Star American Pale Ale

The Vine has really got to offer some of the best kept ale in Norwich. The food’s good as well. We sometimes call in of Saturday lunchtime if we are in the city. One such lunch a few weeks ago offered up a new ale to me, Dark Star American Pale Ale 4.7%. I must say I do like what has surely become a genre in its own right and that is the bitter, strong, pale, golden ale. This magnificent specimen with its light colour, initial fruity/vanilla hints, wisps of hop flavour and a bitter marmalade style aftertaste had me supping in double quick time and going back for seconds. This magnificent ale with its fractal character is a pure joy to the taste buds. Try it when you can.