Beer Matters

Multum in parvo

No, I’m not about to extol the virtues of Rutland (the county or the method – if indeed the latter has any).

Having enjoyed ourselves immensely at the first Old Town Beer Festival at Christ Church, Swindon last year, Mrs Bibendus and I needed no persuasion to go back for the second one. I like small scale beer festivals. At a large event like the GBBF one can be overwhelmed by choice. I do appreciate that some of the compulsive “tickers” might need a choice of 300 beers to guarantee finding half a dozen they haven’t tried before but, for me, two bars offering 28 beers and 15 ciders is more than adequate.

Second Old Town Beer Festival

This year they had pint glasses, albeit with a line to facilitate the serving of halves, so, having just rung a quarter, we started with a refreshing pint of Spring Daze from the local (Pewsey) Three Castles brewery. And very good it was too, as was the beer the same brewery produced specially for the festival, The Preacher’s Tipple, an amber ale surprisingly rich and complex for a comparatively modest 4.3% ABV and with a long hoppy finish. On this basis I have added Three Castles to my mental list of trusted breweries, i.e. those whose beers I can expect to enjoy, regardless of the style (but subject of course to being well kept).

[Other breweries I’ve come to regard with the same confidence include (in no particular order and with apologies to those I’ve undoubtedly missed): Tring, Purity, York, Oakham, Bingham, Moorhouse, West Berkshire, Exmoor, Dark Star, Brewsters, Goddard’s, Wye Valley, Larkin’s… Conversely there are a few breweries whose names fill me with a sense of foreboding rather than anticipation – those who churn out a succession of new beers, mostly with silly names and none of them any damn good, plus one or two long-established players with tired old products which just don’t do anything for me – but I’m mentioning no names.]

Other beers I enjoyed at Swindon: Green Mill Chief, which purported to be heavily hopped with American varieties and indeed it was so; RCH Old Slug Porter, about which I simply scribbled on the programme “as expected”. I made a point of trying most of the Wiltshire beers on offer but found two of them disappointing: Plain Ales Sheep Dip and Ramsbury Festival IPA, the latter failing dismally to live up to the expectation of a big, hoppy bitter. Plain Ales Inncognito was not bad but arguably over-hyped (“This night-black ale, despite its name does little to disguise its extravagance and its rich decadence. In the tradition of our Irish ancestors this full bodied stout envelopes you in a cloak of darkest-before-dawn blackness holding tight to an array of lavish fulsome flavours: sweet roasted malt, aged port and robustly mature fruits of the vine. It is nothing less than liquid velvet.”).

I am told that shortly after we left the beer ran out, two and a half hours ahead of the advertised closing time. The church had planned a “Beer and Hymns” evening on the Sunday to use up the left-overs but had to get fresh supplies in at short notice. Fortunately Three Castles were able to oblige.

Maximus Bibendus

Reproduced by kind permission of The Ringing World.

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