The 37th Cambridge Beer Festival
This is what it’s all about. Great beer, a relaxed atmosphere and a cheese counter. The first afternoon session of the Cambridge Beer Festival had it all. Yes, even blue skies and blazing summer sun.
This is the 10th year it’s been held on the grass of Jesus Green. The area is surrounded by trees, although there’s not much shade from the sun. Did I mention the sun?
So, to the beer. Red Squirrel White Mountain American IPA 5.4% was pick of festival for me (It was voted beer of the festival at Letchworth Beer Festival 2009). A golden coloured ale bursting with the flavour of Cascade hops and with a bitter finish. I kept returning for this despite the choice of other beers, and over the week it became a firm favourite.
Hopshackle Double Momentum 7% was another fantastic hoppy brew. I’ve recently developed a taste for slightly stronger beers than I’ve tended to drink previously, inspired by a recent trip to Oregon, drinking wonderful beer from the Deschutes and Rogue breweries.
Nothing however could prepare me for the Harviestoun Old Engine Oil which finally became available on Friday afternoon. At just under 10% it’s an extra strong version of this thick black brew, and definitely one to sip at (I grabbed a pint of their Bitter and Twisted to quaff alongside it). I can’t begin to describe the complex flavours, but on a sunny summer afternoon it managed to give me flashbacks to a winter’s evening sat snug by a woodfire as the snow fell outside. Or did I just pass out?
Predictably, Brewdog Punk IPA was also fantastic. Having tried the bottled version I had high expectations and found it was even better, and slightly stronger.
Orkney Red MacGregor was the best beer on the busy Thursday evening. So busy that over the loudspeaker it was announced that 600+ CAMRA members were in attendance and they needed some volunteers behind the bar. 10 minutes later they announced that the response had been overwhelming – 1 person volunteered! So I offered my assistance and was suddenly in at the deep end, pouring pints for hunderds of thirsty customers.
I learnt that when it’s busy, it’s much harder to know who’s next in line than i’d appreciated. There are a bunch of unfamiliar faces in front of you. You serve someone and there’s another bunch in front of you. Some people are kind enough to point you to the next person in line, which I always try to do myself – whoever’s waited longest deserves to be served next. But then you turn around and can’t even remember who kindly gave up there chance. So there kindness goes unrewarded. I need a photographic memory but don’t have much of a short-term memory at all.
Where was I? Oh yes…
You may have noticed some cows grazing on nearby Midsummer Common. Jesus Green was part of the common until it was separated by Victoria Avenue 120 years ago. The cows on the common are Red Poll, a breed derived from the original cattle of Norfolk and Suffolk. The Nethergate brewery in Suffolk brews a Red Poll beer in celebration of them.
Here is a PDF of the provisional beer list with tasting notes. Some beers didn’t make it – what happened to the Fat Cat brewery?