The 15th Cambridge Winter Ale Festival
Before I even made it to the bar, I’d highlighted four beers to try first. Three of them weighed in at 7%, so I started with something a bit weaker… a Thornbridge Raven at a mere 6.6%. I had high expectations, as Thornbridge brew some cracking beers, but this black IPA didn’t quite do it for me. It could be the Nelson Sauvin hop punch that just felt out of place, like someone had poured Brewdog’s 5am Saint into a perfectly good chocolate malt beer and ruined it.
So, quickly back to the bar for a Buntingford Imperial Baltic Stout. It’s a good, solid stout with just a hint of blackcurrant in the finish, a very pleasant drink that reset my tastebuds after the sourness of the Raven. It’s worth mentioning that Buntingford Twitchell was on at the regular bar downstairs. I’m hoping Buntingford’s Imperial Pale Ale is on when I next visit…
I followed this with Bartrams Comrade Santa Bartrams HoHoHo Egalitarian Anti Imperialist Soviet Stout. According to the bar staff, this is exactly the same as the usual Comrade Bill, just renamed for Christmas. In any case it’s a great stout with a nice peppery taste sprinkled over the roasted malts, really far too drinkable for a 7% beer – to quote from Richard Boston’s Beer and Skittles:
“…beer is a long drink, and you don’t want something that will put you to sleep after two pints. It should take at least four.”
Last of the evening was Hopshackle Resination, one of my favourites from last year’s winter fest. I’m repeating myself when I say it is of course ‘resinous’ and powerfully but tastefully hopped. A really fine ale and one of my top 5 beers of 2010.
heavily hopped with Bramling Cross, Amarillo, Liberty & Centennial hops, this is a beer for hop fans
I expected that to be the beer of the festival, but I was so surprised and impressed by the 3.7% Castor Roman Gold that it has to be my beer of the fest. There were stronger, much stonger beers – the 10% Elvedon Arctic Ale, although I only had a taster, I can easily imagine as a rich ‘special occasion’ beer, that occasion being anytime from November through March – but the Castor Roman Gold was a Jack Russell of a beer, the kind that snarls at stronger beers and wins your attention. Despite the array of beers available, I returned from the bar with this three times. On my 4th visit, the barrell ran out one glass before mine! I only wish I’d tried the other Castor beers.
Here’s a list of previous Winter Ale festival winners
And here’s this years beer list: