Cambridge Winter Ale Festival 15

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.

First up had to be the superb Buntingford Imperial Pale Ale, one of best beers I’ve tried recently, I need only quote their beer notes:

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:

15th Cambridge Winter Ale Fest beer list

Beer list - click to enlarge


4 responses to “Cambridge Winter Ale Festival 15

  1. sounds like we were drinking along the same lines…I agree with you about the Raven, there was just something missing from it, and yes the Baltic Stout was very nice.

    As far as the Bartrams Stout goes it was nice but I did feel that something in it had changed from the usual recipe but I couldn’t quite put my finger on what. I was also a little disappointed that their Cherry Stout didn’t make an appearance this time as that went down very well at last years Summer festival.

    Also worth a note, Elvendens Stout, Moonshines Bacchus and Tydd Steams Cock…to be honest other than the Raven being a tad disappointing I didn’t have a bad beer all night

    • I didn’t have a bad beer all night

      I agree, a very enjoyable selection, wish I’d tried the Old Engine Oil again

  2. If there’s any left on Saturday when you go back, you have to try the Elveden Arctic Ale (10%). Sensational. If it doesn’t take beer of the festival, then it’s a travesty.

  3. I only tried a taster of the Elveden Arctic Ale (it was midday, I was trying to pace myself!) but I wish I’d tried more. My beer of the fest, the fiesty Castor Roman Gold

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