Elysian Winter Beer Festival 2012

3rd Elysian Winter Beer Festival 17th – 18th February 2012

The Ely Winter Beer fest is held in the Maltings, a wonderful building dating from 1868, once used to provide malted barley for the Ely Brewery (brief history of Ely Ales & Forehill Brewery).

The Maltings, Ely

The beer selection was superb with around 60 real ales on. Here are my favourites of the ones I got to try:

1. Steel City Xiberia 4.8%
A beer brimming with hops, Citra and Galaxy to the fore, tropical tastes of tangerine and passionfruit, easy drinking and perfect for an afternoon session.
2. Stringers Hop Priest 6.5%
A juicy, hoppy beer with plenty of body that went down far easier than the strength would suggest. That its name is a reference to The Fall’s ‘Hip Priest’ only adds to the enjoyment – “Drink the long draught” indeed
3. Buntingford Imperial Black IPA 5.8%
Surprise appearance of a beer not listed, this could be a reduced strength version of the Imperial Baltic Stout (7.0%) which was also a heavily hopped black ale. Low on carbonation but plenty of roasted flavour, and it looked good in the festival glass
4. RAW Fletcher! Oat Stout 5.5%
One of those beers that brings a smile to your face. I’m not sure what it was about it that made it so, but if this beer is named after ‘Fletch’ and the comedy Porridge then it’s well named – cheerful and full of oats. Lovely stuff
5. Tring Death or Glory 7.2%
Another surprise appearance of a beer not listed, a strong beer that tastes strong, a proper winter warmer. Smooth, sweet and syrupy, I’ve enjoyed this from the bottle many times this winter and it was even better from the cask

Buntingford Imperial IPA and Stringers Hop Priest

Buntingford Imperial IPA and Stringers Hop Priest

Quay House, Ely
Another noteworthy beer was Cambridge Moonshine Ebenezer William Harlock, a 5% ‘dry hopped wheat porter’ brewed specially for the festival. Harlock was behind the building of the Maltings (there’s now a Harlock Bar inside) and lived just around the corner in Quay House.

Draycott Brewery from St Neots were also in attendance selling their bottled ale. Jon kindly offered a bottle of Buckden Pale Ale to try and although I found it a little too light and ‘effervescent’ for me, I really enjoyed the Buckden Black Porter – a lovely roasted beer with bags of flavour that belied the relatively low strength (3.8%). A fellow festival goer told me the Ruby Bitter was one of the best beers they tried at last years fest so I’ll be keen to try that next.

There was also a beer from the Norfolk Brewhouse, a new brewery – the Moon Gazer amber ale may be their first beer and is new in 2012.

This friendly festival ran out of beer by 4pm on Saturday. According to Ely CAMRA, last year almost 1400 people helped drink 56 casks of beer (plus 300 bottles of foreign beer, 140 bottles of Draycott beer alone and 500 pints of cider) with Dancing Duck ’22’ the first to sell out (I enjoyed their ‘Abduction’ IPA this year). It will be interesting to see how this year compared and what beer sold out first…

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