Category Archives: Cambridge Beer Festival

Cambridge Beer Festival 2015

The 42nd Cambridge Beer Festival begins on Monday 18th May and runs through to Saturday 23rd.

Cambridge Beer Festival

Drinks

An estimated 200 beers from around 100 British breweries will be available, including 8 breweries from the branch area making up 16 Cambridgeshire breweries – Blackbar, Bexar County, Calverley’s, Cambridge Brewing Company, Crafty Beers, Elgoods, Fellows Brewery, Lord Conrad’s, Mile Tree, Milton, Moonshine, Oakham, Son of Sid, Three Blind Mice, Tydd Steam, and Xtreme Ales.

There’ll also be around 50 more beers from overseas, over 60 ciders and perrys including some from 11 Cambridgeshire cider makers, along with 10 meads, and a selection of English wines.

Locales to Lossie ales

The beers brewed nearest to the festival come from Cambridge Brewing Co. less than 600 metres away. The British beers that have travelled the furthest come from Windswept in Lossiemouth, Scotland – just over 400 miles as the crow flies, over another 100 miles by road.

Specials

As this is the 42nd Cambridge Beer Festival, a few beers are named after the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (42 was the answer to “The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything”) – the author Douglas Adams was born in Cambridge, and was a student of St John’s College from 1971 to 1974.

  • Bartrams – Perfectly Normal Beer
  • Humpty Dumpty – Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster
  • Milton – Cor Aurum (an “infinitely improbable ale”)
  • Xtreme Ales – Vogon Poetry

Moonshine’s latest beer ‘5th Moon’ is made using barley grown on the farm in Fulbourn where they’re based. The barley is a new variety called Irina, and it’s apparently the first time a beer has been brewed using it anywhere in the U.K. Moonshine have won beer of the festival on three occasions and always prove popular – on one evening last year, 9 gallons of Moonshine’s ‘Heavenly Matter’ sold in under 11 minutes.

Milton have a special version of their Marcus Aurelius imperial stout, enhanced with port from the Quinta de la Rosa vineyard.

Breweries new to Cambridge Beer Festival

Over twenty breweries make their first appearance at Cambridge Beer Festival this year – Alechemy, Alecraft, Anspach & Hobday, Brampton, Cwrw Iâl, Gyle 59, Hammerton, Hardknott, Hop Stuff, KCB, Loch Ness, Moncada, Nene Valley, Pig & Porter, Privateer, Raw, 3 Brewers, Tiny Rebel, Verulam, Weird Beard, Windswept, and Xtreme Ales.

Previous Winners

Two previous ‘Beer of the Festival’ winners return this year – Brentwood BBC 2, winner in 2012, and Moonshine Red Watch Blueberry, winner in 2005. There are also a couple of beers that have won the award at the Cambridge Winter Ale Festival – Elmtree Nightlight Mild (2009) and Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild (2008)

Vegan-Friendly beers

There’ll be a good choice of unfined, vegan-friendly beers, including:

  • Bexar County – Cacahuete, El Último Adiós and Hop Damn
  • Cambridge Brewing Company – Chocolate & Banana Stout
  • Crafty Beers – Sauvignon Blonde and Wilbraham
  • Gyle 59 – Toujours Saison
  • Moncada – Notting Hill Ruby Rye and Summer
  • Moonshine – Black Hole Stout
  • Moor – Return of the Empire and Traditional Mild
  • Weird Beard – K*ntish Town Beard
  • Windswept – APA, Tornado and Weizen

Gluten Free beers

  • Hopback – Crop Circle
  • Poppyland – Freshes Creek and Harvest
  • St Peters – G Free
  • Stringers – The North (Will Rise Again)
  • Wold Top – Against the Grain

Turn up the heat

If you like your beer hot, there are a couple of beers brewed using chilli peppers – Binghams entry level Hot Dog Chilli Stout carries a “warming afterglow” of chilli, while further up the Scoville Scale Bexar County’s Hop Damn is “brewed using the Holy trinity of Mexican dried chillies and dry chillied with habaneros”, and is “not for the faint of heart”! If that’s your thing, In the Food Hall the Merry Berry Truffles & Chocolates stall has bags of the lethal Scorpion Death Chilli Chocolate. If you still have taste buds to torture, in-between beer festival sessions, head over to the Maypole, a freehouse just 5 minutes away, holding a beer festival which includes Hand Drawn Monkey’s Siamango Chilli beer, a mango, lime and chilli IPA.

Turn down the volume

The three beers with the lowest ABV manage to be low in alcohol without being short of flavour – Weird Beard Dark Hopfler and Brentwood BBC 2 both at 2.5% ABV, and Three Blind Mice Table Liquor 2.8%.

And if that hasn’t convinced you to visit, there’s always the cheese stall

Hereford Hop

(See page 55 of the Beer Festival programme for some excellent suggestions for cheese and beer pairing)

Amendments to the programme

Potton Lion has been replaced by Village Bike.
Bartrams Chocolate Cherry Porter is named Black Forest Porter

The following beers will not be available:

  • Fellows – Gulping Fellow
  • Green Jack – Red Herring

Full British Beer List
Opening times

A Night At The White Horse Inn

On Thursday evening the Museum of Cambridge, located in a 16th century building that was the White Horse Inn for around 300 years until it closed in 1934, opened its doors as a pub again for one night, serving beer from the premises for the first time in eighty years. The event, a collaboration between Cambridge CAMRA and the Museum of Cambridge as part of Community Pubs Month and Museums at Night, featured guided tours of the museum, including the original bar and snug, a walking tour of the area’s past and present pubs, along with folk musicians and the Cambridge Morris Men helping to recreate the atmosphere from its days as the White Horse Inn. Although there were incidences of gambling and rabies recorded here in the late 1800s, we decided against reintroducing them.

White Horse Inn
Having spent the past few months deep in research, along with co-researcher Steve Linley, we each gave guided tours that highlighted the history of over thirty pubs and a handful of breweries that have existed in an area of about half a square mile – of those, only four pubs remain open.

There were also two beers, from local breweries BlackBar and Moonshine, served from the cask at the event. The ‘Museum Old Ale’ from BlackBar was inspired by a Porter recipe from the Cambridge University archives that came from a “handwritten recipe used by the landlord of the Chequers Inn, Wilburton (1850-65)”, presumably John Fitch, landlord from the mid to late 1800s. I use the term ‘inspired’ because it would have been tricky to recreate a recipe that included “half a bushel of patent malt. Boil your patent in the copper for 36 hours”. Museum Old Ale 4.8%, using one third brown malt, two thirds pale malt, lightly hopped with Fuggles and Boadicea, has an enticing bready malt aroma and caramel flavours. It will be available again at Cambridge Beer Festival this week. Moonshine provided a beer inspired by an Old British Beer recipe from the Durden Park Beer Circle. The beer, an Imperial Stout called ‘Transforming Tomorrow’, was brewed back in 2008 and has spent the last six years ageing in an oak pin that previously contained sherry. It has developed into a strong, vinous brew, with some sherry sweeteness, rich plummy fruits, and oaky vanilla flavours.

Beers like those sell out quickly, and a dash was made to a nearby pub for more supplies – it ended up being acquired from one of the few remaining pubs on our guided tour, the Pickerel, one of the oldest pubs in Cambridge.

Pickerel

We have a display at the Cambridge Beer Festival this week that highlights some of the research about each of the pubs that have existed in the Castle End area of Cambridge, including a wonderful illustration by Jon Harris. We’d be delighted to hear from anybody who has memories of any of the fomer pubs – the Bentinck Arms, Wheatsheaf, Merton Arms and Cow & Calf have all closed within the last fifty years.

The start of something bloody brilliant

Today, during the 40th Cambridge Beer Festival, I served a man who told me he was at the very first one, back in 1974 when it was held at the Corn Exchange.

What was it like back then, I asked.

“It was the start of something bloody brilliant”

CBF1

“They ran out of beer and my mate had to drive a truck to Young’s brewery in London to bring some back. He can’t drive a truck anymore. He couldnt drive one then”

He talked about some pubs in the area at that time.

“Pubs didn’t have the pipe cleaning equipment they have now. They had a little sponge they’d shove in the pipe and then force it through with cold water. Sometimes, not reading the instructions, they’d put pipe cleaning fluid in the pipes and leave it overnight – it was supposed to be washed out after an hour”

“There wasn’t much choice of beers. It was keg Double Diamond or Watney, or some terrible local homebrewed ales. If you walked into a pub that had Greene King beers, you thought you’d reached the promised land”

Cellarmanship was apparently lacking at a local football club bar.

“Keg beer was indestructible back then. At the end of the football season, they knew how to look after the grass, but the beer was just left there until the next season started. They had lovely grass…”

The infamous Watneys Red Barrel was referred to.

“Well, Watneys Red Barrel was weak. You could drown in it and never get drunk.”

“The winter of 1963 was a harsh one, but although the water in the taps was still running, the landlord’s barrel of Watneys froze and all that came out was a bit of alcohol because there weren’t much of that”

As he walked off, pint in hand, he turned and said “I’ll be coming back here to the next forty Cambridge Beer Festivals”. I’ll drink to that.

Cambridge Beer Festival 2013

Cambridge Beer Festival is this week celebrating its 40th year. Way back in August 1974 when everybody else was Kung Fu Fighting, Cambridge CAMRA was serving up beers from breweries such as Hoskins, Rayments, Ridleys and Tolly, while local pubs the Ancient Druids, Bun Shop and Cambridge Arms featured in the Good Beer Guide. None of those breweries and pubs have survived, but the beer festival still has plenty of life left in it, as evidenced by last year’s record breaker, when over forty-one thousand visitors enjoyed the sun-baked sessions. Beers have arrived here this year from as far away as the American West Coast, and as nearby as Cambridge’s own Brewhouse, less than half a mile away on King Street. And if the thought of over 200 different beers, over 60 ciders and perries, plus meads and wine doesn’t whet the appetite, there’s always the cheese counter.

Cambridge Beer Festival

Cambridge Beer Festival runs weekdays from 12pm-3pm and 5pm-10:30pm, and Saturday 12pm-10:30pm

Volunteers are always much appreciated (and rewarded with beer tokens, free food and a T-shirt!), particularly for this Thursday evening.

39th Cambridge Beer Festival

The 39th Cambridge Beer Festival was the biggest yet with over forty-one thousand visitors. It was probably the hottest and sunniest too, an absolute smasher.

Magic Rock Rapture

Brentwood BBC2 was voted Beer of the Festival, especially impressive for a beer of only 2.5% ABV, packing an orangey citrus punch well above its weight. It proved to be the perfect drink for long days in the sun and at only £2.20 a pint, nice they passed on to the customer the savings from lower rates of beer duty.

Liverpool Organic Kitty Wilkinson took second place, a sweet stout with plenty of chocolatey goodness and a pleasingly subtle use of vanilla.

The beers I most enjoyed were:

Blackbar Märzen – A preview of the beer brewed for the Octoberfest later this year and already tasting wonderful – full bodied and golden with a caramel sweetness, an intriguing beer from a brewery that only began this year.

Ole Slewfoot Citraville IPA – Earlier in the week this beer hadn’t particularly stood out, but come Saturday and from another cask, it really came into its own – a mouthful of fresh grapefruit and lemon flavours that slipped down easily – couldn’t serve this beer quick enough to thirsty drinkers.

Stringers Hop Priest – Enjoyed at the Ely Beer Fest earlier this year, it took a few days to come on but was worth the wait – a powerfully hoppy brew, hazy and resinous, that drew me back to the bar several times.

Hop Priest

I tried Stringers Mutiny, a rich double stout, and for a moment it was December in front of a log fire, snow outside – but it was 30 degrees in the marquee so I think I’ll have to come back to it in the winter to really appreciate it. I was happier with something hoppier – golden, hoppy beers like Dancing Duck Abduction and Whim Flower Power were well suited to the sunny weather.

By the weekend there was a fresh supply of beer from Great Oakley, Humpty Dumpty, Nethergate, Old Cannon, White Horse and more from Milton whose Karolides was the sweetest thing this side of the mead bar, a wonderful beer.

And then there was the cheese…

Hereford Hop

Days before the festival opened, I’d helped out with the setting up…

Setting up

The message on this cask really brought a smile to my face:

Felstar

Cambridge Beer Festival 2012

Cambridge Beer Festival is here and the city swells with beer. And cheese.

There are over 200 British beers and many more from around the world. Noteworthy brews include:

Debuts:

– 5 beers from Cambridge’s newest brewery, Blackbar, including a taster of the Märzen brewed for the Octoberfest later this year. The beer arrived on a punt from Grantchester.

Blackbar

– First appearance at the Cambridge Beer Festival for several other breweries, including:
Art Brew, BrewShed, Colchester, Hop Monster, Jo C’s, Magic Rock, Ole Slewfoot, Stringers, Summerwine, Two Towers, Wilson Potter and XT.

Festival beers:

cbf39 poster– As this is the 39th Cambridge Beer Festival, and the theme is the novel ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’ and three films based on it, there are some festival specials – Buntingford Black Stone, Castor Ales John Buchan Bitter, Hereward Hannay, Milton Karolides, Son of Sid Codebreaker and Bartrams have brewed a 3.9% ABV beer called Steps.

– A previous ‘Beer of the Festival’ makes another appearance – Moonshine Red Watch, a winner in 2005.

– The Foreign Beer bar will have three draught beers from the USA – two from Oregon’s Rogue brewery and one from Flying Dog based in Maryland. Earlier this month, Maryland held its first Cambridge Beer Festival, also serving Flying Dog.

175 doggy yearsJubilee beers from Backyard Brewhouse, Bartrams, Batemans, Bullmastiff – ooh, the alliteration – Lord Conrad’s and Shalford. Elgoods have renamed Pageant Ale ‘Royal Pageant’ and there’s a Diamond Jubilee cider from Tutts Clump. The Bullmastiff Jubilee apparently celebrates the brewery’s 25 years of brewing (or ‘175 doggy years’)

Olympic beers – Elgoods Cockerless Four and Potbelly A Limp Pig Gold.

– The festival is this year supporting Wallace Cancer Care – Moonshine has brewed Wonderful Wallace, proceeds go to the charity.

Castor Roman Gold was the first beer to sell out at the recent Bury St Edmunds beer festival.

– Like Beer? Like Cheese? There’s beery cheese: Cheddar with Ale, Cheddar with Porter, Hereford Hop, a ‘mellow sweet cheese covered with hops’ and Y-Fenni, a ‘mature cheddar cheese blended with whole-grain mustard and Welsh brown ale’.

Strengths:

– The strongest of the British beers was going to be 12% ABV Baz’s Bonce Blower by Parish Brewery from Melton Mowbray, which would have been fitting because Barrie Parish brewed what was once the world’s strongest beer, 23% ABV Baz’s Super Brew. However, at the time of writing it hadn’t arrived so it’s Stringers Mutiny, a 9.3% stout which the programme describes as ‘…drinkable. But sip it.’

– At the other end of the scale are two beers under 3% ABV, both from Essex: Felstar 2%, a dark ale and Brentwood BBC2, a 2.5% pale ale.

– The Mead includes 22% ABV Sussex Boar Hunter Mead Liqueur ‘infused with warming spices’.

– The Moonshine Dictator from this cask must be a beast of a beer:

Beast of a beer

Opening Hours:

Monday 5—10:30pm
Tuesday-Friday 12—3pm / 5—10:30pm
Saturday 12—10:30pm

Amendments:
At the time of writing, no beers had arrived from Fat Cat or Parish. Black Sheep Bitter replaces Black Sheep Ale. Beartown Bruins Ruin replaces Brown Bear.

Previous Beer of the Festival winners

Cambridge Beer Festival 2011

Now in it’s 38th year, the Cambridge Beer Festival, the UK’s longest running CAMRA beer fest, is in the 11th year at it’s current home on Jesus Green. From a choice of more than 200 real ales, over 80,000 pints are expected to be served.

Batemans Dark MildIn light of these impressive numbers, it seems fitting to start with a beer which may have made more appearances than any other, Batemans Dark Mild. By 1997 it was recorded as being ‘the only beer to have been available at all of the summer festivals‘ since 1974, and it has certainly appeared several times since, winning best Mild at least 4 times (and 3 times winner at the Great British Beer Festival). A decent mild with a buttery and lightly roasted flavour (roasted butter?), brewed less than 90 miles north of Cambridge.

Milton Brewery is the closest brewery to the festival, just over 2 miles away, and several of their fantastic ales are available, most notably Proteus, a 6.2% pale ale which may be one of their most recent brews, and Pegasus, the first beer they brewed when the brewery was founded in 1999.

Next a beer brewed 6 miles west of Cambridge in Dry Drayton, Lord Conrad’s Hedgerow hop. This is made with wild hops from nearby Swavesey. Local wild hops would once have been commonly used, so it’s an interesting step back in time to taste this, even if it’s not ‘hoppy’ in the way of say the ‘intense hop explosion’ of Kernel/Redemption No. 2, a new beer from a collaboration of two London Brewers.

Potbelly Crazy Daze

One thing that puzzles me is why the brewery bars seem to get less trade. Often the bars serving Potbellly, Bartrams, Woodfordes and Elgoods have few punters while the rest of the bars are busy. Are drinkers suspicious of their more commercial looking prescence? They shouldn’t be; there are some cracking beers to be had from these breweries – in particular Potbelly Brewery Beijing Black and Crazy Daze (pictured) brewed 40 miles NW of Cambridge and Bartrams Egalitarian Stout, brewed 30 miles east – and the people serving know their own beers.

Paler, hoppier tasting beers seem to be most prevalent. The beer festival programme has a key for the beer types available. Of the 200+ beers only 1 is categorised as a Best Bitter, Winter’s Revenge from Norwich (confusingly Harveys Sussex Best Bitter is categorised as a Bitter not a Best Bitter) and only 2 as Strong Bitters (Premium Bitters were in the Bitter category). But that’s splitting hairs when the programme notes and the beer selection are so good overall.

Thornbridge Kipling, voted beer of the festival last year, is not here this year, but their Jaipur and Lord Marples are, and for me the latter beer is the better.

The 2011 Beer of the Festival winner has now been announced – Elgoods Attila the Hen, described in the festival programme as:

Attila the Hen 4.5% The beer is very pale, brewed using Pale Ale malt only. The hops used are English Fuggles, Progress and Goldings, and an American hop, Willamette. Brewed in memory of Brenda Law, a stalwart volunteer at this festival.

So here are the beers that made my top 6 this year:

1. Potbelly Beijing Black / Crazy DaysTwo very different beers I just can’t choose between
2. Hopshackle Resination – An absolutely superb IPA. Pure class
3. Blue Monkey Ape AleA pale ale that doesn’t overdo the American hops
4. Northcote Jiggle Juice – Another fine IPA, deceptively drinkable for 5.8%
5. Hopshackle Historic Porter – A rich, mouthwatering porter
6. Peerless Red RocksBloody lovely ruby ale

Cambridge Beer Festival previous winners

Raining Beer

Cheers!