National Winter Ales Festival 2012

A couple of weeks ago, the National Winter Ales Festival rolled its way into the Sheridan Suite on Oldham Road, Manchester to showcase over 300 ales, ciders and perries to the Manchester public. In association with CAMRA and Robinsons Brewery, it promised a wide range of both national and local breweries, as well as International bottled ales, food, stalls and entertainment. Myself and a friend went along on the Friday to try our hand at a few!

A rather drizzle led night, we made the 20 minute walk from Piccadilly Gardens to the Sheridan Suite, where a que was forming outside the doors – always a good sign, especially when it was one in, one out. After finally making our way inside after paying a tidy sum of £5 to gain entry, we entered to what I can only describe as a large room filled with long rows of barrels, hand-pumps and hot food stalls, all entwined with a mixture of families, groups of adults both young and old and a flurry of volunteers pouring away.

After briefly browsing the many offerings, I plumped for Dry Stone by Hawkshead Brewery (4,5%), a well-balanced stout that had a long, dry finish, whilst my friend went for Happy Valley’s ‘Little Rascal’ (3.9%), a fantastic hop character created using Tomahawk, Columbus and Chinook hops. Next up was the ‘Centurion’s Ghost’ by York Brewery (5.4%), a dark, bitter ale that gave off a roasted malt flavour. A rather easy drinker! ‘Snow White’ by the Whim Brewery (4.8%) was chosen next by my friend, a coriander based wheat beer with a citrus zest taste on the palate.

We then sourced out the Robinsons Brewery table, where they had on offer ‘Old Tom’, ‘Old Tom Chocolate’ and their new ale, ‘Long Kiss Goodnight’. My friend plumped for the Old Tom Chocolate (6%) a chocolate infused variant on the award-winning Old Tom, whilst I went for the Long Kiss Goodnight (3.9%), a rather warm, floral mix of toffee and spice on the nose, with a rich hoppy biscuit taste on the palate.

Long Kiss Goodnight by Robinsons Brewery

Unfortunately due to the time we arrived, we only had time for one more, so we decided to wander over to the International ale table, where there were fridges full of interesting bottled ales from Belgium, Germany, Holland, Czech Republic and the USA. We went off the recommendation of one of the volunteers, and he offered us a Belgian Anker Boscoulis (3.5%) and a Timmermans Peche (4%). The Anker Bouscoulis was a rather sweet strawberry fruit beer (perfect for a man with a sweet tooth) with lasting flavour on the aftertaste, whilst the Timmermans Peche had a powerful peach aroma which created a dry taste on the palate.

Despite only sampling a few, the sheer scale of the place, as well as the ales on offer, would make it a daunting task for anyone, and a full day is recommended! I’ve always loved these ale festivals, as it’s the perfect chance to try something new, or sample an ale that you see around, but just never had the opportunity to try. Roll on next year!

For more photos of the Winter Ales Festival, click here.

© David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog/sites author and owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to David Marsland and Drinks Enthusiast with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Altrincham Bottle & Cask Festival Review

Today I attended the 3rd annual Altrincham Bottle & Cask Festival hosted by the Le Trappiste Belgian Bar in the historic Altrincham Market. After missing last years due to work commitments, I was looking forward to this years, and the promise of 30% more cask ales and cider than last year and with many new breweries making appearances, you’d be a fool to not go!

Only costing £5 to enter and £5 for a drink vouchers, me and my father made our way round the stalls of the local charity Stockdales, CAMRA as well as passing Dilli of Altrincham’s chicken and chorizo paella that they had produced. Le Trappiste had their own stall with a selection of lesser known Belgian, Czech, Dutch, German and American beers and there was a separate table of Ciders and Perrys. We made our way to the line of ales that awaited are taste buds. Local recognisable breweries include Dunham Massey Brewing Company, Bollington Brewery and Tatton Brewery entwined with lesser known Blueball Brewery of Runcorn, Wirksworth Brewery of Derbyshire and Red Willow Brewery of Macclesfied. Our first tipple of the day for myself was a recommended Porter ale from the Tap House Brewery of Derby named Dark & Dangerous (ABV 5%) while my father went for Derby based Dancing Duck Brewery and there 22 (Two Little Ducks) Copper ale (ABV 4.3%). For a starter drink, mine wasn’t too bad with a dark malt flavour with chocolate aromas, whilst my fathers was a balanced malt flavoured ale which set him up nicely for his next drink – Cheshire IPA from the Dunham Massey Brewery (ABV 4.7%)

Le Trappiste Belgian Beer range

I went for the bitter Little Bollington from the Dunham Massey Brewery (ABV 3.7%) which was a light ale with no distinct flavour reaching out at you. An easy drink that you can have a night of. The Cheshire IPA was a strong traditional IPA with a good mix of hops and malt. My father then went for one of Le Treppiste’s Belgian range –

Range ot Ales available

 Biolegere from the Belgian brewery of Dunpont (ABV 3.5%). It was a very light and blonde ale with again no distinct flavour reaching out to you. I went for the Oor Bonnie of Blueball Brewery in Runcorn (ABV 4.3%) which had a sweet nose of malt which gave off the aromas and flavours of caramel. A slight bitter taste rounded the drink off. I myself then went to Le Trappiste’s stand to try Callewaert Extra Stout (ABV 5%) which originated from the Struube brewery. This was a very nice dark, sweet beer that gave off a lovely brown head, perfect for my sweet tooth! My father opted for another local porter ale named Scoundrel (ABV 4.1%) from the Leatherbritches Brewery in Ashbourne. Another dark and smooth ale that gave off distinct chocolate and caramel malts.

 

To round off our visit we both went for the Le Trappiste Classic produced by the Bollington Brewery (ABV 7.4%). This was apparently made to celebrate the 1000th beer they sold! And to carry on the trend, it was a very dark and sweet Belgian ale to finish the day nicely.

The venue of Altrincham Market was perfect for the event, with me witnessing on several occasions people passing by and looking in, only to then be next to me in the que for a drink! The local band Bearfist were playing well-known rock songs from the 80’s to present day and the incredible smell of local award-winning restaurant Delli’s paella had me resisting splashing out! The crowd was a good mix of families, guys and girls, with soft drinks available for the designated drivers and wine for the ladies from Le Trappistes range (but to be fair, they weren’t afraid to have an ale in their hands!).

Overall, an enjoyable day out with some excellent beers from both the local breweries and Belgium itself. If you ever get the chance to go to these festivals, DO IT! There a great way of trying different drinks as well as supporting your local breweries. This is my 4th ale festival in 6 months, and my second hosted by Le Trappiste, and with 2 more coming up before the end of the year, there’s always plenty to go to and see!

For more information on Le Trappise, visit there website at http://www.letrappiste.com/

To join CAMRA and know when the next festival in your area is, see http://www.camra.org.uk/

 

A few mentions

Pint of Adnams Gunhill

I thought i’d mention to you all that i swung by my local JD Wetherspoons The JP Joules today and purchased myself a pint of Adnams Gunhill (4%) by Adnams Brewery, one of their many guest ales. for £1.60! If any of you are member of CAMRA – Campaign for Real Ale, then you too will know that you receive vouchers for 50p off any of the ales that your nearest JD Wetherspoons offers. 50p may not sound a lot but i can say that my last 4 or 5 visits have resulted in me buying more pints of ale than any other drink! The one i tried today was as mentioned the Adnams Gunhill. A dark ruby malt brown colour with a smooth n slightly fruity flavour with a sweet after-taste meant this pint went down very well! At the weekend i had myself a Morland Old Speckled Hen and in the past i remember having a pint of Cotswold Spring Codrington Codger and a fruity Arundel Summer Daze.

I’ve started getting myself into ales again – there’s a lot more variety than lager and goes well with food more if you’re having a meal. I sold the award-winning Old Tom by the Robinsons brewery in my last place of work and have been hooked on it ever since! They do an original (8.5%), chocolate (6%) and ginger (6%), with all three a popular seller with the Knutsford people! This year i have also supported CAMRA by attending the Real Ale Festival at Manchester Museum of Science and Industry as well as the fancyabeermate.com Sale Ale Festival and Le Trappiste Royal Ale Festival. These festivals are great to try a variety of local and micro breweries that you wouldn’t necessarily see in your local pub. I’ve a fond memory of ale stew at Le Trappiste too which was very tasty!

If you fancy supporting CAMRA in their effort to introduce ale to a wider audience – join them on there website – http://www.camra.org.uk/

Le Trappiste Belgian Cafe Bar – http://www.letrappiste.com/ also have there 3rd annual Altrincham Beer & Cask Beer Festival in August bank holiday which i will hopefully be attending and reviewing!

Fancy a Beer Mate – http://www.fancyabeermate.com/