There’s Something about Lists

I’ve been up since 5am compiling my list for the Great British Beer Festival.  (Did I say yesterday I wasn’t going for the beer?  I was lying.) I know this list making is an exercise in futility but I can’t help myself.
Have I gone mad or is the GBBF “region” list a complete rewriting of British geography?  If you didn’t know the names of the breweries you liked, it would be impossible to find anything.  Though organizing 700+ beers can’t be easy, and I won’t pretend I could do it better.

I’m keeping my expectations low and realistic, even if I stick to thirds there’s only so much I can drink.

There is the dilemma of starting with what is most palate-friendly, but ironically I’ve found at beer festivals there is always a rush on the higher-alcohol brews.  Perhaps because they are “rarer”– especially if you do most of your drinking in pubs where most beer available is around 4%.  But most of these beers will thrash your palate straight out.

But then there is the labyrinth of the GBBF layout to negotiate.  Sure, you want to start with that light summer ale with elderflower infusion, but where the hell is it?  You get lost and end up drinking some hop bomb which coats your mouth in resins for a good hour.

Here is my list for those who really like that kind of thing.  You know who you are.

  • Adnams Gunhill (a dark mild)
  • American Flatbread Solstice Gruit (a medieval brew, I’ll be drinking it in honor of my new friend and fab writer, Jesse Bullington.)
  • Beartown Ginger Bear– (the gay man in me giggles.)  I like ginger, I like Beartown and I like ginger bears.
  • Buffy’s Norwich Terrier– I’m a fan of Buffy’s– their Old English Rose was one of those palate-defining brews for me.  Though the name isn’t too promising.  I keep thinking wet dog.
  • Islay Nerabus–I’m increasingly curious about Scottish brewers, particularly Hebridean ones.  This beer also has Amarillo hops, my favourite.
  • Mighty Oak Oscar Wild Mild or Sand Bar– I’ve heard great things about this brewery and it’s local if we’re counting food miles.
  • Orkney Raven Ale– I sampled several beers from this brewery while I was in Orkney.  I’ll drink almost anything with “hedgerow” in the tasting notes.
  • St. Austell Prince– I’m a fan of this brewery’s hoppy bitters and am eager to see what they do with a mild.  So often breweries will brew a mild for the GBBF but you never see them in pub rotations.  It’s a shame– this could be a post in itself.
  • Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean–I feel obligated to list this as it seems the quintessential beer-chaser type beer: rare, distant and complicated, though I’ve yet to have a Stone beer that has blown me away. Maybe this is the one?
  • Stone This Beer Tastes Better on Tap– this is an in-joke about cask ale, right? Right?  If I try it will I be in on the joke?
  • Thornbridge Craven Silk– OK, this is the beer I’m most excited about.  Brewed with fresh-picked Elderflower (see, this is why Cyclops style ratings, where beers are broken down into hue, bitterness and sweetness and nothing else, will never really sell beer.) I am hoping to start with this one.

This year I’m going to pick up some bottles to drink at home, specifically:

  • Great Divide 16th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA (increasingly becoming a favourite style of mine)
  • Thornbridge Halcyon– after sneaking a sip of Pete Brown‘s at the Jolly Butcher on my Birthday, I need more of this sunny beer.
  • Thornbridge St. Petersburg– there is a pattern forming here!  This is my favourite beer style and I can’t wait to see what Thornbridge do with it.

I fully expect most of these to be gone or MIA once I get there, but one can  hope.

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8 Responses

  1. The most extreme example of strong beer drinking that I’ve found was in the Barrow in Furness beer festival in the 1980s. Quite a lot of drinkers would order the strongest, which would unsurprisingly run out. They’d look dismayed and then say, “A pint of the next strongest!” Inevitably there were bodies scattered around the room at the end of the night. I have a drinking reputation, but even I looked askance at some of the goings on.

    • Hi Neville, I think I’ve been to Barrow in Furness– grim! I can almost picture it. I do tend to like the stronger beers. I feel I paced myself rather well today, having started at noon. I quit while I was still only tipsy– I don’t like to travel home alone if I’m feeling actually drunk. Are you planning to go to the GBBF? Or were you there today and I missed you?

  2. I too like stronger beers; I rarely drink anything below 4% and prefer 4.5% upwards. I do particularly like Moorhouses Pendle Witches Brew (5.1%). But many Barrovians at the festival drank beers like Skullsplitter as a session beer. That festival is long gone, replaced by a much nicer one in Ulverston, which isn’t a grim town at all – in fact, quite charming.

    No, I won’t be at the GBBF. I worked at it twice twice when it was in Leeds in 1988 & 1989, but I’ve not been since. I will be working at our Southport beer festival in September.

    • Skullsplitter as a session beer doesn’t sound like a very pleasant idea! I have some tentative plans on that weekend in September but maybe I can try to get to Southport for the Festival.

  3. Hope you managed to get some of your list! If not, Oscar wild mild is usually available in our local (but not over the summer – but we still have delicious Maldon gold.) And for Thornbridge you could do worse than get a train to Sheffield and drink yourself silly in the Sheffield tap… At two hours away it’s comparable to getting over the other side of London sometimes! Having said that, I had the Craven and didn’t find it very exciting at all.

    • Hi Boak, sorry I missed you at the GBBF. We were wondering if you were there! I think getting to Sheffield is an excellent plan! I look forward to checking out your local soon also, though may wait for the mild to come on!

  4. I know it’s a long way, but if you do decide to come up to Merseyside, do let me know. Cheers!

    • We might be coming up that way in a couple of weeks. If we do, I will definitely let you know!

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