Advertised as over 50 beers, ciders and perries, I was hoping to be able to try a lot of these over the weekend. Unfortunately I wasn't able to be there on the Saturday but I made up for this on the Friday and Sunday.
Arundel Stronghold (4.7%): An amazing best bitter. Malty, fruity and in your face. 5
Arundel Sussex Gold (4.2%): A big citrus hop hit but mellow and refreshing. 4
Dark Star American Pale Ale (4.7%): Storming bitter sweet pale ale. 4
Downton Chimera IPA (6.8%): Pale, tangy, morish and bitingly bitter - all in a good way. 3
Exmoor Exmoor Ale (3.8%): Decent session bitter. 3
Goacher's Fine Light (3.7%): Honey tones but a little insipid. 2
Green Jack Trawlerboys Best Bitter (4.6%): Not quite ready but those flavours are in there ready to burst. 3
|The band stage at the festival|
Hopdaemon Golden Braid (3.7%): Very thin and odd to start but warms in the mouth into a characterful, mellow aftertaste. A beer of two halves. 3
King Sussex Downs Ale (5.1%): Sweet and citrussy with a slightly spicy finish. 3
Kissingate Black Cherry Mild (4.2%): A massive cherry hit without being unpleasantly sweet. 3
Kissingate Mary's Ruby Mild (6.5%): My Friday notes say "A plethora of malt flavours fighting for precedence. A delight." My Sunday notes say "Tastes somewhat odd today, a disappointment." What started as a 4 dropped to a 2 so I'll give it 3
Longman Golden Tipple (5.0%): Refreshing and zesty. A lovely pint. 3
Milton Pegasus (4.1%): Very drinkable well-balanced best bitter. 3
Orkney Orkney IPA (4.8%): A strong hop character to this IPA, with enough strength to really hit that IPA definition but not so much you can't get stuck in. As it should be. 4
Skinners Betty Stoggs (4.0%): One of the very best bitters, in my opinion. 4
Surrey Hills Greensand IPA (4.6%): Sweet and pleasant. 3
Whitstable East India Pale Ale (4.1%): Delicate IPA fruitiness and a light, hoppy aftertaste. 3
Windsor and Eton Conqueror Black IPA (5.0%): Initially very like a traditional light coloured IPA but with a full-bodied maltiness. An eye-opener. 4
Windsor and Eton Windsor Knot (4.0%): The wedding was a while back and the baby's due soon, but the beer is still with us which is unfortunate as it tastes of petrol. 2
The bar was run by a private company and operated on a token system where all beers and ciders were the same price. Although some of the staff seemed inexperienced, they were all very friendly. There was a competition where you marked beers out of ten and handed in your scores, and I was furious because this was drawn before the end, without warning, so I hadn't handed mine in. Not a way to run a competition!
There were 40 real ales on offer and I was pleased to be able to try half of them. I wasn't intending to go for stronger beers but only three of the 20 were under 4% and there were no low gravity ones available at all, yet a lot of IPAs. An unusual but not unpleasant selection. It's rare to find a beer festival with seemingly no CAMRA influence these days. I liked the cask end cards as they had a large graphic of the pump clip then stated the colour of the beer in one word, "golden" or "black", although I was a bit confused by "amber", "bronze" and "copper". Not entirely sure of the difference there!
My beer of the festival was without a doubt the Arundel Stronghold. It's a regular, all year round ale from this local brewer and embarrassingly I've not tried it before. However I will now search it out.