Tuesday, 16 June 2009

The Best of the Best

On Thursday last week Mark from Pencil and Spoon met up and went to The Bull at Horton Kirby for a beer festival featuring some pretty exciting breweries. Among the featured were BrewDog, Dark Star and Ramsgate, three of my favourite brewers.

Garrett and Lynne the landlord and lady had pulled out all the stops with their choices, ‘Best of the Best’ doesn’t cut it. There were at least a dozen out of the thirty five or so beers that I would have had on my dream list for a beer festival. A full list of the beers available can be found here. They made both Mark and I feel very welcome, the barbie was top notch and the weather even held!

Right onto the serious stuff, what beer we drank. Well here goes.

We started with the BrewDog Edge, at a measly 2.7% I didn’t hold out much hope for a full, flavoursome beer. How wrong I was, as ever the boys at BrewDog have managed to shoehorn more flavour into a beer that most brewers can’t manage at double the strength. It is dark, malty, not as sweet as I thought it would be, dry, hoppy and all in all an amazing session beer. Next Mark and I went halves on half pints so as to retain some sort of level-headedness and ability to taste beers and make coherent notes (my notes from the end of the evening are less than coherent!). Amarillo gold was next up, a pale straw wheat beer showcasing a single variety of American hop. It was sweet, simple, citrussy and very refreshing. BrewDog 77 lager next, smooth, very hoppy for a pilsner, almost US style probably the best lager I have had this year.

Mark opened a cheeky surprise for us all to try round our table next, a sample bottle of the as yet unlabelled 8% Atlantic IPA. As a fan of almost all BrewDog have done it pains me to say it but, it was a disappointment. Over oxidised, sour, with the once bright hops mellowed to an earthiness that clashed with the whisky barrel aging. All in all, a bit disappointing. Sticking with BrewDog, a half of Dogma next, sweet, dark, with a rich mouthfeel, a boozy punch and a bitter hop kick left my tongue punished, but aching for more.

As Mark mentions in his review, all of the Thornbridge beers we tried over the course of the evening were disappointing, shadows of their normally bright and zingy selves. I feel it would be unfair to slate their beer as it might have been a problem outside of the brewery’s control. In the past however I have had amazing pints of both the Kipling and Jaipur that were on.

After a quick beer sponge burger came a very special brew indeed, Marble Brewery Pint. A heavily hopped, dry session bitter that was dangerously drinkable and probably my personal favourite of the festival. From there a brief flirt with Marble’s Ginger which was er, gingery but ace. Moving quickly on, Pitfield IPA which tasted ethanoly, harsh and a bit like paint stripper. Not nice. A half of BrewDog Trashy Blonde redeemed a couple of duff beers being fruity and another example of BrewDog hitting the nail on the head.

Nearing the end of the night and testing the limits of our alcoholic abilities, we rolled out the big guns. Pitfield’s Imperial stout weighing in at 9.3% and BrewDog’s Devine Rebel at 12.5%. I by this point wasn’t making very good notes, my brain was a little befuddled! Here is a transcript of the notes I made about each:

Devine Rebel – Oranges, molasses, treacle, spice, massive mouthfeel, boozy, Christmas cake.

Pitfield Imperial – Burnt toast, coffee, dark chocolate, raisins, soil.

Soil!? Really!? I’m sure it made sense at the time.

By this point Mark and I staggered back cross country to the station with the aid of Mark’s cunningly packed torch. I bet he was a boy scout and knows how to tie knots too.

Day two:

Having tried almost all the beer that was available day two was a much more relaxed affair. Phil from here and my brother David came along as well as Mark’s friend Matt.

I hit the ground running with a pint of Pint, this got me into the groove for a half of Dobber straight after. I stopped being so precious about making notes and had a Gadd’s No3, Thoroughly modern Mild and a Dr Sunshine’s Special Friendly, all of which were great. At this point I stopped taking notes, more beer flowed, the sun set and the charcoal smoke from the barbecue spiralled lazily up into the evening sky. Another drunken walk back to the station and a visit to the chip shop on the way home another day at the festival ended.

A great couple of days, with some fantastic beer.


  1. About bloody time you post this!! :D

    It was a great festival. I have massive cravings right now for a pint of Pint or HopHead - I'm so thirsty!!

    The Epic Halcyon is coming out this weekend and there is a showcase of Oakham beers in a few weeks time (I'll miss the Oakham though, dammit!)

  2. If I was there, I would have drank gallons.

    That pint in the picture seems to lacking condition.

  3. I drank as much as was humanly possible!

    There are a few reasons that pint might look a bit dodgy, I can't actually remember what it was in the first place mind. Strongest contender is the crap camera used to take the shot with. Failing that it could well have been one of the Thornbridge beers that weren't really up to scratch.