We all had a splendid time. At least, I know I did -- I was enjoying my beer to much to keep track of everyone else. As a particular personal triumph, this year I managed to avoid the perennial trap of previous years: deciding that what's needed after four-and-a-half hours of drinking many different kinds of beer is -- huzzah! -- more beer, and thus falling over outside some nearby pub. (The absence on family business of Silk may have assisted in averting this.)
Instead we repaired to the chocolate café in Clifton to replenish our sugar and fat reserves. (There we met up with, among others, our goddaughter E., who I perhaps unwisely promised she could accompany us to the 2019 Beer Festival, by which time she'll be old enough.)
My tasting notes were, like last year's, a little incoherent and not always easy to decipher. Of the circa 25 beers I tasted (13 of which I drank half-pints of), the following were notable:
- Skinner's Cornish Knocker -- a very decent beer, despite the tweeness of the website. My tasting notes read "Nutty and sweet -- mm. Good session beer, I suspect" (a "session beer" being one you could sit and drink all evening, or at least that's what I've always imagined it means).
- Orkney Dark Island. Orkney do some lovely beers, and I very much enjoyed this one, although it was probably too dark to drink early on (as I did). I've underlined and ticked the word "chocolate" in the CAMRA-provided programme notes, and written: "[M.] says 'whiskyish' -- tasty and caramely."
- Ottley O.B.B.. Everyone seemed a little surprised by how much I raved about this one, but I really liked it. "Refreshingly bitter -- sloshy, persistent. Good stuff.", I wrote.
- Copper Dragon's Scotts 1816. My notes read: "Mellow and cheerful, like a relaxing tongue-massage." [Later annotation: "I expect."] "This is good."
- Triple FFF's Comfortably Numb. Not as good as it sounds -- I've written "Way too sweet... OK otherwise. Grows on you, actually." I've underlined "fruity" in the phrase "subtle fruity flavours", but crossed out "subtle".
- Dark Star Festival. Despite the quirky name (and wanky website), I wasn't all that keen on this one. I wrote: "Grows on you... don't judge by early appearances. Still... bit unimaginative. Coffeeish (oddly)."
- Spire's Sgt Peppers Stout. This one I really liked, although it wouldn't have been to everyone's taste. The CAMRA programme explains that it's "An unusual stout that is flavoured with ground black pepper," although I have to say this wasn't overly apparent in the taste. It was very tasty, though. I said, "Good. Esp w food. Smooth & stouty.", and added three ticks.
- Beowulf's Dragon Smoke Stout. I seem to remember I was too late to get any of this in 2007, so I made sure I managed it this time. I described it as: "Smoky, stouty, dragony. Mm. Good stuff, though not supernally so" (supernally?), and underlined "full roast" and "bitterness" in the programme notes.
- Bath Ales Dark Hare, from a brewery close to both Bristol and my heart. Dark Hare is a rare seasonal beer including chocolate malt, roast barley and nutmeg. My notes read: "V. nice -- rather mellow (though less so than [Cottage Brewery's] Norman's Conquest) -- velvety and pleasing mouthfeel", and all instances of the word "chocolate" in the accompanying programme notes are underlined. I think I'd just tried the Norman's Conquest (which I found "mellow and calming"), and had been amused earlier by the word "mouthfeel" in the programme notes for the Dark Star.
- Moor's Ported Pete Porter. By this stage I was frantically buying all the dark beers I could find and quaffing them. This one I pronounced "Good -- little bit metallic, but hurrah." Which is less flattering than it could have been.
- Sarah Hughes' Dark Ruby Mild. This was almost the last one I had, so I'm not altogether sure my opinion can be trusted, but I voted for it as Beer of the Festival. An initial tasting note (when I tried someone else's) reads, "Ooh. I could drink lots of that," and I later added: "And indeed, it is fine & relaxed & leisurely, with fruity, chocolatey tones."
I was less keen on the Dr Okell's I.P.A. ("tad generic"), Purple Moose's Dark Side of the Moose ("liquoricey aftertaste") and Nottingham Rock Mild ("sluggy aftertaste", bizarrely). For Shardlow's Whistlestop I wrote: "No idea. Forgot to make a note. Beery???".
Things I need to remember to do next year include rereading my notes from past years, so that I know a) what I've had already, and b) which of those I liked. (I don't seem to have duplicated any from last year, as it happens, but there are a couple I'd have liked to sample again.) Also to bring my CAMRA membership card, folding chairs and chocolate.