Last weekend, the annual Maltings Festival took place in Newton Abbot. I was there for three of the four sessions. What follows is the unedited text written during the Friday afternoon session…
As I sit here, writing this introduction to the blog post you are now reading, it is just approaching ten minutes past eleven, on Friday the 25th April. The second session of the Maltings Beer Festival in Newton Abbot is underway, and beside me I have two half pint glasses, filled with beers from the Quantock Brewery.
Quantock’s Wills Neck is the beer that recieved the honour of winning overall first prize in the SIBA southwest region competition, which was judged on the Thursday afternoon. As it sold out last night, whilst I was enjoying the beers from Rebel, Art Brew and Bristol Beer Factory, I have to try their beers without trying that.
The Nightjar, which came 3rd in the bitter category, seems like an okay, inoffensive bitter. To me there’s no wow factor, but it’s not undrinkable either. It’s a beer that sits in that vast middle category of existing. It’s a category that contains the beers that I’ll often know I’ve tried, but have no memory of what it’s like. In comparison, White Hind seems much more like the sort of bitter I enjoy.. There’s a nice caramel note and sweetness that’s complemented well by the bitterness. It’s unlikely I’ll be going back for more tomorrow, but over a session in a pub, I wouldn’t object to drinking a few.
The last Quantock beer for this session is named Ginger Cockney. It does have a ginger taste to it, though unlike other ginger beers I’ve tried, that taste fades all too quickly, leaving no hint or clue that you’ve just sipped a beer with ginger in it at all. In many ways, this can be seen as a good thing. The Ginger Beer that Brodies made a few years ago was nice, but the ginger was so strong that the beers that followed it were marred by the lingering gingerness.
(As an aside, “The Lingering Gingerness” seems like a good nickname for someone, if only I knew someone with ginger hair who stuck around a bit too long. )
The next brewery for today is the one that has had the least distance to travel, with their beers being brewed on the same site, thus making it perfect for this year’s Friday Pint focus of local beers. Teignworthy Brewery have four beers here today, Reel Ale, Amys Ale, Pippa’s Pint and Imperial Russian Porter, which came 1st in the Premium Strong Beer category.
For those wondering what the time is, it’s just gone ten to twelve. If you’re wondering what the time is where you are right now, I’m afraid I can’t help you with that. Do you not have a clock or watch you can look at? The device you’re using to read this should have the time on, unless someone has printed this out for you, or you have printed it out for yourself, and you are reading it elsewhere. If you’re reading this in the far future, do they still have printers where you are? Have you cured cancer yet, or are you busy spending your money on developing time travel?
Back to beer, and cheese. Friday is market day in Newton Abbot, and so earlier I bought two pieces of cheese to consume alongside the many beers I’ll be drinking today. What were those cheeses you are probably thinking right now. I can’t remember their names, I would reply to you, but one, the one I am nibbling on right now, is made with ale and mustard. I’m not a fan if I’m honest. I’ve had much nicer ale based cheeses, and much nicer mustard based ones.
As for the beer, I’ve kicked off the Teignworthys with Reel Ale. Either my nasal receptors have gone or it smells of nothing. The taste isn’t much either. It’s not an awful, undrinkable beer, but it doesn’t really inspire a string of poetic adjectives either.
It’s the turn of the two girls next, Pippa and Amy. Visually, they both look alike (Is there such a thing as a beer equivilent of racism?). Aromawise, they’re both very similar to the Reel Ale. (This isn’t boding well. I don’t mind beers of this style, but I’ve already had a number of bitters today, thankfully, I have the imperial russian stout to come next.). Tastewise, my receptors are giving off a resounding “meh”. There are differences between the two, but after a string of bitters, be it in best, standard or premium form, I’m ready for something else now.
Whilst I drink these two beers, I shall give you a description of what’s going on around me. I am in the tent outside, sat down at a table. I am one of those who got here early enough to claim a chair and table. Across from me are a couple who have travelled up from Plymouth. On the table next to us, a group of men, ranging from late 20s/early 30s to late 30s/early 40s have come prepared, with bread, fruit, pies, and crisps adoring the table. A constant flow of people ebb in and out of the tent, returning with beer or sometimes food from one of the two vans adjacent to the tent. A loud mumur fills the tent. Occasionally a laugh is heard. It’s difficult to focus in on one of the many conversations happening simultaneously. As I approach my third hour of my second session, I start to ponder what my third brewery of focus will be. Arbor and Moor are on the hitlist, then there’s Tavy, who’s Porter came 1st in it’s categpory, and 2nd overall.
After “finishing” the bitters, I’ve now moved on the the Imperial Russian Porter. A beer much more to my taste, and one that I’ve decided to accompany with some chocolate drops from Merry Berry Chocolates. The Ecuador and Costa Rica go rather well with a dark 10.5% beer. The beer is my favourite of the day so far. This is probably unsurprising, given that imperial stouts and porters are one of my favourite styles of beer.
Where I am, right now at the time of writing, it’s approaching 13:30. Outside the tent a number of grey clouds are gathering over the festival, and a group of Morris Dancers are Morris Dancing, with crowds of people inexplicably watching them. On the table beside me now is a half of Tavy Best Bitter, and a half of Tavy Ideal Pale Ale. The best doesn’t seem too bad,. At the very least it’s not making me think “oh god, not another best bitter”. The Ideal Pale Ale seems like a nice beer, though the choice of hops clearly aren’t to my liking. It certainly makes a nice change to a run of bitters though. Outside it has started raining. The soft sotherners are all moving inside the tent, making it much more crowded. On the plus side, it will have stopped the morris dancers. It has certainly got a lot darker than it was when I arrived.
Having just stepped outside, I’m going to say it’s actually not that bad. Sure, it is raining, but it’s nowhere near as bad as it sounds. If the rain has done anything, it’s made the festival seem much more busier than it actually is. That murmur that was referred to earlier is somewhat louder. I now sit here drinking a mix of “proper” lemonade and sparkling water. An arguably much needed and required break following the nine beers I’ve just had. I have the porter left to try from Tavy Ales, and then, I think one more brewery before I call it a day at the festival and head towards the Teign Cellars.
Back to now (14:30 for those keeping record), and it’s the turn of Tavy Porter. A rather delightful beer that has provoked the return of the chocolate buttons purchased earlier. Chocolate and stout/porter go well together. Deliciously well. I will say that I’ve enjoyed the dark beers much more than I have the bitters today.
Brewery number seven of the weekend is Moor Beer, and I’ve started with the rather lovely Nor’hop. A beer in the Best category that I’m tempted to go back to. It’s tropical and fruity, but it’s not overtly strong in flavour or bitterness. Something I found I wasn’t really enjoying last night. If anything, it’s nice to be drinking a pale bitter beer that I don’t feel like disposing of into the grass beside me, as I have done with a couple of the beers mentioned earlier within this post.
Outside it has stopped raining, and things certainly seem a lot brighter now.A number of people have returned to the outside world, making the tent and the maltings much easier to move around in. I’m finishing this session with Moor Beer’s Dark Alliance. A beer that appropriately has coffee in the description, as it also does in the taste. As I’m not a fan of coffee, it is much more likely that I’ll come across a beer like this that I won’t particuarly enjoy than it is one that I will. This is a beer that falls into the former category. For people who do enjoy coffee, I can see this being a beer that they would enjoy, but for a non coffee lover like me, it’s a poor end to a session full of average beers.
As for now I’m going to walk up to the Teign Cellars and load my bag with cheap (compared to Bitter Virtue) Wild Beer Ninkasi and other such beer. I’ll be back here tomorrow, to finish off the Moor and drink whatever else takes my fancy.
So that was Friday. I didn’t end up buying the Ninkasi (I have since mail ordered it though, along with some others).
A few points to note surrounding upcoming events. The Rockstone’s Cider Festival, which was scheduled to be held last weekend is now scheduled to be held at the end of May (30th May – 1st June).
This weekend in Southampton sees the South Western Arms (right next to St Denys station, and about a 10-15 minute walk to/from The Butchers Hook) hold their May Bank Holiday Beer Festival, from Friday 2nd to Sunday 4th May.
That’s your lot for this week. Please return in the future, at some point, even if it’s just as a brain transported into a spiderlike robot. I’d prefer it if it were sooner though.
Thank you for reading.