Those seeking a taste of the South needed to go no further than the Water Witch, whose recent festival of southern beers and ciders was a triumph. For ten days drinkers were treated to a stunning variety of brews, most of which are rarely if ever available locally, all in immaculate condition and available in 1/3 pint glasses.
Following the highly successful festival of New Northern Micros in May this year, the Water Witch management asked CAMRA members to suggest other themes, and the idea of a southern fest was born. The response was a wonderful event that featured 19 breweries and 21 individual beers, plus ciders and perry.
Most beer styles were featured, with strengths ranging from Olde Swan’s “Original”, a 3.5% light mild, to Berrow brewery’s “Topsy Turvey”, weighing in at 5.9%. There were half a dozen especially tasty dark ales, including mild and porter. It was this variety and range that particularly impressed the punters: it was possible to visit on several different occasions and each time have a unique drinking experience. This made choosing a Beer of the Festival difficult if not impossible.
On the evenings I attended CAMRA members were tasting, discussing and comparing the ales with more than customary enthusiasm. High on the list of favourites was Enville brewery’s “Chainmaker”, a classic Midlands mild with a rich and malty flavour and a hop aroma — so popular it soon went. Another star was the outstanding “Shropshire Gold” from the Salopian brewery, a copper coloured ale of enormous depth and complexity for its 3.8% abv.
Also scoring well were the near-iconic “JHB” from Oakham brewery in Peterborough, the 5% “Fireside” from Black Country Ales, described as “mindblowing” and “absolutely wonderful”, apparently even possessing the ability to “cut through a cold”, and “Churchelder” from newcomer Willoughby, a delectable bitter brewed with elderflower.
But judging by the chorus of “oohs,” “aahs” and the occasional “blimey” the top three were probably a hugely flavoursome winter ale from Evan Evans, “Winter Warmer”, Hidden brewery’s “Bee’ch Licked”, a strong, complex golden ale, and “Funnel Blower”, a porter from the Box Steam brewery. The last was greeted with gasps of astonishment. “This is wonderful, gorgeous,” sighed one, while another poor soul (who should clearly get out less) pronounced it “better than sex.”
The festival was accompanied by excellent tasting notes and friendly, efficient service from the Water Witch staff. Congratulations to Jane Barnes and the team and to Emma Procter and Mitchell’s for putting on an event characterised by boldness, taste and imagination. The punters certainly seemed to approve, getting through 17 barrels in the ten days of the festival — and in the traditionally “quiet” pre-Christmas period.
And for those who just can’t get enough of that taste of the south — there are still one or two beers available. But you’d better hurry...
Press Officer, Lunesdale CAMRA