The tasting teams paid two visits to The Green Ayre and one to the Sir Richard Owen. They sampled 14 beers, the majority of which were festival ales, scoring them according to CAMRA’s national beer scoring system (0= undrinkable, 1= poor, 2 = average, 3 = Good, 4 = very good, 5 = excellent).
One issue that caused discussion was the problem of determining exactly what is the “right” taste for a beer that has not been encountered before. That said, only one beer, Bryson’s Hurricane (in the Green Ayre) was judged to be in less than good condition, as it was “somewhat cloudy and rather tired.” But it improved in the drinking and was given 2.5 — but probably less than it would get when on form.
Tasters were impressed by the range of ales at The Green Ayre, with almost all tastes being catered for. Brains’ Bread of Heaven was described as “soft and creamy, but not sweet,” scoring 3, and was one of the favourite brews of the evening. Cumbrian Brewer’s King Dunmail, “mellow, darkish, soft and drying” scored the same, as did George Wright’s Drunken Duck (Richard Owen), with its “pleasant nose and astringent aftertaste” and The Green Ayre’s Namyslow’s Original Plum Beer from Poland. There were varied comments on the last of these: “light, tasty,” “plum taste seems added”, “sweet and oily”.
Ringwood’s 78 (Richard Owen) scored less well (2.5) being variously described as “initially strong but almost immediately petering out,” having “no after taste” and being “chopped off at the knees.” The team as a whole also weren’t impressed with Marston’s Sunbright, which despite being “thirst quenching and fresh” was also “light and undistinguished”, Robinson’s Tempus Fugit, “sweetish, dull, with a little fruitiness,” and Greene King’s pretentious-sounding Special Reserve: “unfinished, sweet, cloying, with a yeast tang.” All three were on sale at The Green Ayre.
Lowest scoring ale was to be found at the Richard Owen. Scoring just 1 the 5% abv horror from Belgium, Ecaussinnes Cookie Beer,was described as “death by cinnamon,” as having “yeast and cinammon and nothing else,” and as resembling “cream soda.”
Much more favourably received was Bateman’s Spring Goddess, scoring 4 and two international beers ,Yo Ho’s Tokyo Black, “bursting with character, chocolatey, roasty, bitter sweet and gradually drying,” (4) and the 7 per cent California Double IPA from the Stone brewery in the USA, which bagged the top score (4.2). This surprising, almost shocking ale had a “powerful ozone nose” and was “massively hoppy, multi-layered and complex.” (All the above were found at The Green Ayre.)
The team felt very positive about the variety of beers and beer styles found at the festival. Wetherspoon’s were treating their customers seriously and with respect by offering an imaginative selection of ales, many not widely available elsewhere, and by providing a useful guide to beers, beer styles and breweries. As usual, the price was remarkably reasonable,with all festival ales selling at £1.49 a pint.
Of the two local pubs, it was felt that the Green Ayre was approaching the event with greater flair and commitment. In contrast, the Sir Richard Owen seemed to offer less choice and its promotion of the festival was more low-key.
An encouraging feature was that, whereas historically CAMRA members have had some concerns about beer quality in some Wetherspoon’s outlets, on this occasion the ales seemed fresh and well-kept.
We thank Wetherspoon’s for an enjoyable festival and look forward to more in the future. In particular we hope that the imaginative, independent festivals planned for The Green Ayre will still go ahead, despite the recent change in management.
Lunesdale CAMRA 5.4.08
Eric Bartholomew Report of Lunesdale CAMRA visit, 10 April 2008
Three festival ales were tasted during the CAMRA branch meeting and assessed using CAMRA's national beer scoring scheme. All agreed that the beers were well-kept and together constituted an interesting and varied range.
The 3.8 abv Chocolate Drop (Caledonian) was well-received, being praised for its gently roasted flavour and rich, smooth texture. It received a score of 4.
Another Scottish beer, Harviestoun Old Engine Oil (4.5 abv) presented chocolate and roast notes in a more forceful way, with a bitter-sweet aftertaste characteristic of the stout family to which it belongs. Another 4.
Not quite so popular was Heligan Honey (4.0 abv) from Skinner's Cornwall brewery, which produced differing responses from drinkers. The official tasting notes assured us that the “real Cornish honey” would give our palates “a true buzz”. In the event the beer was better than the pun, with one drinker describing it as “very tasty.” However, another said merely that it was “o.k., drinkable.” A score of 3 was agreed.
The branch would like to thank the management of the the Eric Bartholomew for their hospitality. We wish that we'd had time to make further visits in order to try a greater number of festival ales.
Media and Publicity Officer: Julian Holt