Tuesday, 11 August 2009

GBBF Take 2

Yeah I’m still riding this wave but this’ll just be a post focusing on the beer I drank on Saturday at the GBBF with my mates Lee, Matt, Sean and Dave. The intention was to spend Tuesday on the US stuff and Saturday on the UK stuff. Here’s what I managed.

I arrived just before midday and sped to see what was left of the BSF. I saw nothing but silver shelfing and an empty fridge. But as I looked further along there was a huddle of people and I saw one, single cask being dispensed. To my delight it was Stone’s Pale Ale, a beer I’ve never had before. Result! It was pretty good, it tasted a little beyond its best but all the essential pieces were in place and it made for a decent starter beer. I also clocked the fridge still-full of US bottles and eyed that up for later…
On a quick warm-up lap I saw Moor’s Revival (a finalist in the Champion Beer of Britain 2009) and knowing how I loved and waxed lyrical about JJJ I had to try it. It was lovely; really easy drinking and quenching with dry, fruity-floral hops. This is just the sort of hoppy, full-flavoured, sub-4% beer that I’m loving right now (these are the future, I tell you!). Next, because I read a tweet from Steve saying it was on, came Fuller’s 2009 Vintage. I real scoop. It’s caramel coloured, bready, malty and clean and then it goes into fresh, grassy and green hops. It was great to try it from the cask but for me I love these with a couple of years under them when the hops fade down and the dried fruit and brandy flavours ease through. The 2004 I tried here is still one of the best beers I’ve ever had.

Fearing the fridge would clear-out I grabbed some bottles: Ballast Point’s Big Eye IPA (which I also bought on Tuesday and brought home – see the video below!) and Deschutes Black Butte Porter (I also wanted some lagers but the queue for this was almost unending!). The Big Eye IPA is 100% Centennial which was exactly why I had to have it. At GBBF it tasted a little sticky, a little tangy with lots of tropical fruit and a great big bitter finish. I’ve opened the bottle at home and it was stunning: a big bowl of oranges, bitter, juicy, fruity and just all-out-awesome. The Black Butte Porter was classic new-skool porter: full-bodied, chocolatey, smooth, sweet, nutty and very good indeed.
Dinner followed and I had to have another chicken balti pie because it was amazing on Tuesday. It was amazing again on Saturday. I went to the Cains stand for this beer and went for the Dark Mild (not as an intended FAB POW! just to have a beer to wash it down) which was a solid mild. It didn’t match the pie but it was super with some pork scratchings (oh the beautiful pork scratchings!). I also had some Cains Fine Raisin Beer which I loved last year and really enjoyed again this year, in a guilty-pleasure kind of way.

Then Woodland’s Midnight Stout an oily, smoky, full-flavoured stout and a total surprise of a brew. And it was similar in many ways to Cairngorm’s Black Gold which is super-smoky, meaty, roasty and chocolatey. Excellent UK stouts like this are great to find. Following this was DarkStar’s Espresso Stout which was all coffee-bitter and dark and mouth coating; another cracking dark beer from the UK. Smiles all round.

HSB was on and we had to have that one. Matt and I used to go to a pub near university and drink four pints of this while doing the quiz each Thursday. It was £2.50 a pint and just fantastic. The beer is still great and a taste of a memory (see Matt again in this post as well as Lee), although I’m sure it used to be 5.2% before Fuller’s took over the brewing of it?

I love Dorothy Goodbody’s Wholesome Stout so went for the Wye Valley Bitter which was fruity with a dry hoppy finish but ultimately a bit boring. To compensate for this I had a Montegioco Mummia, one of the beers I most enjoyed on Tuesday. I could drink buckets of this stuff, it’s that good (although none of my mates liked it?!).
More bottles followed… Birrificio Lambrate Ligero which was floral and fruity, quenching and biscuity then into a slightly sour fruit note and a dry, bitter finish. It took us a few sips to get out heads around this one but it was great. Then came a Big Sky Scape Goat Pale Ale which we all decided we would buy a lot of if it was available in the UK: citrus, pineapple, pine and then a cakey sweetness; loads of flavour and all very easy drinking - a lawnmower beer with bite. There was also a bottle of De Molen Vuur and Vlam which my notes tell me is like Orval without the brett. It’s spicy, dry and tangy with peppery hops. Excellent but it took a while to wrap my mouth around it. And there was some Hogs Back A over T too which was smooth, boozy and tasted like brandy and strawberries.

There we go. Another busy drinking day. I had the intention of drinking all UK but got distracted by the US and Italian bottles. I was very impressed with the UK stuff that I did drink but then I pretty much only shot for the names I knew. There were disappointments and there was great surprises and overall I was very impressed by the quality of the UK beers on show throughout the festival.

So that’s GBBF 2009 done. What a festival. It was so much better than I anticipated.

Oh and here’s the video of me drinking Ballast Point Big Eye IPA. It’s one seriously good beer.


  1. The Ballast Point IPA is good. The two best American IPAs I've had recently are the Nectar IPA from Nectar Ales in California and the Heavy Seas Loose Cannon Hop3 Ale from Clipper City in Maryland.

    Have you had the chance to try anything from Green Flash brewery in San Diego? Not sure if any of that makes it over to the UK, but their West Coast IPA and Le Freak (a hybrid of an American IPA and a Belgian Tripel, or so they say) are certainly worth checking out.

  2. A few notes here. Nectar IPA is brewed by Firestone under contract. Doesn't matter, Firestone are class.

    Ballast Point IPA is good. These beers are also very simple to make. The use of California Ale Yeast, aka Safale-05 allows almost anyone to create these beers. As I'm engaged in the arts, I will be creating a West Coast IPA, with Summit and Amarillo. Speaking of Amarillo, did you notice Green Flash Hop Head Read at the GBBF? That is delicious.


  3. "Dinner followed and I had to have another chicken balti pie"

    Dinner? A pie at a beer festival is "dinner"? You're a very posh young man methinks.(-;

  4. Hey Doug, not had any of the beers you mention; we are limited in what gets shipped to the UK. I've heard lots about Green Flash so definitely want to try their beers!

    Wurst, didn't see Green Flash otherwise I would've bought it straight away! I had a Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA last night and it was great!

    Tandleman, you should've seen the looks I got when I got out my china plate and silver cutlery to eat the pie with :)

  5. Wow, I don't know if I was just being blind, but it almost sounds as if there was more US stuff on Saturday than on Friday when I went. As far as I could see there was no Stone stuff (cask or otherwise) and most of the casks were off, although they did have Deschutes Inversion on, which was rather tasty.

    The fridge also seemed a little uninspiring, containing mostly stuff that I could get pretty regularly at Utobeer. I didn't see any Ballast Point or Deschutes, which I would have loved to try, which was a shame.

    Still, it was my first time at the GBBF so I guess I've got lots of years to get down there. Probably have to try and get there earlier in the week next time.

    Thanks! Great blog!

  6. Hey Tom, cheers for your comment! The US stuff was in the second fridge up and there was a fair bit in there. I didn't expect any US cask stuff so the Stone PA was a nice surprise.

    It's definitely best to go at the beginning of the week if you want the beers from far away. Hope you enjoyed the festival!

  7. If Centennial hops are your thing then you missed a trick with one of the Dutch beers. De Eem have always been an OK Dutch brewery but have now launched a series of specials kicking off with a American inspired ultra hoppy IPA using just Centennial. It was fab and I brough a few bottles back up here to the grim north. Shame they called it Rosebud, though.

  8. John, if only I'd have known!! Damn... Rosebud is a bit of a strange name though, maybe it's meant to be an allusion to Citizen Kane?!

  9. Possibly - although it just has roesbuds on the label. Despite the crazy name it's still a great beer.