Winter Ale Festival

Tuesday 12th April

Last month saw the final Camra national winter beer festival to be held in Derby. It was a fantastic few days and the organisers did themselves proud yet again. It’s a real shame that it has to move on as it was great for the city and great for the lovely roundhouse which was a smashing venue to hold it in. People came from all over the country, and as a rule they didn’t just stick to the Festival, they travelled around the city sampling many of our great ale pubs. I saw many here at the Old Bell from all corners of the country who had only good things to say about the festival, the city and its pubs, especially The Bell of course.

Now obviously the festival for me is just another work day and I did my absolute upmost to not enjoy it one bit, and to simply stick to the research. Unfortunately, that was an impossibility with the hundreds of fantastic ales from all over the country that needed sampling… It’s a tough job but someone has to do it. Thankfully I kept my wits about me enough to discover some amazing ales. My first beer of the day I thought I would go straight to the Tiny Rebel counter and try the interesting sounding marshmallow stout Stay Puft. It did not disappoint. At a cheeky 5.2% it was a bold start to the day but it certainly didn’t taste quite that strong, it was a dangerous one that’s for sure. Quite sweet to taste but with a nice roasted undercurrent, it was very easy drinking and very moorish.

After this strong start to the day I decided to move to one of my favourite breweries Abbeydale. Very rarely have I disliked one of their beers so I was confident going in, however the ale I was going to try sounded extremely different. Named Birdhouse Tea Beer it tasted as interesting as it sounds. It’s a 4.2% pale ale which contains Jasmine, summer fruits and hibiscus. It was slightly cloudy due to the tea added to it and was more a hazy pink than your classic pale ale. Again it was quite sweet to taste so it isn’t for everyone but I found it delightful, it cut through the stout perfectly. Yet again Abbeydale pull one out of the bag. They even managed to rustle up a decent pump clip for the Birdhouse which is very much a rarity with Abbydale it has to be said.

Next up was our old pals at Wentwell. Now the beer I tried next, Justice For Gingers, I have to be honest I have enjoyed before and I only tried it again as I know I’m a fan. It’s a 4% pale ale with added ginger as the name suggests.  It’s very pale gold, the ginger character is subtle with good malty notes with some citrus hops in the background, a lovely clean, refreshing brew. A very good choice for anyone that likes a bit of ginger.

Now the afternoon was progressing quite rapidly, and I had tried some very different beers. So for my final beer I thought I would play it a bit safer. I went back to Tiny Rebel and had what I thought would be a classic ruby beer, named Cwtch. Now to my discredit I had never tried Cwtch even though it was Champion beer of Britain 2015. And boy had I missed out. It’s a solid 4.6% red ale, pulled a chestnut colour and was quite fruity with strong hop flavours, light in body with roasted malts coming through strongly. Just my luck to have chosen this for my last beer of the day as it was hands down the best I had tasted on the day, and it took all my will power to pull myself away from the Tiny Rebel Stand and away from the festival.

Fear not however as I am in the enviable position of being able to ensure the good people of Derby (and myself) will be able to enjoy these cracking ales on a regular basis. As this blog is published we currently have Birdhouse selling fast in our Tavern Bar, Justice For Gingers was on over the bank holiday and moved very well, Stay Puft and Cwtch will be coming soon on cask so keep an eye out for those. But most excitingly having tried the kegged Cwtch since and deciding it was also delicious, it will be one of our new permanent kegged beers in the Tavern. Definitely something worth trying. For these and many more exciting ales plus your classic staples, come and visit us at The Old Bell soon.