…thou art my darling

Here are my tasting notes from the Stockport Beer and Cider Festival, as composed at the time (mostly).

Conwy/Dobbin Yakima Grande **** 5=7.5 Oh yes. Very bitter indeed, in a good way.

Red Bank Crackin’ Pear Perry ** 6.5 -> 14 Yeah but no but… Bit on the sour side.

Red Willow Faithless XXXII ***** 6 -> 20 The good stuff has arrived. An IPA only more so; one to explore.

Bootleg The Real McCoy *** 9.2 >> 29.2 A decent barley wine, which is a good thing.

Buxton Moor Top *** 3.6 = 5.4 >> 34.6 Very very dry, not much more.

Squawk Pomegranate Porter **** 3.7 >> 38.3 Does exactly what it says.

Ticketybrew Black IPA **** as ever 5.5 >> 43.8 Weirdly, not much like a black IPA – more like a dubbel porter. V drinkable.

Nook Liquor-ish Stout 5.2 >> 49 **** Rich, fruity, a bit mad.

Alechemy 10 Storey Malt Bomb *** 4.5 >> 53.5 OK but not as brilliant as it would like to be.

Day’s Cottage Butt perry ??? 7.5 >> 61 Insanely cloudy, sweet attack, v v dry finish. Also strong.

Blackjack Farmhouse Brown *** 4.8 >> 66 Good but not actually likeable.

Kirkstall Dissolution *** 5 >> 71 = just under 6 pints. Very nice but really quite drunk now.

The numbers, if you’re interested, were my way of keeping track of how much I’d had; add up the a.b.v. of each third of a pint and divide by 12 for the equivalent number of pints at 4% (my personal ‘reference pint’). (A couple of them are multiplied by 1.5, because in those cases I had a half rather than a third.)

So, how was it? The beer was generally good, and some of it was very good indeed. I missed out on a few beers which had gone off, hadn’t gone on yet or (in one case) had never arrived, but – possibly because I was there on Friday evening – fewer than on some past occasions. In any case, the big question in these situations isn’t what’s not on but what is, and in this case there was more than enough. I went straight for the much-trailed Yakima Grande Pale Ale, which was reassuringly superb. While I’ve got fond memories of some West Coast beers, I don’t remember ever having the original version of this one, so I can’t judge it on that basis. But any concerns that it might seem a bit tame by 2014 standards weren’t borne out; it was very hoppy. For me, though, the beer of the festival was another pale ale, Red Willow’s latest Faithless: a really complex beer, in the sense of having a flavour that develops the more you drink (rather than in the sense of having multiple flavours thrown together).

This year saw the introduction of Bar Nouveau, a bar serving beers which had never been on sale before. This calls for a brief digression about the layout at Stockport. The beer, the cider and most of the other stalls are set up in a long, narrow concourse (a broad corridor, really) running behind the main stand. Seating is in the main stand itself, while food, entertainment and the bottle bar are in a function room on ground level. It’s a bit of a walk from the concourse to the stand; from the top end of the concourse to the stand is about twice as far as you’d take your drink even in a large pub. It’s not that far, and there are only a few steps to deal with, but it’s a big enough disincentive to produce a lot of milling around and standing around – particularly when you’ve only got a third in your glass and you think you’ll be getting another in a couple of minutes anyway. By 7.00 on the Friday the concourse was heaving. I took my half of Moor Top downstairs to get some food, and while I was down there I made the acquaintance of the aforementioned Bar Nouveau. As you can see from the list above, I had five four- or five-star beers on Friday, and three of the five (from Squawk, the ever-reliable Ticketybrew and Nook) were on at Bar Nouveau. Very fine beers, the Ticketybrew in particular. The arrangement also meant I could drink my beer while sitting at a table and listening to a covers band, which isn’t a bad way to do it.

A word about the perry. I hadn’t had any cider or perry at Stockport for a few years, but I decided to branch out this time – not entirely successfully. My first visit to the cider & perry end of the room was early doors, while business was still slow, and the volunteer I spoke to gave me three samples before I settled on one; even then I was the one who called a halt (I think he would have been happy to carry on until I found one that was just right). The whole thing made me feel a bit like Goldilocks, rejecting one for being too sour and one for being too sweet; the one I settled on wasn’t that great, either (not too sour, but still basically a sour flavour). The second perry I had, much later in the evening, carried a hand-written label saying “Cloudy. Very cloudy”, and it was; in fact it was opaque. Flavour-wise it was an odd combination of a heavy, honeyed sweetness on the lips and a harsh, screamingly sour finish. I think it was probably meant to taste like that; not sure it was meant to look like that, though. What I was really looking for was something light and floral, and not really on the sweet/sour continuum at all – although, on consulting some ancient tasting notes, this seems to be an effect you’re more likely to get from cider than perry. Anyway, it was interesting, and I’m sure I’ll be back.

Afterwards, finally, I didn’t really feel all that drunk. Six pints (equivalent) is a lot for me; I think my all-time giddy limit is seven, and I’ve been properly drunk on less than that. But I wasn’t falling-down drunk on Friday night – or throwing-up drunk, or world-going-round-and-round drunk, or falling-asleep-on-the-bus drunk or even having-difficulty-focusing drunk. I was quite poorly the next day, on the other hand – although this may have something to do with mixing beer and perry. Opaque perry in particular, perhaps – although I can’t say I wasn’t warned!



  1. John Clarke
    Posted 2 June, 2014 at 8:32 am | Permalink | Reply

    Yes, the Yakima Grange. I had a side by side tasting with Sierra Nevada Pale Ale (which was sold on the bottled beer bar) and they were very similar indeed. Howveer I do recall the “old” Yakima Grange having a notable up front hoppiness that neither the new version, nor indeed the Sierra Nevada, seemed to display. I wonder if the hops themselves have changed a little over time? I don’t know as I’m no real expert on that sort of thing. A more likely possibility is that while the beers are unchanged my exposure to hoppines has increased and expanded. Could be that in their day both were cutting edge but today neither of them are (but remain very good beers nonetheless).

    You chose badly with the perry by the way – you should have gone for Greg’s Pit or Oliver’s.

    • Phil
      Posted 2 June, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink | Reply

      It didn’t make me go “My God, what was that?”, which has happened in the past with really hoppy beers – and perhaps it would have done 15 (20?) years ago. And yes, the hopping is much more noticeable on the finish than in the aroma. I guess it’s the difference between still qualifying as a really nice beer, and still qualifying as a hop-bomb.

  2. John Clarke
    Posted 2 June, 2014 at 8:36 am | Permalink | Reply

    Yakima Gtange? Oops. Yakima Grande of course.

  3. Posted 3 June, 2014 at 6:24 pm | Permalink | Reply

    I was working on the Bar Nouveau on Sat lunch.. which was very enjoyable and a great insight into how festivals are run and would recommend it to anyone. I thought the Squawk porter was rather nice as too the Licourice stout but i do tend to like darker beers.

    • Phil
      Posted 3 June, 2014 at 10:48 pm | Permalink | Reply

      My comment may have been a bit ungenerous to the Squawk (pomegranate) porter. There’s a three-stage reaction to something new, I think – “wow, this is different!”, then (hopefully) “wow, this works really well!”, and finally “OK, is that it?”. In the case of the Squawk porter, my instant reaction at the third stage was “yep, it’s porter, it’s pomegranate, whaddaya want?”. But if it was a (surprisingly) simple combination, it was a very successful one.

  4. Posted 4 June, 2014 at 6:35 pm | Permalink | Reply

    the Pomegranite Porter was by Squawk… and Licourice stout by Nook…both very good but Squawk narrow fav.
    Also liked th Quantum NZ 4 Season (?) very refreshing.

    • Phil
      Posted 4 June, 2014 at 10:42 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Curses – will correct. Missed the Quantum, for some reason – I’ve always liked their stuff, so I don’t know why it didn’t make my list.

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