The National Winter Ales Festival is a beer festival I know well. Having been going for the last 7 years and also volunteered at a number of them. This year was the largest yet: over 300 beers! I am very much a fan of hoppy beers, particularly the aromatic hops, but I can appreciate good dark and old ales as well, and seeing as this is the Winter Ales Festival there was an emphasis on these darker beer types.
There is always an issue which I have at beer festival, and I’ve named it (as I am a nerd) the “signal to noise ratio”. This simply means the number of good beers there are compared to the number of poor beers. This year I felt this ratio was very low. There were a couple of times I thought I’d go for beers from breweries which I’d never heard of, and almost instantaneously regretted it. I can’t remember who these breweries were as their beers were really not that memorable. So I ended up being unsurprised by which beers I thought were good as even if I hadn’t had the beer before, I knew the breweries. I thought I’d make a list of the particular highlights for me and beers to look out for in the future:
Quantum – Stella IPA (5.5% ABV): Now, it is rare you get to go to a beer festival and order a “Stella”, so I thoroughly enjoyed this opportunity to ask for it. This beer tastes nothing like the namesake, and the beer is actually named after the hop strain which is used in this Single Hop IPA. I’m a big fan of IPAs and this was incredibly tasty, aromatic and fruity but not overly intense. Very drinkable even for the strength.
Red Willow – Wreckless (4.6% ABV): This award winning strong bitter was one which I’ve had before, and very easy to drink. It is perfectly balanced in the hops and malt it uses and creates a nice quaffable beer. I could have drank this all night.
Magic Rock Co. – High Wire (5.5% ABV): This is an American style Pale Ale and incredibly hop forward. This is a beer I’ve had before but only on keg (under pressure and dispensed from a tap rather than a pump). It’s very nice on keg, but as with everything I’ve tried yet, I much preferred it on cask. Unfortunately the beer was slightly hazy at the festival, so the condition wasn’t great, but it still tasted fantastic. I think it would have been even better if it had cleared properly.
If you were at the beer festival, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.