View from the mighty ramparts – by the tea shop
It has taken slight longer than planned, but here’s my review of the Robin Hood Beer Festival in Nottingham and the numerous beers I sampled while there!
The Robin Hood festival is run by CAMRA, and is one of their biggest events – it featured over 1000+ beers and several hundred ciders this year, and ran from Wednesday night until Saturday evening. It’s held in the very picturesque grounds of Nottingham Castle, and the views from the “keep” (which is really more of a big house) are pretty impressive, allowing you to take in all of the city while you sup a beverage or two. At £15 quid entry, it isn’t cheap, although that does include a fiver’s worth of beer tokens and half pint glass.
There’s live music of the usual ale festival type, and lots of interesting things to eat, including some rather excellent Indian food from local restaurants. My paneer wrap was delicious. I’ve been twice now, and would highly recommend it if you’re able to make it up to the East Midlands!
Now, on to the important bit, the beers. My track record dictates that the first couple at any given ale festival are awful, normally as I get suckered into buying beers with silly names. I made a conscious effort to avoid this fate and started out with innocuously monikered Milestone’s Honey Porter, and it worked! This was a tasty enough dark ale, starting with some light red berry fruitiness before moving to the expected smokey taste with bittersweet burnt toffee flavours, but little or no real honey, which was a shame. Still a decent enough porter.
Next up I felt compelled to try a local brew, and who better than the Robin Hood brewery. The Little John Strong was a fairly typical strong dark gold/amber ale, nicely balancing toasty malts, caramel sweetness and a warming rather than caustic hop bitterness in the finish. Not going to blow your socks off but certainly dependable, like good old Little John himself no doubt.
A monster this one
My early success spurred me to be a little more daring, and my next choice, Bexar County’s Papa Steve Rum Raison was certainly that. I didn’t realise until I’d bought it that this was a hefty 9% and it was certainly a dark and boozy beast, but well worth the effort. It has a thick, rich dark chocolate start, almost a tad fruity, before a raisiny middle and a long lasting smoky charcoal finish. According to one of my drinking buddies, Katie, it tasted “like Christmas”. Not one to rush, but really delicious.
Bexar County, a Cambridgeshire brewer, also deserve a mention from probably having the best named beers at the festival, including “Let’s go to Candy Mountain” (an American IPA) and “Do I have a twig stuck in my teeth” (A brown bitter). Descriptive and amusing.
Number four was from the appropriately named Two by Two, and was called “Biscuit Pale”. This was an underwhelming disappointment, with some subtle sweetness and a dry finish, but giving the overall impression of being a bit thin and weedy. A watered down hobnob.
By this point the beers were starting to “take effect”
Number five had the best name of the bunch, Magpie’s A Tempting Murder. This was another dark one – I was pretty hooked on them all day – and featured a fruity, raisiny start, sweet chocolate middle and a zesty orange peel finish. It was however served too cold, which was a shame.
Hopcraft’s Blanc Expression, a very pale number, was also unimpressive, leading me to conclude by this point that I’d probably ruined by tastebuds with the Papa Steve. Pretty mono-flavoured with a plenty of green hops toward the finish, this left me uninspired.
Laziness then caused me to try two by the same brewer, Nottinghamshire’s own 8 Sail. Caught in two minds as to which of theirs to try, I decided on both! The first up, Kibbled, was a “one off” red ale, fudgy sweet, almost sickly, with a touch of berry fruitiness and then a long bready finish and some yeasty hoppiness. I think. If Kirsty hadn’t been taking notes by this point I’d have no idea and as you can tell the descriptions were getting a little wild.
Lastly, we had 8 Sails’ Imperial Oat Malt Stout, back in familiar territory. This was ver nice, with dark chocolate with lots of cocoa to start, then brown sugar sweetness mixing with the oats to taste like rich porridge. There was little in the after-taste but it was still a lovely beer.
All round a rewarding and very boozy experience, and amazingly no absolute stinkers! I will be returning!
Papa Steve and Imperial Oat:
Honey Porter, Little John, A Tempting Murder and Kibbled:
Blanc Expression and Biscuit Pale: