Atlantic of Treisaac, Cornwall
A dark ruby porter, alternating smells of smoke and sweet coffee on the nose. Light to drink if dark(ish) in colour. Notes of biscuit dough towards the end. 8/10
Loose Cannon of Abingdon, Oxfordshire
Abingdon Bridge, 4.1%
A repeat from last year, when it had been a finalist in the LocAle category. Innocent smell but fuller flavoured than last year. Crisp and slightly floral bite (not a million miles from a strong New Zealand Sauv Blanc) trending into a heavy, spicy finish. 7/10
Hook Norton of Hook Norton, Oxfordshirel
Hooky Mild, 2.8%
Practically non-alcoholic by real ale standards. An easy-drinking glass of autumn silk. It is what it is, shut up and drink it. 7/10
Brass Castle of Malton, North Yorkshire
Hazelnut Mild, 4.2%
A sipping mild, starts excellently with flavours of liquid Snickers, and a sweet breadcrumb finish. Diminishing marginal returns so hard to score – 9/10 for a half, probably 7/10 if ploughing through a whole pint.
Bodmin Vegetable and Pepper Pasty - tick, very good.
Silver Street of Bury,
This could be the beer that saved Christmas. A rich roast smell and a note of spiced plums. Taste of alcohol a little obvious for this type of beer, but no other significant complaints. 8/10.
Chiltern of Terrick, Buckinghamshire
300’s Old Ale, 4.9%
Possibly the official beer of
Wychwood of Witney, Oxfordshire
If Silver Street Porter was Christmas, this is obviously Wychwood staking their claim to the Hallowe’en market. Brewed with pumpkin and mace apparently, which you can sort of tell, or it may be the power of suggestion. Decent with a crisp finish, pleasant but unremarkable. 7/10
Big Clock of Accrington, Lancashire
Bold and red, smelling slightly of a pub the morning after the night before. A little too hoppy for me but with a pleasant aftertaste hinting at nutmeg. 6/10
Compass of Carterton, Oxfordshire
Baltic Night Stout, 4.8%
Listed as a black beer in the programme, I can’t fault them. It’s heavy and black with very little fizz, and does indeed smell a lot like Mather’s former product (died of VAT, 2012). The smell of sweet coffee and dark chocolate gives way on tasting to the sharper flavour of cold black coffee with later notes of roast herbs and strong cheese. Well, I like Unicum, but this wouldn’t be for everyone. Nice in its own way but I’m not sure I could manage a whole pint so 6/10 – but likely to be polarising.
Loose Cannon of Abingdon, Oxfordshire
A mistake to go straight here from the black beer. Full with similar shades of chocolate, but more on the cake batter side than the dark. Again a slight hint of cheese, but more the wild honey of the dales than the toasted ripeness of France. For that reason, probably good with a Ploughman’s lunch. 7/10.
Bridge Farm of East Chinnock, Somerset
Sweet Cider, 6.5%
Classic scrumpy nose, and a reasonable sweetness without being cloying (by which I mean I could have stood for it to be sweeter – still, marked up as a 5+ on the 1-7 scale). Easy drinking despite the strength, and an excellent pairing for another packet of spicy tomato crisps (think Tabasco bloody mary). 8/10
Totally Brewed of Nottingham, Nottinghamshire
Papa Jangles Voodoo Stout, 4.5%
The beer of the festival for me. Impenetrably dark even held up against an electric light. Coffee, but the opposite end of the scale from the others – smelling of percolation rather than chilled final product. Quite a head for a real ale, another Christmassy drink with a strong hint of sweet rum. Complex flavours which provided an interesting mix for another Cornish pasty. 9/10
XT of Long Crendon, Buckinghamshire
Very similar to the Big Clock 100, if a little more delicate and floral – to the point of a hint of air freshener, but take that charitably – another beer to pair with a New Zealand White. Not bad, but not really for me. 6/10
Hecks of Street, Somerset
Medium Blend Perry, 6.5%
Very hard to distinguish on the nose from the earlier sweet cider. Another easy drinker belying its reasonable strength; reasonably sweet and a potential falling-down juice. 8/10