One of the highlights of the year for me in the UK, is the biannual Wetherspoons Real Ale Festival. Held in the spring and autumn of each year showcasing a range of ales from the around the UK, and even sometimes from international brewers.
This years event runs from Wednesday 30th March until Sunday 10th April, featuring 25 real ales, 19 of which are either brand new recipes, or being brewed again exclusively for the festival (and thus are likely never to be available again). Included in the list this year, are 3 international ales - 1 each from the USA, Italy and Australia, the brewers being hosted by UK breweries (usually) to produce their wares.
The USA is represented by Spike Buckowski, making a return to the festival, of the Georgia based Terrapin Brewery, hosted by Suffolk based Adnams Brewery, to produce a pale IPA, using Chinnok and Simcoe hops to give a "powerful blend of tropical fruit notes and a rich, resinous flavour, with subtle malt notes" called Terrapin Jazz (5.5% ABV)
Gino Perissutti flies the flag for Italy and the Birrificio Foglie d'Erba with a mahogany coloured beer called Hot Night in the Village (5.0% ABV). Brewed in "the style of a traditional English porter with notes of coffee, chocolate and liquorice in the flavour leading to a refreshing, slightly herbal finish" . Hops used for this ale are East Kent Goldings and Target brewed by one of the UK's best breweries, Kent based Shepherd Neame to Gino's original recipe as the pandemic meant he couldn't travel.
Similarly prevented from making the journey to the UK to brew for the festival due to the pandemic, is Australia's Young Henry's Brewery representative, Richard Adamson. However, Wolverhampton based Bank's Brewery accepted the task to brew Young Henrys Real Ale (4.0% ABV) to his original recipe, utilizing Ernest and Topaz hops. Made in the "traditional English best bitter style" it has a "solid malt backing of caramel and toffee, blanced by hints of spice and a mellow, deep citrus flavour, leading to a long bitter finish".
In addition, to these ales, I've decided to shortlist 5 others that I'm particularly excited to try.
Firstly, Cambridgeshire's Oakham Ales, with a new pale golden IPA Triple Beam (5.0%) offering "fruity hop flavours, with rich bitterness and fruit from the Summit hops, combining seamlessly with the spicy, zesty characteristics delivered by the Columbus hops"
Tomahawk(4.2% ABV) from London based Sambrook's Brewery is next on my radar. A dark red ale "using a blend of" Cascade, Citra, and Simcoe hops "which delivers vibrant citrus and pine aromas and grapefruit notes, balancing the roast malt, toffee and bready flavours in its dark malt profile".
Third comes a russet coloured ale from the Scottish Highlands - Cairngorm Brewery's Red Mountain (4.8% ABV). Roast crystal malt provides the colour and a nutty flavour, finished off with a blend of Columbus and Perle hops to give a fresh, fruity finish.
Next up from Oxfordshire is Red Rye (4.7% ABV) from the Hook Norton Brewery. A red seasonal rye beer using a blend of 5 hops and 5 malt varieties combining to deliver dark fruit and citrus aromas, with flavours of dates and raisins, balanced by a citrus twist.
And finally, but by no means least, Titanic Brewery with Nine Tenths Below (5.9% ABV). This honey golden beer delights the palette with initial sweetness that rapidly fades as the powerful citrus hops take over. Clean and refreshing in taste above the waterline the boldness and strength lurks beneath and there is more of it than you can imagine
Whilst the ales i've discussed are all ones I am especially looking forward to trying, I will also be hoping to try all 25 on offer over the 12 days of the festival, which may seem not too diffcult a challenge, but since not all of the pubs in the Wetherspoons estate will have all of the beers on tap during the course of the Festival (i already know of one that will only have 15 of the 25 available) I expect to be doing some travelling to different venues to complete the task.
Follow ups to this post will chart the progress to my goal, and personal obsevations about the beers i've tried.
If you're in the UK and get the chance to have a taste of some of the ales on offer i'm sure you won't be disappointed (and since this is a Wetherspoons national event the price of the beers offer great value - £2.19 a pint in most places - perhaps a bit cheaper further north, with central London being a bit more expensive). There is also the opportunity to try 3 x 1/3pints for the price of a pint - great if you want to taste more than one.
For now ... CHEERS!!!