Last Wednesday saw the opening of the 35th Newcastle Beer Festival. Every year I traditionally try to get to it on the first day at least half an hour before the doors open, but the last few years (partly due to living in Harrogate half the time) it hasn't worked out that way. This year however, heading to the event with the Mordue crew I could not only get in the first day but got to visit the exclusive Mordue beer festival at The Hotspur on the way as a kind of warm up. After that brief venture we headed straight to the main event where we got let in with all the trade and sponsor people before it became open to the public (back of the net!). As a bonus I even got my own special VIP badge.
Spelt wrong but it still made me look important
So quite a few faces of the North East brewing scene were around. I got to chat to Mick Hegarty of the Ship Inn brewpub, ex Barefoot brewery head brewer. Gus Odlin from the John Bull also made an appearance and behind the bar today was North East blogging man Chris Mansfield. With my notepad in hand it was time to start things off with some Dark Star Mai Bock. A well rounded interpretation of the German lager style. Its pale appearance gave nothing away of its subtle fruit and complex malt notes. Next up a modern take on classic IPA, Highland Brewery Orkney IPA had soft caramel underpinnings with under pleasant fruity floral hops. After this I headed back over to the Mordue section to check on the Northumbrian Blonde and the Mordue Ginger ale which came across as a delicate golden ale with ginger overtones. Subtle and pleasant I quite like it, even if the rest of the Mordue staff think it should be something more hardcore. I noticed Allendale Jaspers had a similar subtle ginger influence, but was more amber hued with a caramel malt background, reminiscent of all those other amber hued session beers of Allendale Brewery.
The edgy Tempest Re-Wired Pilsner was vibrantly hoppy with lychee citric notes. A great beer, though it did drink more like a golden ale than a pilsner. Not much to say for the Durham Apollo, that was aching to be brilliant, but seemed a little on the green/young side.
As a sideline some of the students of Darwin Brewery's Brew Lab were out in force advocating two beers from two brew teams made for the festival. The two brews were in direct competition with each other and votes were being collected to determine superiority between the opaque, coffee/liquorish like 3.8% Chewys Wook Stout against the deep amber bronze 4% Mini Kilt Scottish ale, which tasted damn rich and toasty for a 4% beer. Hats off to the Mini Kilt team on that one.
So overall a great night that finished sooner than usual after starting mid afternoon. I failed to determine any such 'beer of the night' on this occasion. Many were good but a lot of people seemed impressed by the Fyne ales range. I had held back on them as I had already tried most of them at my Alnwick local the John Bull. Definitely an under-rated Scottish Brewery. The change of venue to the Northumberland University students union also put a refreshing, more spacious spin on things compared to previous years. Jolly good show.