Sunday, October 13, 2013

Portsea Island Beer Festival - 2013

Poster courtesy Irving's
How quickly does this festival come round?? It hardly seems like a year since we were last here, but this weekend was the 3rd (!) Portsea Island Beer Festival at the Groundlings Theatre near Portsmouth Hard....  this is old school Pompey, in the heart of the historic Dockyard area (so HMS Victory and Warrior are just across the road). The venue is a theatre and as well as being Georgian, is famous for being the supposed place where Mrs Dickens went into labour, and soon after gave birth to young master Charles...  it's a superb venue, possibly my favourite....

This years festival  theme was Heriot-Watt University's Brewing and Distilling School - the event is sponsored by local brewery Irving's whose head brewer went to the school so all the beers at this years festival come from breweries where there is a similar connection - either BSc or MSc in Brewing and Distilling [clicky]

An interesting idea, and there was a broad range of beers but in my view it  didn't make for a classic festival - there were a lot of choices, but too many unknowns to make some informed decisions. Most beer lovers will tell you that for the lack of any information about a particular beer, you look to the provenance of the brewery - if you've liked their other beers you'll probably like the one you don't know anything about. In this case though there were a number of unknown (to me) breweries so nothing to fall back on...  that said - a few duffers aside there were some crackers, and one living legend...

Brewery Beer (click for more info) ABV Notes (from brewery website) What I can remember...
Bristol Beer Factory Independence 4.6% "US Style pale ale. Very distinctive pale ale that we have hopped continuously throughout the boil". 1st beer - no idea on this as I'd never heard of the brewery, but I was drawn to the description in the tasting notes. Good choice! Definitely in the top 3 of the afternoon...  very hoppy, and a good dry/grapefruit taste..   very nice..
Compass Brewery Isis Pale 4.1% "Malty aromas on a backdrop of distinct Cascade hops. Sweet malt with some fruity esters and a gentle bitterness that lingers". (Ha! ) Another unknown brewery, but they're from Oxford  (which is a good thing)  and the tasting notes again point to something worth trying. Not quite as successful as the first - not quite so zesty - but very very dry..
Ilkley Pale 4.2% "Strongly hopped to give a strong but mellow floral finish. Think classic NZ Sauvignon Blanc, reformed as an uncompromisingly refreshing and refined beer." With a description like that you have to give it a go, don't you?! Again - I seem to have hit a winning stride - another cracker - livelier than the previous...  top 3...
Brecon Brewing Three Beacon 3% "Pale golden APA remarkably full flavoured and extensively hopped a beer that truly defies its strength". Errr... I don't think so... dul, dull, dull....  down the sink with this one...
Timothy Taylors Landlord 4.3%
Pale Ale
Pale Amber
Citrus, Hoppy, Fruity
Full, Sweet, Lingering Hop
A benchmark beer, and one we know well, and bought in this case to give us a control to compare the other beers against... have to say it just went to show how good the others had been..
Irving Iron Duke IPA 5.3% "luscious golden modern style IPA. The nose is dominated by the aromas of sherbet and lemon from the Liberty and Columbus hops added late in the hopback. The palate is soft fruits and pineapple balanced with a subtle toffee sweetness, finishing with a pleasant citrus bitterness." Nice ale, but a little on the sweet side - very bitter and hoppy though, so a return to winning ways
Irving Frigate 3.8% "Golden bitter with citrus hop flavour derived from the addition of English Sovereign and Boudicea hops in the hopback. Complemented by a background sweetness from the subtle use of light crystal and cara-malt" I've tried this before at my local and liked it, but I thought it was below par today - either that or I should have tried it before the Iron Duke!
Wells and Youngs Courage Imperial Russian Stout 11.7% "Courage Imperial Russian Stout has a rich, espresso body with pear overtones and an intriguing fresh, smoky, fruity finish. The beer is brewed with chocolate, amber and pale ale malts, Hersbrucker and Styrian Goldings hops and accredited natural mineral water from the brewery’s very own well." Yes that beer strength really is correct.. This is an absolute classic, talked about amongst beer aficionados in hushed tones... it's a stout (not my usual choice of beer) but it has a huge historical significance and is as rare as hens teeth so I had to try it.. the beer dates from an 18th century recipe which was perfected to withstand the freezing temperatures of the Baltic so the beer could be exported to the Court of Catherine the Great in Russia (who had become a convert to the drink). I have to say that the legendary status was entirely deserved...  very strong and warming, dark chocolate/coffee/alcohol... but a real sipping beer (and only served in a third of a pint due to the strength) #1 beer of the day without doubt.. delicious..
Irving Admiral Stout 4.3% "A classic dark Oatmeal stout, brewed with a combination of Roasted Barley, Chocolate Malt and Crystal Wheat Malt to give a deep black colour and Oat Malt to give a smooth rounded malt flavour. This lovely malt flavour is balanced with a strong bitterness from Fuggles and Sovereign Hops" This was always going to suffer in comparison - but I thought it held it's own surprisingly well given the power/flavour of the previous brew..
Fullers 1845 6.3% "1845 is matured for at least 100 days before being released for sale. During this time the rich fruity characteristics of the beer are enhanced, while the well-rounded malt flavours create a wonderfully balanced ale." Seeing this stuff on draught is also very rare - it's primarily a winter brew being quite dark, heavy, and strong - a particular favourite in bottled form so I just had to try it from the barrel - very pleased I did and it bought the festival to an end on a high note..

Picture courtesy Strong Island


  1. Psychiatric outpatients rating system?

  2. Sorry - when the post came up on my Ipad it had only Pors as the title and nothing else. Thought it was odd.
    Sounds like a good day out.

    1. Nothing wrong with your iPad it was my fat fingers - I hit the post button in error and all you got was the first bit of the title - didn't notice until I'd finished.... it was a good day out - not classic, but it was good ...

  3. An enjoyable read, descriptions made my mouth water!