Thursday, December 29, 2016

Portsmouth Christmas Beer Festival 2016

Second time we've been to this little pre-Christmas snifter - we missed last year for some reason, but we first went in 2014 [clicky] which is difficult to believe as it seems like only yesterday!

As last time we went with my sister and brother in law, and it was an enormous amount of fun - much laughter and singing (to the bands) ensued and many good ales drunk..

So it was that on Saturday lunchtime the current Mrs Steve-the-Wargamer, his sister and brother in law found themselves (again) in line waiting to enter the Guildhall in Portsmouth...  by serendipitous means, this time I had bought the tickets, and my sis was buying the beer tokens..  perfect!

So this is not an official CAMRA [clicky] festival but despite that I thought that this time round their beer choice was significantly better than last time..  though we were paying slightly over the odds per beer, and there was a ten quid entry...

Brewery (clickable) Beer (click for more info) ABV Notes (from brewery website) What I can remember...
Oakham Citra 4.2% "An American Pale Ale (APA) style beer" Those of you who read these ramblings will know I am a fan of the Citra hopped beers as I particularly like the grapefruit dry hop'iness they give the beer - this particular one I've tried many times in bottle but the opportunity to try it in cask was too good to miss..  a belter... and the current Mrs Steve the Wargamer liked it so much she went back three times..
Dark Star Hophead 3.8% "An extremely clean-drinking pale golden ale with a strong floral aroma and elderflower notes from the Cascade hops. This beer is full-bodied and full-flavoured yet gentle enough to make it a favourite session beer." A particular favourite of mine and seeing as the first half had disappeared in about 10 minutes I'd decided to slow down so this session beer was a no brainer.. lovely..
XT Brewing 3 (IPA) 4.2% "An American style IPA – packed with Chinook, Columbus and Cascade hops from the American North West – crisp, clean and refreshing with a lasting hoppy bite.   HOPS= Chinook, Cascade, Columbus  MALTS= Pale, Vienna, CaraMalt, Munich" Time to go "off piste" and be a little adventurous..  how do you find the new beers/brewers if you don't? So XT are a fairly unknown to me - I'm convinced I may have had a pint in the past but have checked the beer database and not seen anything so I may be mistaken - either way - a pleasant enough beer that lived up to its description while not being outstanding
Dark Star Winter Solstice 4.2% "Brewed with Pale, Munich and Brown malts to produce a deep gold colour this beer is brewed with Simcoe and Chinook hops and seasoned with Sichuan pepper and Orange and Lemon zest." A particularly favourite brewery but an unknown beer - time to try! A dark, winter brew, with a hint of additional fruit and spice..  similar to the Hophead "Winter Lightning" - so we had to do a taste comparison...
Hopback Winter Lightning 5% "Brewed with Fuggles and East Kent Golding hops, very lightly-spiced, this chestnut ale is deceptively drinkable!" Hopback are another of my top 5 brewers, and this is the winter version of their awesome "Summer Lightning"..  much darker, maltier, and a subtle hint of cinnamon..  you couldn't drink pints of it, but it is exceptional and I thought this years version was particularly good...
Red Cat Brewing Scratch 4% "Scratch is golden in colour with a delicate fruity aroma and hints of ripe apricots.  It’s very clean, refreshingly bitter and easy drinking, but with more body than is usually expected from a 4.0% beer." Swiftly becoming one of those breweries to look for - I tried this on our work Christmas do but as is the nature of those events I felt the need to remind myself if it was a good as I remembered...  fresh clean hoppy bitterness..  another golden ale...
Fallen Acorn Brewing Hole Hearted 4.7% "Floral. fruity. delicately bitter.  Cascade hops give this golden ale powerful floral and tropical fruit flavours, with a delicate bitterness. Hole Hearted will surprise with every mouthful". The Oakleaf Brewery who used to brew this went into receivership this year, and from the ashes rose Fallen Acorn (which is owned financed by a fan of the Oakleaf beers) who have started brewing a number of their old beers...  now Hole Hearted was one of my top 10 beers so I was very excited about trying the newly brewed version - but was very disappointed with it - none of the hoppy tang with the old brew...  sweet and insipid..  quelle domage.. my only disappointment of the afternoon...  for the sake of the beer I shall give it another go when I next see it on offer - it may have been a duff batch or barrel..
Thornbridge Jaipur 5.9% "A citrus dominated India Pale Ale, its immediate impression is soft and smooth yet builds to a crescendo of massive hoppiness accentuated by honey. An enduring, bitter finish." Last one - and the one I'd been working up to all afternoon - no way I was going to miss out on a pint of one of my favourite bottled APA's...  superb pint, and a much needed restorative following the Hole Hearted..  Steve the Wargamer says "if you see Thornbridge on the pump clip buy yourself a pint"

An excellent venue, and a brilliant lunchtime session - four bands -  one of which was a God-awful ukulele band, two of which were good, but one of which were superb (The Fliks- a 60's girl band copy), and a delightful selection of ales... roll on next year!


  1. I always enjoy reading your tasting notes Steve, sounds like a good afternoon :) I really must try and get myself along to a couple of such festivals in 2017.

  2. Lee - the banter is almost as important as the beer... :o) Our next one is in a few weeks - we're making our annual pilgrimage to the Hop Back pub in Salisbury (home of the Summer Lightning and where it was first brewed)