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10-04-2012, 07:38
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Igo with the intention of trying as much new beer as possible. I get there, grabmy glass, and go for an old favourite to get started – Gadds’ No. 3 (properlyEnglish with that mouth-coating background of malt, a distant sack of apples and pearsand the epitome of balance). This makes sense. It’s a little warm-up before weproperly get on a beer tour of Britain.

Findinga seat, I read through the beer list and scribble some notes and ticks andarrows, just to make it easier for later when I’ve been up and down the bar afew times – it’s about drinking tactics.

SoI start with No. 3 and then I fancy another Kent beer because the festival (http://www.easterbeerfestival.org.uk/) isin Margate. I’ve been reading about steam beer recently so went back to Gaddsfor a Common Conspiracy – the body is bulky yet refined, it’s dry and has abrilliant candy and floral aroma; a little taste of San Francisco in East Kent.

Fromnow I’m off on my beer tour. There’s names I know and those I don’t. FromRamsgate Brewery I get about 30 miles away to Hop Fuzz, a new Kent-basedbrewery. I order The American, 4% and made with US hops. “Do you want to try itfirst? It tastes weird,” says the guy serving. “What’s weird about it, I ask?”When the reply is “tangy and piney” I expect that I’m getting a huge hop bombthe likes that this man on the bar has never experienced before. Instead it deliversmore phenolic smoke than a bucket of Laphroaig, so I order Williams Bros.Ceilidh instead. It’s super pale, sweet first then comes a doughy, almostchocolately note, followed by fresh grass and a clean bitterness. It’s good butlager in cask...? I think I’d rather take it on keg.

It’sthen back down south and to Kent Brewery where Summer Wheat was an intriguingmix of light esters (banana, clove) which strike at exactly the same time asthe big dose of German hops which instead of giving a delicate finish makes itrocket off in an unexpected direction. It’s a brilliant little tongue twisterof a beer.

ThenI went for the hops. Dark Star Revelation was on the exciting edge of balance (‘likesitting on the edge of a mountain’ my notes read...), never sweet and never toobitter but loaded with proper juicy American hop flavour – seriously good. ThenGadds’ South Pacific IPA, which was unexpectedly subtle for the 6.5% ABV butgreat because of it – lemony, floral and tropical fruit. This was part of anIPA threesome along with West Coast IPA and East Kent IPA, which was No.3 onsome serious steroids.

Andthen my beer of the festival. Made by Canterbury Brewers at The Foundry (a coolbrewpub), Hoppin’ Belgian is the best example I’ve tasted of Belgian yeast andAmerican hops getting it on. I hate citrusy C-hops which clash with clove inmost Belgo-American beers but here it was beautifully done – an amazing aromaof mango, tangerine and pineapple, super juicy, then more fruit and fruityesters with no nudge from the phenolic side, just a faint spiciness which letsyou know it’s definitely Belgian. It was so good I had another. And I almostwent back for a third half. (Canterbury Brewers’ Red Rye was also one of thebest beers on the bar. A sweetly nutty aroma plus a little rye spice then zestyand punchy from the Chinook and Citra.)

SummerWine’s Diablo IPA almost split my tongue in half with brutal bitterness so aBristol Beer Factory Milk Stout came along to sooth with its chocolatemilkshake vibe, light roastiness and delicious balance – it’s a fun beer and I reallylike it.

Thenlooking back over the beer list and the ticks it’s more Gadds beer, moreBristol, more Dark Star, some Otley. Outstanding’s SOS gave the beer tastingnote of the day: ‘like gunning Persil from a sponge’ as it was so bitter.Another cask lager, Peerless’ Storr, was unfortunately a glass of butter which was dumped andswapped after one sip. There was a Stewart beer, a Thornbridge, Tryst, a Waenand a Crouch Vale Amarillo – all breweries and beers I’d had before (except theStewart Coconut Porter which I can’t really remember drinking...).

Myintention to drink far and wide didn’t really happen, looking back. Or it didhappen but it was down roads I’ve been on many times before. I stuck to thebreweries I know and trust and when I left that safe path I got hit with diacetyl,TCP, too many hpos or just boring beer. But I got to drink a lot of excellentbeer from the breweries I know and I’d rather play safe and drink a beer whichI know is good (or from a brewery I know make good stuff) rather than riskingsomething new from a brewery I’ve never heard of – that seems to be where mydrinking is now.

Ithink there’s a Premier League of breweries in the UK and when their beers areon the bar it’s hard to ignore them, even if I’m looking to try new things.

Thephoto at the top is the beer festival 15 minutes after the doors opened... Seriously.

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