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Ok, well I visited The Leeds International Beer Festival on Saturday lunchtime; after a couple of evening sessions I expected there to be not much beer left, but after talking to a few of the brewers, it became clear that tactical bar-tending had been exercised and that I needn’t worry. That, and as Dave Bailey said, ‘We’ve brought tonnes of beer.’
And very boozy it was. In fact, the session had a feeling of one almighty piss-up, which festivals can invariably become but for some reason, LIBF seemed not to invite the usual navel-gazing that can happen at your regular fest. Why? I’m not sure. Perhaps it was that the range of beer on offer was not as vast as you’d normally get – the standard was high, for sure, with the likes of Kernel, Ilkley, Thornbridge and Hardknott anchoring proceedings, but outside of the exhibitors, there wasn’t much else. Now, I may be missing the point, but that did feel a little …odd.
Anyway, like I said, the standard was high. Firstly, beer of the day, for me, has to be Hardknott’s The English Experiment; a beer that I’d been hankering after since reading this by Tandleman, it seemed to tick all the boxes. You know how your taste goes through phases? Well, at the moment, I’m pretty bored of uber-pale, uber-hopped IPA’s – ones with no backbone. You know the kind. Brewed by brewers and drunk by drinkers who believe that only hops maketh the IPA. Well, The English Experiment came along at the right time – what a beer.
Powerful from the ground up, this Amber monster lays sweet toffee-apple caramel and rounded hard candy notes down, and then riffs over the top with wave after wave of Orange pith and sweet Tangerine aroma. It smells like a fruitbowl, and has heat in the body – with a moderately dry, but not too rasping – finish. Balance personified, The English Experiment is one that Hardknott can consider a success and one that I hope to be imbibing on a regular basis.
Another super-fresh beer was the improbably named Brewfist’s Spaceman IPA (keg); a beer that’s enjoyed a surge in popularity of late, only to be foiled at the last hurdle by reports of indifferent quality when bottled. No such worries here; my half was positively buzzing with life; an unusual yet jaw-dropping aroma of Black Pepper and Strawberries, and a sweet body consisting of, again strangely – Victoria Sponge ; vanilla and more Strawberry Jam. Dangerously drinkable and one I’m glad I didn’t miss.
Ilkley’s Dinner Ale was good (see Will’s notes), but Hawkshead’s normally delirious Windermere Pale was suffering from the heat, I think – over-bitter and flat. Magic Rock’s Curious restored the balance of pale and citrus-hoppy, which made a refreshing change from the stronger beers on offer.
Throw in a couple of Black Pudding Scotch Eggs courtesy of Friends of Ham, some friendly banter with good mates, a lovely location and you’ve got a pleasant afternoon alright. Plus, it was nice to have a beer festival actually in Leeds, as opposed to outlying suburbs. For ease of travel,it made a nice change.
Fingers crossed, LIBF should be back next year; what would I change?
Well…I didn’t feel there was much choice, if I’m being honest. I know that this could lie with the brewers involved, to be fair – but I’d like to see more bars and more breweries represented. They don’t have to be local, but some Scottish, Irish and Welsh breweries would have been good. Maybe some collaborations brewed specially for the fest would have been nice, too. Minor quibbles all; I had a fun afternoon and it was a good first effort.
See you next year.