Monday, 30 March 2009

Wandsworth Common beer festival

How posh is that?

Myself and some friends went to Wandsworth Common beer festival for the Saturday afternoon session. It was definitely the poshest beer festival I've ever been to, being held in the Royal Victoria Patriotic Building. Patriotism is of course the last refuge of a scoundrel, though in our case going for the early session it was the first refuge of scoundrels. It was free to get in and having pre-booked we qualified for a free half too. Who says there's no such thing as a free lunch? Actually, as our train tickets were over 14 quid they're probably right...

The beer selection wasn't massive and some of the ones I was after had gone already. The rarely seen Sarah Hughes Original Dark Ruby Mild remained rarely seen, as did Wolf's Granny Wouldn't Like It. On the plus side I got to try Wandle from the new Sambrooks brewery, a pleasant session beer made with the best brewing barley, Maris Otter, and traditional English Fuggles and Goldings hops. My beer of the festival though was Naked Ladies from Twickenham Fine Ales. A very flavoursome pale beer that I could have drunk a lot more of had I not been trying to control myself due to still having a cold. 

We were able to sit and enjoy our beer in an upstairs restaurant, which was a result because I've rarely been able to get a seat at beer festivals and it was miserable outside where most of the beers were. I did notice our nearest fire exit was padlocked shut though, which even to my slightly addled brain seemed like a pretty stupid idea, and must surely be illegal too. 

The offending padlock is ringed in red

We left the festival at about six to head off to the Bricklayers Arms where more people were to be met. Me and the lovely Lisa had been keen to go to this pub for some time as it sells the full range of Timothy Taylors beers. Bottled Landlord Lisa's current favourite but it's always good to see it on draft. A jazz band were setting up when we arrived which caused us some concern but fortunately they were fairly inoffensive, sounding to my untrained ear like the gallery music from vision on. The Landlord was in good form, a very refreshing beer with I think a slight lactic taste. I'd given up on trying to pace myself at this point and drinking in pints seemed to improve my cold much more than nursing halves did. I also got to try Ram Tam, a been I'd been intrigued by for many years. Beer nerd that I am I used to read through all of the brewery section at the back of the Good Beer Guide. Though nowadays Ram Tam gets its own flavour description I'm sure it used to simply say "Landlord with caramel".  Having finally tasted the beer I wouldn't be at all surprised if this is indeed correct. As opposed to the golden coloured Landlord the Ram Tam is black but to my (admittedly dulled)  palate the taste was very similar.

It won't take much caramel to darken a beer, as it has far more colour to it than any malt. Pale malt may have around five European Brewing Convention colour units and roasted barley around 1500 but caramel gets into the tens of thousands. If I remember rightly Guinness (though mainly made up of pale malt)  has around 5% roasted barley which is enough to turn it black,  so it's quite possible only a fraction of a percentage of caramel needs to be added to make Ram Tam black.  Small amounts of caramel will have a minimal effect on flavour, which is one of the reasons why adding caramel is allowed in production of premium malt whisky. 

Colour has a big effect on how we perceive a beers taste, which is why proper beer tastings are carried out using a blue glass. I don't know for certain if Ram Tam is simply Landlord with caramel but I think it's possible. I'll have to return to the Bricklayers Arms soon to try some more of both. Purely in the interests of research of course. 


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