Tuesday 27 November 2012

The White Horse 30th Old Ale Festival

Our latest research trip was to the Old Ale Festival at the White Horse on Parsons Green. For once I'd been prepared for a beer festival by printing off the beer list and making a tick list before I got there. So I was a bit miffed to see half the beers I was after weren't on. So it goes.

Black night

They did have a list which showed what beers they were serving at the time, and it showed the prices too. That was a bit of an eye opener as the cask beers started at £4 and went up from there. Those that were foolish enough to drink keg beers were in for even more of a hammering to their wallets. I know it's a posh pub, they don't call it the Sloaney Pony for nothing, but there are plenty of decent pubs in London I can pay considerably less at.

As the Harvey's Mild, one of my desert island beers, wasn't on I had Marston Moor's Matchlock Mild (4% ABV). It reminded me why I'm not often a mild drinker as it was on the dull side. To make up the lack of Harvey's Mild I had their Old Ale (4.3%) next. It certainly had the distinctive Harvey's taste, in fact it had too much of it, making the yeasty flavours overpowering.

So for my third pint I went for a safe bet, the excellent By The Horns Lambeth Porter. The lovely Lisa had already had some of this so I knew it was on form.

Being suitably warmed up at this point it was time to go for a barley wine. A session beer to some, but then some people do talk nonsense, I normally only drink such things in the privacy of my own home. But I figured I'd survive a half drunk slowly and they did have the current Champion Beer of Britain on.

I remember being surprised at the reaction of some of my fellow beer nerds when Coniston No. 9 (8.5% ABV) won. I think they'd been gearing up to be outraged when a mild won again so when a barley wine claimed the top spot there was an air of bemusement. There seemed general agreement that CAMRA had picked the wrong beer yet again but I think they were scraping the barrel trying to muster some outrage on the basis that a beer not brewed very often had won.

I'd had the beer before from bottles and not been overwhelmed, but from cask it was a whole new world. Incredibly fruity, I was frustrated that no matter how hard I strained my brain I couldn't place which fruit. I bet Jilly Goolden never has that  problem. I can confidently say it was dead good though.

At the point I was starting to get peckish for some pork scratchings the newly formed Wild Beer company opened up a stall dishing out samples. They plan to make beers with a difference but the samples they had were clearly works in progress so I won't pronounce on them yet.

Don't buy beer off this man

It was time to go after that. Whilst I was busy getting pissed, the lovely Lisa was getting pissed off as she was refused a taster due to a 'new company policy', though it does seem to depend on who you get served by (this has now been clarified as no tasters during beer festivals). And on top of that a little bit of further research on the pub when I got home suggests the beer prices were specially raised for the festival. I'm not sure if we'll bother going to the next one.


  1. Yes, I heard they were a bit more expensive this year. I didn't get to go (sadly I did want to try Rogue's Barleywine) but from what folks have said maybe for the best.

    1. £6 for a half of the Rouge Barley wine, though we did get to laugh at the tasting notes for nothing (free range water? pac man yeast?).

  2. I had the opportunity to go to the festival, last Friday, but had to turn it down due to other committments. I'm glad I did now, especially when a friend, who did go, showed me the beer list the following day. Four quid for a pint of Harvey's Mild? Someone's got to be having a laugh!

    A real shame though, as I've always liked the White Horse, but wonder whether things have gone downhill somewhat since Mark Dorber moved on. I attended their Old Ale Festival, about seven or eight years ago, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I seem to remember that prices were much more reasonable back then.