Friday 22 November 2019

Woking Beer Festival 2019

Shortly before attending this year's Woking Beer Festival I had the misfortune to waste five minutes of my life reading an article moaning on about CAMRA, their festivals, and the state of real ale in general: "the beers too warm, the people are too old, cask is doomed, blah, blah, blah".  I'm not going to link to the article but if you have an excess amount of life and want to waste some I think it was in the Brewer's Journal.

With what seemed to me to be rather dated and inaccurate whinging fresh in my mind I was curious to see what the event was like and who turned up to it.

Sure enough, the casks had proper cooling on them, as they've done for some time. I could be wrong on this but I thought it was CAMRA policy now. As to who attended I was delighted when without any prompting from me one of my friend piped up that there were more women and young people than there used to be. Which agrees with my thoughts about what I've seen at CAMRA festivals in recent years.

This is all anecdotal evidence of course, but it's not the first time I've read things about cask beer that just don't fit with what I'm seeing. Perhaps Woking is out on a limb as a cask stronghold? We do have the Champion Pub of Surrey after all. And come to think of it we had an American style brewpub serving beer from tanks years ago so we must be the cutting edge of craft too. Yes, there you have it: Woking, the beer capital of Britain, pizzas fit for princes, prone to destruction by martian invaders.

One thing that does concern me about the festival though is the number of volunteers was worryingly low, and not many of them are spring chickens. I didn't do my usual Friday session this year as I was at a work do. I might have to miss out on going as a punter and volunteer for the Saturday next year if there's another clash.

Thursday 14 November 2019

The return of historic porter

Multi-national corporations may well spread misery around the world but they don't half have good marketing budgets. So I was delighted to get an invitation to the launch of Goose Island's (ABInBev) Obadiah Poundage porter, named after the writer of a famous 1760 letter on porter, though the beer was brewed to an 1840 Truman's recipe.

The evening kicked off appropriately enough at a pub with Truman's branding, though I passed on the chance to drink a revived Truman's beer: there was Landlord on! I always think it's a result when I spot Landlord in a pub so I was delighted with such a promising start.

An awful lot of beery people turned up, though people from the Brewery History Society were amongst the earliest arrivals. I sure this was entirely due to our thirst for knowledge. After a couple of pints of networking we went on a tour of the site of Truman's brewery led by Derek Prentice, a former Truman's brewer. 

It was big. And there are brewery tunnels running under Brick Lane. I doubt they'll beat the Bamberg tunnels though.

Then it was on to the main event at Goose Island's brewpub.

I was a bit disappointed when I saw two handpumps without pump clips on the bar. I feared a re-run of the horrors of Hampstead. But salvation lay at the far end of the bar where they had a Truman's mild and bitter on draught. The cask mild in particular was flying out, clearly showing there's a vast untapped demand for it.

There were even more beery people in the pub and I reached GBBF levels of bumping into people I know. This time there was no power point presentation for us to see, instead Mike Siegel of Goose Island, Derek Prentice and Ron Pattinson were interviewed about the beer by Beer Writer of the Year Emma Inch. It worked really well, except for when it came to getting those in depth technical details I know you all love.




The beer was made with heritage barley, old English hop varieties and historic malting techniques. Though probably not that much brown malt, unlike when I had a go at making historic porter. A portion was aged in oak vats where it underwent a secondary fermentation with Bretanomyces clausenii (probably my old friend WLP645). This was then blended with a freshly made version as the porter brewers did back in its heyday at a ratio of 1:2. If you haven't seen it there's a video about the making of the beer here.

The beer had an off white head, a Bretty smell, a slight smokiness with a roasted astringency and some background sweetness. God I hate writing tasting notes. I really enjoyed the beer though.

There was more networking after the presentation, and on the way back home I popped into The Pride for a swift half of ESB.

I'm sure you'll be as pleased as I was to see that the special feature is still in place: