December 4th, 2011
Names – and beers – that’ll be on our lips for years!
To put on 20 excellent ales in your first-ever beer festival is in itself no mean feat. But when the breweries themselves have only been brewing up for months or even weeks, you might think the event is a tad risky.
The Imperial Club & Brewery’s first-ever fest for newbie brewers was a tribute to each and every one of the new starters, and you can be sure that their names – and wares – are going to be on all of our lips for some time to come.
Here then is the exclusive run-down on a score of brand-new British ales – prefaced by the certificates which Hand-Pumped produced for the worthy winners:
Imperial partner Eric Butcher at the hand-pumps for the brewery’s maiden ale fest.
Copthorne Brewery, Damson Porter 4.5%
The most subtle ale in the festival. With no hint of aroma, just the tiniest hint of damson and no perceptible finish, this offering from the Copthorne Brewery would have you try it again. Beware its strength though! A nice creamy head clings all the way down.
Blue Bee Brewery, Nectar Pale Ale 4%
The frothy head left this crystal clear pale ale very quickly – but the hoppy aroma and taste doesn’t, as it goes right through to a bitter finish. Nice one! Copthorne Brewery, Gold 3.6%
A creamy, lingering head takes you through this clear, pale straw ale, which has a subtle taste of hoppiness and an equally subtle bitterness, making it a really good session ale contender.
Brass Castle Brewery, Bad Kitty 5.5%
A most moreish vanilla stout! The aroma of chocolatey vanilla hits you immediately and this is backed by a creamy, chocolatey taste throughout, right to the finish. Quaff, rather than sip, and the chocs become all the more abundant; sip it and vanilla comes to the fore.
Owenshaw Mill Brewery, Salt Road Blonde 3.9%
Offering no aroma, this is a clear, mellow ale of medium-bitterness which runs through to a very pleasing, nutty finish, though the thinnish head dies rather quickly. Sportsman Brewing Company, Hops Cotch 4.6%
Lovers of bitter hops will want to try this pale straw cloudy offering, which carries its bitter, hoppy flavour right through to the finish.
Magic Rock Brewery Curious NZ South Pacific Pale Ale 3.9%
Once you’ve got your tongue round the name, get it round this pale, straw, bursting with hops beer. Crystal clear and with a tight head, its aggressive, full-of-hops aroma doesn’t disappoint in the tasting. “Same but different” Magic Rock say. Very different – and very worthy!
Steel City Brewing Company, Dilligaff 4.9%
Hops is the Steel City mantra, and they are in abundance in this cloudy beer which does just what it says on the tin. The full-on hops aroma leads on to a complex hoppy flavour, sure to delight hop lovers everywhere.
Scarborough Brewery, Scarborough IPA 4.3% Another excellent offering from the seaside, this looks more like a light bitter than a pale ale. But though its head dissipates rather quickly, the rich fusion of earthy aromas is anything but lightweight – its slightly sweet beginning turning delightfully bitter through the drink.
Two Roses Brewery, Glorious Pale Ale 4% Somewhat cloudy and with a much more subtle hops aroma than Curious NZ, this begins sweetly, but is a much more complex beer than many you will find. Its fascinating taste has a number of twists and turns before it’s done – with quite a bitter finish.
Cap House Brewery, Xmas Gold 3.8%
This medium, golden ale begins with an aroma of subtle honey, which leads on to a flavour of woody smokiness, which ends in a nutty finish. Smooth throughout and very enjoyable.
Two Roses Brewery, Full Nelson 3.8%
Hoppy and fruity, this slightly cloudy mid-straw ale has a creamy had which holds well and a true hoppy taste and finish, with subtle hints of fruit underlying.
Geeves Brewery, Tunnel Mouth Winter Ale 4.8%
A delicious dark, winter brew with a no aroma to warn you of the stunning, complex taste. It begins sweetly – but which quickly turns to a subtle, smoky, liquorice flavour and ends with some bitterness. A winner all the way. Sportsman Brewing Company,
Keller Bier 4.3%
No, not a nasty lager! Rather a smooth, cloudy amber ale with an aroma of burnt toast, that turns to a flavour of burnt toast and toffee (which may sound horrible but is actually delicious). This is a fascinating ale which could well set a trend.
Coppice Side Brewery, Xob 4.4%
A slightly cloudy, light-straw ale with a thin head, this very drinkable ale has an aroma of honey and fruit which leads on to the most subtle of honey flavours, completely giving the lie to its strength. So beware!
Kirkstall Brewery, Best Yorkshire Bitter 3.5% What a good, honest Yorkshire bitter this mid amber ale is. Its slightly smoky, woody taste complements a less-than-full-on bitterness, which makes this a perfect session beer.
Geeves Brewery, Gunwale Dance 4.2%
Geeves’ second offering is a slightly cloudy, mid-straw bitter with a subtle hop aroma and a bitter finish. The thin head leaves it quickly.
Cap House Brewery, Miners a Pint 3.8%
Nuts! That’s the word for this cloudy amber ale with a creamy, lingering head. It’s a really pleasing (not too) bitter nutty bitter, with a lovely smooth finish.
Scarborough Brewery, Scarborough Stout 4.9%
A superb stout from what has rapidly become a serious brewer, this one has a head that disappears quite quickly. But the pleasure is all in the taste – a thick, yet smooth, burnt liquorice extravaganza that lasts right to the end. Wonderful!
Kirkstall Brewery, Kirkstall Pale Ale 4%
A hoppy aroma greets in this slightly cloudy, mid-straw ale which brings forth some earthy flavours in a very hoppy, bitter bundle that has a distinctly bitter finish. The creamy head lingers long.
Imperial Brewery, Spirit of Christmas 6%
This ale, from the festival organisers, was – in the spirit of fairness – not part of the judging. What’s more, to give it as unfair a disadvantage as they could, the Imperial men served it from a jug kept in the fridge. But even that couldn’t flatten the luscious taste of this slightly cloudy amber ale. In the circumstances we couldn’t tell you about the head – but a slightly sweet, toffee flavour slips into a smooth, nutty bitter finish that makes it another Imperial winner