We attended the Kingston Beer and Cider Festival on May 18th, for the Saturday afternoon session. We ended up not staying very late, because they were running out of beers very quickly, and the food had already gone by 18:00 and we were hungry. This was a pretty small festival, held in the Kingston working men's club, and it had that feel to it: a very large venue but a very small bar, not terribly comfortable, although it had the virtue of not being too crowded even as peak time. The first three members of staff we encountered on entering each made insulting or patronizing comments to women, which was a sadly old-fashioned approach to a beer festival (especially given the fairly large numbers of women present at this one). Otherwise it was friendly, if small, disorganized and with abysmally poor food supply.
On to the tasting notes:
Moorhouse, Pendle Witch's Brew: flat, light amber ale with almost no head and a stale, slightly tart smell, hints of honey. Bit musty and chewy on the tongue, sweet but yeasty and doughy, more fruity notes in evidence on the swill--plum and maybe some ripe pear. Faintest hint of citrusy bitterness in the pitifully watery swallow. Poorly executed, and not my cup of tea at all.
Sambrooks, Powerhouse Porter: very dark ruby, gently smoky aroma, more bacon than coffee. Subtle, not too sweet, with a touch of mocha but also light, nutty bitterness, understated but satisfying swallow.
Brightwater, Little Nipper: clear, medium-brown, still pint, with slightest meniscus of foam, roasted nut aroma, chestnut and crispy sausage in the first taste, malty and a bit of rye bread in the mouth, satisfyingly bitter with a bit of tannin and rind in the aftertaste. Not terribly intense in any dimension, but pleasant and satisfying enough for a session ale.
*King, Festive: another brown ale, rich nutty maltyness, really sweet, smoky, fudgy creaminess in the first taste. Sounds weird, but actually gorgeous to drink. Lots more malty and smoky complexity on the swill, and a good, satisfying swallow rather on the bitter side. Maybe a niche taste in some senses, but a big hit with all of us. Both Simona's and Valeria's pick of the festival.
Crouch Vale, Amarillo: very light yellow, still ale with a powerful hit of tropical fruit, and a little bit of sweat in the aroma; sparkly peach, pineapple and grapefruit pith in the taste. Slightly mustier as it goes down, but not too bitter. Nice enough, but a bit lightweight for a festival.
*Dark Star, Revelation: very pale, clear beer with a huge frothy head, warm fruity smell of apple and buttered country loaf. Very sharp hoppiness right there on the tip of the tongue, full of complex fruit, flowers and berries, intensely bitter with honey and nectar on the swill, beautifully balanced on the swallow. This much hop would normally be a bit much for me, but I could drink this baby all night (although it's deceptively strong). Probably my pick of the festival, and in the face of stiff competition.
Dartmoor, Jail Ale: dull, dark yellow, with a very fine foam, robust smell, malt and ripe banana and toffee. Chestnut honey, bittersweet first taste, crusty bread in the mouth and musty, overripe fruit in the swallow. Inoffensive, but not particularly interesting.
+Twickenham, Smiler's Ale: bright yellow with light sprinkling of huge bubbles, gently pungent sweaty aroma, with much more subtle fruit in the first taste. Bitter hop further back, with a pithy aftertaste that leaves the tongue a bit numb. Lovely bitterness, not intense, but gentle enough to win over an IPA-skeptic in our midst. A contender, for sure.
Surrey Hills, Greensands IPA: light ale with bubbly head, lime and grapefruit in scent, very tart kumquat/berry first taste, sharp but not sweet at all. More watery fruitiness in the mouth, leading to a sweeter swallow, bitter pith aftertaste, but nothing particularly memorable. Not a bad drink, but the promise is bigger than the punch.
Surrey Hills, Ranmore: very pale, slightly cloudy, with slightly fruity aroma: kiwi, citrus. Lime and grapefruit first taste, robustly hoppy, not terribly complex but an easy drinking ale, with lingering zesty bitterness, like unexpected almond kernel, clinging to the back of the tongue. Pretty typical English bitter with summer grassy notes and unremarkable pleasant taste.
Hepworth, Prospect: straw-colored flat ale with sun-dried haystack odor and sweet, green fruit first taste, a bit candied. Wheaty in the mouth, with apple blossom honey, floury texture and yeasty, malic aftertaste. Until the yeast came along, this was complex and interesting, but it's a bit bland overall, and the swallow leaves me a bit cold. Not terrible, and probably (given the time) coming towards the end of the barrel.
+Twickenham, Gothik Dark: smells like coffee and chocolate, coffee is stronger; very dark copper, almost non transparent; Smokey, again strong taste of chocolate; slight caramel, mixed with the chocolate; strong aftertaste of roasted coffee. Another contender, although Simona liked it better than the rest of us.
+Roosters, Maypole: (a late addition) hoppy blonde, light with a hit of very ripe citrus, tart berry and almost cider-y first taste; chalky snowdrop-honey and strong sappy flavor in the mouth, with understated bitterness, nice but just a little bit disappointing on the finish. A contender, but let down by the weak bitterness.