Walpole Park is the venue for 22nd Ealing beer event
If you've never been to a beer festival before, then the Ealing Beer Festival in Walpole Park is definitely one to to try.
There's no scrum of pot-bellied, bearded, chaps pushing their way to the bar. Instead there's a civilised atmosphere and, if it's a nice evening, it's glorious to sit outside and sip some unsual beer and cider.
And there's plenty of choice - around 200 real ales are on offer at the 22nd Ealing Beer Festival, which runs until Saturday (July 9). Organisers from the West Middlesex CAMRA group have also ordered 20 ciders and eight perries.
The foreign beer bar features beers from Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, France and a couple from Australia. There's also a good selection of trappist beers and a showcase of beers from Dutch brewery, De Molen.
The beers are organised in two marquees - north and south - and inside each tent, the beers are organised alphabetically. Entrance includes a programme with beer 'tasting notes' to help you make your choice.
The bars are staffed by volunteers, who will also have no problem advising you, and even giving you a sample before you part with your money.
I'd had a long tube journey to get there, so wanted something cool that would 'hit the spot'. I went straight for a half of Dorking DB Dry Hop Gold, as the programme promised it was "absolutely full of flavour....easy to drink, refreshing, tasty with a great flavour". At 3.8% it hardly mattered that it went down pretty swiftly, and I couldn't argue with those tasting notes.
The beer comes from far afield, and for my next choice I opted for an ale from Wharfebank, based in Otley, West Yorkshire. Their Slingers Gold (3.9%) came with a floral and citrusy aroma, giving it a slightly fuller flavour than my first beer.
I was perhaps in a mood for citrus tastes now, and another far-flung beer, Transatlantic Hop Trials (3.9%) from Tryst, in Fifeshire, was about the most citrusy ale you'll find. I voted it my favourite beer of the festival.
I moved up in strength next, to a 4.4% beer, called Pot of Gold, from Wood brewery in Shropshire. This was a smoother drink, and not quite as distinctive as my first beers.
Next up was a beer 'with a difference' - Cherry Diva (4.7%) from Gertie Sweet brewery in Wrexham. This had a taste of a certain cough sweet! Don't let that put you off, as it's worth trying, but I'm not sure I could have drunk it all night.
Then it was onto a Blackburn beer - Doff Cocker (4.5%) from Three B's. This was another lighter-tasting beer, with a floral after-taste. My final choice before dashing back to the tube was Potholer (4.3%) from Cheddar in Somerset. This was another refreshing-looking ale and it was as easy to drink as it looked.
All beers are available in pint, half-pint or 'nips' (a third of a pint). Most half pints cost £1.50-£1.60, depending on strength, with nips at £1 or £1.10. There's also food available as well as pub games and merchandise.
Although I prefer the lighter-coloured beers, there are plenty of milds, stouts and porters on tap. I noticed some of the beer experts finished off their evening with a 'nip' of Double Stout (7.4%) from Fullers, but I had countless stops on the District Line ahead of me and gave it a miss!
The festival is open from 12pm to 10.30pm on Thursday and Friday, 12pm - 6pm Saturday. It costs £3 for non-CAMRA members and £2 for concessions. There is free admission for the armed forces, the emergency services, those in the licensing trade, and the NHS. CAMRA Members are free before 4pm, otherwise £2. Remember to bring along proof of ID.
July 7, 2011