The best place to be when you're dripping in sweat, melting in the abnormal summer heat that seems to be gracing us with its presence these days, is a beer festival. And it's even better when said beer festival has over 250 beers on, or coming on, tap for you to choose from. So you can imagine my giddy excitement as I hurriedly tried to get the tent erected as quickly as possible, so as to get to the bar ASAP. And it's at this point that I thought "maybe we arrived here a little too early...?"
See, in my clamour to get to the festival as soon as possible on Friday, it hadn't really occurred to me that the main beer tent might not be open as soon as I got there. Yes, I know now that it clearly says on all the paraphernalia that the main tent doesn't open until 4pm on Friday - but do you really think I got past the list of beer when I was reading up on things??
Luckily for me though, help was at hand in the form of the Brewers Bar. Situated on the north(ish) side of the main arena, the Brewers Bar offered a more chilled out, laid back vibe, compared to the manic frenzy of the main bar. Featuring sofas and great views of the rest of the festival, the BB was a great place to sit and sip on a beer whilst taking in all of the festivities. Venturing to the bar, I could see there was a limited (but good) selection of beer on offer - as well as cocktails on the opposite side of the tent - to keep me refreshed for now. Now what to have...?
It's probably time to remind you all - if you haven't read any of my previous articles on here - of my... haphazard way of choosing my beer. Scott, on seeing the beer list for FF, immediately picked out a couple of beers that he'd have made a beeline for (if he'd been here). I'm not like that. I pretty much get to the point of purchase, panic and buy whatever is closest. Sometimes that results in some cracking discoveries. I call it the Russian Roulette approach to beer buying.
"It's probably time to remid you all of my haphazard way of choosing my beer. I call it the Russian Roulette approach."
Bearing that in mind - and also remembering that I had no notebook at hand to take notes - my recollection of what beers I actually had at that moment in time are ...foggy at best. I do remember that I ordered a couple of IPA's that definitely helped ease the tension and cool my temperature to something slightly below boiling.
Look - as I've mentioned before, the selection of beer at FF this year was ridiculous. I tried my very best to mark the beers I had on my programme, and at the last count, I tried at least 17 different beers over two days. That's hardly a dent, considering how many were available.
Most of the beers I purchased over the weekend, were from the main bar itself. This bar, located in a huge marquee, also doubled as the main music stage and could be a bit daunting when trying to choose a beer, given the huge selection. Surprisingly though, given how many people were at the festival (a couple of thousand at least), it was pretty easy to get served and the bar staff were both really helpful and really friendly (despite the heat!). Selections were displayed on blackboards above each area of the bar, showing was beer was on tap and it was simply a matter of placing your order and paying with beer tokens.
Of the 17 beers I tried, there were a couple that made a mark though and which I thought were outstanding. Ironically, probably the best one I tasted, was the last dregs of the barrel which were poured out for me; Dutty, by Tiny Rebel. I ordered this on the Friday night, from the main bar and was unlucky enough to ask for it as the barrel was near empty. On the plus side, I did get the dregs for free - as it wasn't enough of a measure to charge a token for! Bonus! Free beer, is always good beer - or in this case, great beer. I remember it being fruity, a little sweet and had a great mouthfeel. Not exactly a great review I know, but I'd just shotgunned it so I could choose something else to fill my glass with, thus proving the 'ultra-smashable' description beside the beer in the official programme!
Another cracking beer worth mentioning, is Orinoco from Drygate. I like my stouts - I know IPAs and whatnot are the 'big thing' these days, but for me, a good quality stout will always trump anything else. And luckily for me, I was well catered for at FF. I picked this one on a whim - I'd already ordered another stout and decided to get this one for the missus, as she was after something a bit sweeter, with maybe a hint of chocolate. And this one didn't disappoint. Really smooth, great vanilla/chocolate flavour, slight bitterness cut through with a lovely sweetness too. I definitely could drink a lot of this.
A couple of other notable mentions: Kama Citra from (I think) Beer Here - hoppy, sweet, easy drinking brown ale; Into The Zawn from Buxton - another really easy drinking, light beer, that at only 3.2% ABV, means you could tank gallons of the stuff (especially in the sunshine); and finally, Workbench Session IPA from good ol' Fyne Ales themselves, was another really refreshing, fruity, low alcohol ale (and I'm not just mentioning it to schmooze to Fyne! Honest!)
I wish I had more time (and money) to work my way through the rest of the beers, but alas, it wasn't to be. I do still have my copy of the festival programme though, so at least I have a list to work towards!
And thus ends part two of my FyneFest article. I had planned on making this just the two parts, but it appears that I'm doing a Peter Jackson here and splitting a perfectly good story up more than it needs to be, for my own self-serving purposes! So come back ...tomorrow? when I'll try to wrap things up and give my final thoughts on Fynfest!