Tuesday 19 April 2011

Tuckers Maltings

Drink beer, beer drunk. More beer please. Man on his stag do passes by dressed as a cock. A lot of balls that takes, says man to my right, repeats it once more just in case the world and its mum hasn’t digested his bon mot. Drink beer. At the Tuckers Maltings SIBA Festival (winners here) on the afternoon of a Saturday that sees the sun place its broad brimmed sombrero on its delightful little head and bring forth a resounding yell of hip-hip hooray. Folk stream down the street, past the Teighworthy Brewery and into the historic floor-maltings that each year is put aside, swept clean, and filled with row upon row of beers on stillage. Colin, friend of mine, is bar manager and says straightaway what I should be drinking. Arbor Ales, Bristol Beer Factory. Hold on let me try the winner, I reply. Handsome from Forge. Litehouse from the same brewery won top banana last year. You probably won’t have heard of them but you might do so more in the future. Handsome was peachy skin, warmth of the sun hastening ripening; a fattish body that reminded me of Chardonnay without the poncy notes; dry and crisp in the finish, another one please. Arbor Ales. I visited their ace tap in Bristol a couple of months ago and enjoyed their Oyster Stout. Yakima Valley IPA was a love bomb of citrus, deep ripe apricot skin, grapefruit, hop sack and a big swagger of character. Their Breakfast Stout, up next, was creamy, roasty, mocha, alcoholic and delicious. I can still taste it now. Two hours was all I had, hence no mucking about with milds or bitters. I wanted big bold flavours, which I think I discovered — I stayed with four beers (BBF’s Southville Hop was the other delight). So I found beers I liked and stayed with them — when I go to beer festivals I go to discover beers that I enjoy and once I find them I find them compelling company (I had a similar moment with a Löwenbräu Buttenheim beer at the GBBF several years back). The estimable Zak Avery recently asked why go to beer festivals? My yearly quota has slacked off, but after Saturday I know why — I go to beer festivals to drink great beer, in the company of great people (friends and brewers last Saturday) and in a lush environment. Not every beer festival works (the Pig’s Ear at Stratford Town Hall was a case in point — it had all the charm of a station waiting room in somewhere like Lille), but when they do work the memory lasts and lingers and sticks around, hands in pocket, eager face upturned, asking: will you come back? Tuckers Maltings: of course I will.

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