Wednesday, 21 May 2014

A barrel of fun at Barrow Hill Rail Ale Festival 2014

A local beer festival, albeit across t`border, on sun-baked Friday night, straight from work. What`s not to like? Well, let`s start with the first beer I sampled........!

Now then, lemongrass and ginger are damn fine ingredients, so long as they appear in a spicy tom yung goong soup or pickled atop a fresh sushi sashimi but not in my beer! Thankfully, this one was not one I`d bought (with the efficient card system) but just a taster given my a colleague who was enjoying the Leatherbritches brew. Ginger in beer just does not do it for me and this fact had been proven twice in a week after trying Thornbridge`s Lilith (5%) the previous weekend.

Familiarity was found by starting on many hop head`s favourite Citra by Oakham, before moving onto well, err, Hop Head by Dark Star which proved popular all round. These two are ideal session ales that certainly do not disappoint in flavour and they are well-approachable in ABV (4.2% and 3.8% respectively). Solid, safe starters for sure.

My excuse is that I thought Puja was 5.7% but this Thornbridge Jasmine IPA is actually a whopping 6.7%, and was one of the very heftiest fuels on offer in the Roundhouse. Other excuses include bad light, small print and the absence of this special over the past year or two making the palate grow fonder. Tonight though, being served on gravity and probably a fair bit too warm, it was not to be Puja`s night.

Thornbridge appeared on a hefty sized bar was dedicated to displaying Derbyshire`s breweries that seem to be growing in number day-by-day. Landlocked of Ripley were a new one to us but we were pleasantly surprised by their Chapel Hill ale which was really tasty and refreshing. One to watch and a contender on the night. By contrast, I really struggled to get through a half of Fuggle Bunny`s Amber. FB are yet another new brewery from Sheffield, along with very recent additions Stancil and Toolmakers but then quality and quantity are seldom cell-mates.

By now courage was well and truly plucked up though and Oakham`s Green Devil IPA was a sweet and fruity 6% solution. These Peterborough ale producers are rightly respected the length and breadth of Great Beer-itain (see what I did there!). Yum.

Great Heck are ever dependable and a personal favourite. The Yakima was even stronger than Puja so I opted for the superb  (and safer) Citra only to manfully swap it with a drinking companion who was finding Voodoo Mild to be too wild a child, even in a half pint measure. That said, I was more than happy with my trade with its chocolate and roast coffee hints. Voodoo Mild is a contender at Barrow Hill and an apt one as it is Mild May, after all!

Similarly reliable at Rail Ale were the Raw brews, especially the hoppier hits. By this point, the music was getting louder, the shed (sorry, Roundhouse) was getting fuller, the locomotive was rotating more quickly and err, the light was fading but I am sure that both beers were from their Ghost series. I`m also pretty sure that one was cask and the other I had from keg. I`m also sure that I did not need or like the Castle Rock beer that I finished the night with.

The Barrow Hill Rail Ale Festival is rightly popular and 2014 was certainly a success. There was a very decent array of ale on show with an appropriate focus on Derbyshire. Other ales on offer were an interesting mix of newcomers and the established. There was a small keg bar that seemed popular too and outside the selection of food was commendable too. To top off a tremendous night, my train was on time too. All hail the rail!

 Barrow Hill`s Best - Our Choices
Mike -  Great Heck`s Voodoo Mild or Oakham`s Green Devil IPA (Attractive opposites. Can`t split).
Martin - Leatherbritches - Lemongrass & Ginger (Friday night Oriental food craving?! ;-))
Colette - Great Heck Citra (Top swap)
Nic - Raw`s Silver Ghost or Oakham`s Green Devil (Owt scary!)

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