I do find Wetherspoons Beer Festivals frustrating at times. You get a list of 50 beers and usually there are only four or five available at any one time. You look down the list and spot a dozen or so you would like to try and then wait and wait. Sod's Law tells you the ones you really want to try will never appear when you are visiting. On the positive side where else can you buy ten pints of interesting beer and still get change from £20? I had ten 50p CAMRA vouchers to use and I managed to use them all in the past two weeks which brought the cost of each pint down to £1.99.
Given the beer list at the beginning of the festival the ten pints I tried were a mix of ones I was hoping to see and ones I tried because the ones I really wanted were not available at the time. Some you win and some you don't! However, here is a run-down of the beers I tried along with scores and comments for each. All of these beers were bought at the excellent Wetherspoons in Stratford-on-Avon, The Golden Bee. This pub always serves beers in perfect condition and those below could not be faulted for their presentation.
1) Elgood's Spring Gold (3.8% ABV)
This beer was very pale. The flavour was floral and hoppy and quite complex. The hops were dominating throughout and there was a lingering citrus taste. Certainly a refreshing pint. Score 7/10
2) Brains Willy Nilly (4.0% ABV)
This was was fruity and complex with an underlying malty base. Another complex beer with subtle hints of caramel and toffee too. I wasn't sure about it initially but it turned out to be quite satisfying. Score 7/10
3) Robinsons Hoptimus (4.1% ABV)
This was a delightful fruity golden bitter bursting with hoppiness but well balanced with a distinct malty base. This beer was definitely one of the highlights for me. Score 8/10 (Bronze award)
4) RCH Wheat Beer (4.4% ABV)
This was a pale wheat beer with a citrussy hoppiness. It had a bitter aftertaste but generally I found it to be lacking in flavour. A little disappointing. Score 6/10.
5) Corfu Ionian Coffee Porter (4.5% ABV)
This was brewed at Everards by one of the international brewers. It was a gorgeously smooth and well balanced porter. I was expecting a distinct coffee bitterness but it was actually quite subtle. It was jet black in colour and I loved it. Score 9/10 (Silver award)
6) Thwaites Daniel's Hammer (5.0% ABV)
This was a particularly pleasant balanced golden bitter. Plenty of sweet fruits on the palate leading to a dry bitter finish. Quite a traditional golden premium ale. Score 8/10 (Bronze award)
7) Wolf Tasmanian Wolf (5.0% ABV)
Another golden bitter described as a premium IPA. Strong on flavour with a powerful bitter finish. Quite a complex fruitiness to it too but the overriding characteristic was the strong bitterness. Score 8/10 (Bronze award)
8) Orkney 1878 Strong Ale (5.5% ABV)
Rich heavy fruits clash with an underlying bitterness in this exceptional beer. A little spiciness on the palate too creates a beer perfect for a cold winter evening. Score 9/10 (Silver award)
9) Yasileostrovsky Siberian Red (6.0% ABV)
My second beer from an international brewer. This Russian brewer visited Banks's Brewery in the West Midlands to brew this rich ruby coloured beer. Full of flavour it was sweet and malty with plenty of roasted malts to balance the sweetness. Score 9/10 (Silver award)
10) Central City Red Racer IPA (6.5% ABV)
Another of the international brewers. This Canadian brewer visited Shepherd Neame to brew this lovely IPA. It was very hoppy with a heavy citrus fruitiness balanced with a rich malt base. Score 8/10 (Bronze award)
It is unusual for me to drink ten beers and not give out top marks (a gold award). However, there were numerous near misses and I was probably being a bit harsh with the Siberian Red to not award it top marks. It was just about my beer of the festival though. The Orkney 1878 or the Ionian Coffee Porter might have sneaked the top award if they had been tried on a cold dark evening so they came in a close second.