It may be on an industrial estate but getting to Vibrant Forest you realise how close it is to the gorgeous New Forest National Park. Within a mile of the brewery you are swerving round cyclists, slowing down for free-running ponies and driving over cattle grids. Not what you need if you are heading to a brewery to present them with an award. It's a good job I know the area and so allowed myself plenty of time. The journey was a little slow but the scenery is quite fabulous.
The Vibrant Forest story begins in 2011 with Kev Robinson brewing in his garage at home near to Southampton on a 1-barrel plant. Three years later saw them expand to this 10-barrel plant on an industrial estate on the outskirts of Lymington, a beautiful part of Hampshire. In a week which saw established Hampshire brewer, Oakleaf, going into adminstration it was great to visit a brewery that is thriving and deservedly so.
It is just over a year since I first tried a beer from Vibrant Forest. This was a superbly bitter golden ale, Flying Saucer (4.3% ABV). Since then I have enjoyed much of their range including the stunning Imperial Stout, Black Oktober (9.0% ABV) and their fabulous IPA, Kaleidoscope (6.5% ABV).
The reason for visiting was to present Kev with the Yapton Beerex Beer of the Festival, an award they also won last year. The winning beer this time around was Salted Liquorice (5.0% ABV), a sweet stout that is exactly what it says with strong liquorice notes and a subtle saltiness. Looking around the impressive brewery bar they already have 13 certificates proudly displayed. Yesterday they added two more because the Southampton CAMRA branch were also there to present them with an award for their Oat & Coffee Stout (5.7% ABV). They certainly know how to do dark beers but, as we saw yesterday, they know all about hops too.
Yesterday I got to sample another beer from their Radicale range. Belgian Zuur (3.5% ABV), a lovely sour that many were enjoying. Ridiculously refreshing on such a lovely sunny day. The Vienna Rye Ale (3.7% ABV) was a beautifully balanced beer with plenty of flavour from the rye but a refreshing character from the Chinook hop. Finally, the Wheatwave (4.8% ABV) was another excellent refreshing beer and a great example of a Hefeweizen. These three beers showcased how diverse and experimental Kev is as he holds nothing back. Each beer is well crafted and delicious.
|Kevin (left) receiving the second of two awards yesterday|
|A selection of Western Sussex CAMRA members enjoying the beer|
This was my first visit to Vibrant Forest and hopefully it won't be my last. The brewery bar is open on Fridays (noon - 6.00.pm) and Saturdays (11.00.am - 3.00.pm). I want to shout out to all beer lovers about this brewery because their beers really are first class. 'We won't tolerate dull or boring' it says on their website. How very true. If Vibrant Forest were based in London you would get beer writers going all gooey eyed over them. However, if you want to try their beers you will now find them all along the south coast across to Brighton and they also make regular trips to Bristol.
My little bit of Vibrant Forest will continue with a bottle of their Imperial Red IPA (9.7% ABV) that I took away yesterday. I cannot wait to try that one.