A Fremantle Craft Beer Ramble

Fremantle! Fremantle! For me it’ll forever be the place to be if one has a pressing need to be anywhere near Perth. From childhood memories of the fun and chaos of Freo Market to teenage reminiscences of sipping proper espresso on escapes from boarding school through to more modern flashbacks of flash-visits enjoying great beer and food. Thinking of Fremantle will always make me happy and also a little homesick.

On previous trips home I have frequently enjoyed trips to the Little Creatures brewery, and I’ve popped into the Sail & Anchor and Monk a couple of times too. These three venues have for quite some time been it for good beer in the area I believe. This trip we’d given ourselves half an afternoon and a full evening to enjoy the full set – and thanks to Max Brearley we had two more destinations to add to our list: Clancy’s Fish Pub and the Norfolk Hotel. Making for a fully fledged “pub ramble” (as my local CAMRA branch calls them, to make what is really a “pub crawl” seem more responsible perhaps).

[Update 2014-02-03: Max Brearley is one of the folk behind a new “Freo Craft Beer” video on YouTube, it covers some of the bars on my pub ramble with the chap who started Feral brewery and “Taste Master” Rich Keam. Watch #FREOCRAFTBEER!]

View Fremantle Craft Beer Ramble in a larger map

We started at Clancy’s Fish Pub after dropping our hire car off at the nearby Europcar, but I’ve drawn the map above as a loop starting from the Fremantle train station. Otherwise it is drawn as our feet took us on the day… and what a day of beer it was! I’ll admit to having drunk a little too much by the time I got to the Norfolk Hotel so any attempt at detailed observation & photographic record was out the window – this is a bonus for the reader as I’m unable to report with my usual overt verbosity… you will notice I begin with plenty of photos and end with something more like a couple of fuzzy blurs. Read on for a slightly wobbly tour of Fremantle craft beer venues…

Clancy’s Fish Pub

Clancey's Fish Pub

Clancy’s Fish Pub

Last Drop, Pilsner

Last Drop, Pilsner

I’d spotted this place when picking up our hire car 10 days earlier, we walked past and I exclaimed “hah! Ecokeg stools!” I promptly forgot about it, but it was one of Max Brearley’s suggestions – so became our first stop. On entry, the bar at the right draws my eyes… to the fonts, up further to a massive blackboard littered with beery names and brands. Yup – it looks like we’re in the right sort of place. Fumbling over halves/middys/pints we order our first beers from the fonts closest to the front door – beers we haven’t tried before from a couple of recognisable Perth brewery names. Dollars exchanged for beer and heavy Aussie shrapnel, super cold pints in hand we wander off to find a table.

Beery blackboard @ Clancey's Fish Pub

Beery blackboard @ Clancy’s Fish Pub

OK – not a brilliant start to the day. We’d found a seat at the other side of the bar area and thus spotted more keg fonts sporting an even more crafty line-up of beers, looking good!

Guest taps @ Clancey's Fish Pub

Guest taps @ Clancy’s Fish Pub (note the ice layer forming on the fonts – cold!)

Large seafood platter @ Clancy's Fish Pub

Large seafood platter @ Clancy’s Fish Pub

We went on to try four more beers from this range, probably my second error of the day – too many beers too early. (My first error being to order the “large” seafood platter for lunch – I was told it was good for two, it was excellent but HUGE for two. Good for them as we probably had an extra round of beers as a result. All in all we did enjoy it though.)

Feral, White

Feral, White

Colin with Hughe Dunn Brown & Sly Fox

Colin with Hughe Dunn Brown & Sly Fox

Last Drop, Oktoberfest

Last Drop, Oktoberfest

Full of seafood and a little wobbly from beer already we left Clancy’s behind us and wandered the half mile to central Fremantle’s “cappuccino strip” and our next stop: The Monk Brewery & Kitchen.

Colin chillin'

Colin chillin’ at Clancy’s Fish Pub

As an aside the name of the pub reminds me of one of my favourite Australian poems “Clancy of the Overflow“, here’s the last stanza:

And I somehow rather fancy that I’d like to change with Clancy,
Like to take a turn at droving where the seasons come and go,
While he faced the round eternal of the cash-book and the journal —
But I doubt he’d suit the office, Clancy, of `The Overflow’.

- Banjo Patterson

The Monk Brewery & Kitchen

The Monk Brewery & Kitchen

The Monk Brewery & Kitchen

Monk Beer Menu

Monk Beer Menu

On reaching the top of the steps at Monk we were greeted by a smiling chap who explained that it’s a table-service venue but we don’t need to order food. The latter being a relief since we were still full-to-bursting with our Clancy’s seafood banquet. Although I’m not a great fan of table service when I just want a drink – looking around trying to get attention when you want your next beer… luckily this wasn’t much of a problem at Monk as they had sufficient & efficient staff doing the rounds.

Monk has an al-fresco-dining style of building design that is common back home. The whole front of the building opens out onto outdoor seating – sort of making it one giant deep verandah. The outdoor area makes heavy use of what looks like old pier poles and sleepers, wonderfully weathered and rough. A central bar and food prep area surrounds the shiny beauty of their microbrewery – within which we watched the brewer at work. A brew was in progress and we enjoyed the aroma of hoppy boiling wort whilst examining the beer selection.

In retrospect I note the “tasting tray” on the menu and had I been clear headed this is what I would have ordered, however we started out with a pint each. I chose the Pale ale, which seems to be the best yardstick by which to measure Aussie breweries. A pint… on the second pub in. We can see where this is going.

My description of the Pale there sounds pretty negative – but isn’t really meant to be. This is the brewery’s “basic” beer – it should be clean and easy drinking, which is what it is. It may have lacked a little in the flavour department thus my “uninspiring” – and at 5% I want a bit more bang for buck in the flavour department rather than something more akin to a good sub-4% English bitter. But this is Australia, not the UK, and things are different.

Fairly typical Australian good-beer prices - OUCH!

Fairly typical Australian good-beer prices – OUCH!

Next up our eyes were drawn to some more interesting beers… in my case the stronger IPA-style beer and in Kat’s a kimchi(!) saison.

So, yeah, Monk’s “The Chief” IPA is fantastic. The kimchi thing… bloody disgusting. In fairness to Monk they insisted Kat have a small sample first. Kat did, Kat decided to have a full middy despite me asking if she really wanted one. She couldn’t finish it – that’s not entirely Monk’s fault but I do feel slightly grumpy about paying AU$8.50 (£4.60) for a glass of this awful liquid! However, as I noted, I applaud the insanity & experimentation. There’s some background on the birth of this beastly creation on the Monk blog. (Amusingly I’ve just found out I vaguely inspired Hardknott Dave to put Szechuan pepper into a beer… fingers crossed it is much more successful an experiment!)

The Amuse-ing Monk KimChi Saison

The Amuse-ing Monk KimChi Saison

Monk's "The Chief" IPA

Monk’s “The Chief” IPA – beer of the trip perhaps?










Bacchus Brewing, Hibiscus Saison

Bacchus Brewing, Hibiscus Saison

At this point we really should have moved on, but in front of me I had a dilemma – a special guests beer menu from Queensland’s Bacchus Brewing with something really interesting on it: Hibiscus Saison. Oooeerr. I couldn’t help myself – I ordered a goblet. I didn’t regret it…

A most satisfactory place to finish up… but we had three more venues ahead. We not-quite-stumbled across the road.

The Sail & Anchor

Sail & Anchor's impressive draught beer list

Sail & Anchor’s impressive draught beer list

The Sail & Anchor looks and feels a lot like a “proper pub” in the British sense, albeit with a big double-story-verandah-ed Australian colonial styling. It’s grand architecturally – hugely high ceilings, big corridors, wide staircase to the first floor. I wish I had some photos… but we were in conserve-battery mode now as the phone was a bit poorly in the power department.

After being dazzled by the board displaying a huge list of draught beer and soaking in the scenery the first thing likely to stand out to the beer geek, especially a British one, is that the bar sports two very authentic looking hand-pumps. On reaching the bar this beer geek immediately had to quiz the barman about them. To my delight he was able to tell me exactly what was going on – they’re real functioning beer engines and are hooked up to kegs in their cellar which have very light CO2 top-pressure and things are set up for a serve temperature of 12C. OK, so it’s not “real ale” to the CAMRA pedant, but not far off cask with a breather. Here we have good unfiltered small-brewery craft beer being served in a very British way. Of course we had to try both the beers.

We supped our “ales” upstairs whilst pondering the potential for cask ale in Australia and leeching some electrons from a handy wall socket. This beer wasn’t “cask” per se, and I’m pretty sure it was actually a bit chillier than 12C. Still, it was a hot day and this non-freezing beer hit the spot and tasted excellent. Yet any time I suggest cask might work in Australia I’m met with “nah, too warm”. I remain unconvinced. On another front a pedant might mock this attempt at serving a keg beer “the wrong way” – in this case I have the impression that the Sail & Anchor folk know what they’re doing and select beers appropriate for what they’re doing.

McLaren Vale, VALE/EXP/004

McLaren Vale Beer Company, VALE/EXP/004

Mash, Challenger

Mash Brewing, Challenger British IPA

A feature I loved at the Sail & Anchor was that for every beer they had little printed slips with details and tasting notes.

Sadly with time pressing us on we had to make tracks after this brief encounter, I glanced wistfully at the huge beer list before popping out the door and a block down the street to the Norfolk Hotel.

The Norfolk Hotel

Moylan's IPA @ Norfolk Hotel

Moylan’s IPA @ Norfolk Hotel

By the time we reached the Norfolk Hotel Fremantle was heaving with pre-Christmas summer revellers and we had had quite a bit of beer ourselves. So our plan was a quick visit here and then to Little Creatures before jumping on a train to my sister’s side of Perth. The Norfolk Hotel has what I would call a confusion of bars – I hadn’t a clue where to go, the entire ground floor seemed to be bars! I hunted around and found something I liked the look of.

I enjoyed my beer, not realising until later when I looked back over my checkins that it wasn’t even an Australian brew! Oh well, Aussie purity of the evening broken – but with no regret as the beer was enjoyed. I was beyond the point of trying to describe the flavour usefully as you can see! Beer finished we rolled downhill to…

Little Creatures Brewery

A Western Australian brewing success, and the only West Aussie brewery who’s beer I can regularly find in the UK. Sadly almost every Little Creatures Pale Ale I’ve had in the UK is well past its best. On reaching Australia on this trip and having my first bottle of LCPA I promised myself to never bother buying it in the UK again… my opinion of the beer had been dulled by tired bottles, but my first sip and sniff of a fresh bottle back home undid all the damage done.

Little Creatures is now of course suspect in the eyes of some craft wankers… in 2012 the brewery was bought by Lion with is in turn owned by Kirin (which, amusingly, is in turn owned by Mitsubishi!) Putting them in the same bag as the US’s Goose Island and the UK’s Sharp’s. My opinion is: let the beer do the talking. And LCPA is still good… I hope this stays true, but if not: there’s plenty of competition out there in the Aussie beer scene these days.

I add the above as a bit of filler really, since by the time we got to Little Creatures we were a bit “beered out” and I didn’t really explore the beer range or take any useful photos. The venue is cavernous & industrial, brewing kit clearly visible – and they seem to have expanded to fill three buildings as shown in the Google streetview above. I don’t remember the place being so big! Anyway – I did enormously enjoy one final pint.

This is a recent addition to the Little Creatures line-up and one worthy of my expectations from the Little Creatures brand. My mildly intoxicated notes above are next to useless of course, here’s what I had to say the first time I tried it in bottled form: Aussie US IPA? It’s not bad, good balance of hop zest against the caramel, but more caramel than I like in a beer. “To style” I suppose. Typically critical of me. As US-style IPAs go this was an excellent beer, but to my palate best enjoyed on the cold side to suppress the caramel sweetness that I dislike – drink the beer at the temperature is was designed for!

A high note on which to end an evening of drinking – we made our way to Fremantle station and from there, eventually, our beds.

Little Creatures - packed outside!

Little Creatures – packed outside!

Wrapping Up

Fremantle – it actually manages to get better every time I visit. I can highly recommend retracing our steps to take in these five venues… you could start at luchtime at either end of the path as both Little Creatures and Clancy’s are good for food as well as beer. All five venues are highly worth visiting on their own really. Much like my Swan Valley Breweries trip, I wish I had time to give each destination the attention it is worthy of. I’m particularly dissatisfied with my visit to the Norfolk Hotel – as I’d never been there before and it begs more attention than I gave it. Next time I’m back’ome I think I’ll do my pub ramble again, but in reverse!

Thanks once again to Max for pointing us to Clancy’s Fish Pub and The Norfolk Hotel, as well as suggesting we look out for certain new beers whilst in WA. I think I managed to find them all! I owe him a pint next time I’m in Perth.

I should note that we were not as smashed as perhaps I make it sound in my words above – I’m just somewhat conservative about over-doing it (ah, the lessons of experience…) The list of beers may seem formidable, but there were two of us so most of them were shared. But by the time we left the last venue of our “ramble” it was slightly-wobbly-walking and beer-induced-sleepiness o’clock – we made our way back across Fremantle to the station, onto a train, and rendezvoused with my sister at her local station. I believe I had a beer when I got to her house. ;)

Update 2014-02-03: The #FREOCRAFTBEER video below was put up about a month after I did my ramble. In it “Taste Master” Rich Keam and Feral Brewery founder Brendan Varis visit nearly all the above pubs… but in the opposite order. :)


IMBC LogoSecond year, second killer @IndyManBeerCon.

I don’t have a whole lot to say about actual beers. But… but… it’s a *beer* festival?! Well, yeah, I drank quite a few and a majority of them have some vague notes on Untappd. Mostly not-at-all-run-of-the-mill stuff, not a single drainpour – although one came close! (Not “bad” just “cloyingly sweet”.) The biggest problem with IMBC is the sheer number of beers I *want* to try, an impossible number. With your typical beer festival I am lucky to get a shortlist of 10 beers that just slightly excite me. So… a change of pace is required – which really adds to the charm of the festival for me. I’m not trying to work through a list, or bag beers, I’m hangin’.  Plus what use are my notes on one-off beers and a list of barely accessible “top picks”? The beer was, in general, bloody outstanding. Moving on…

Kat with Table

Even more fun was to be had simply basking in the glow of the still-developing UK beer scene – hanging out with folk passionate about what they drink and what they brew… hanging out until around 4AM on two nights! 8-O It took me 4 days to get back to a normal sleeping pattern. Our IMBC started before IMBC did – getting up at 4AM on Wednesday October 9th to drive up to Manchester and help out with the event set-up from 10AM that day. Hotel check-in done, and then a night in Port Street Beer House. A bit of a killer pre-IMBC day for us – but believe it or not we consider all this a “holiday” from our sitting-on-our-arse-all-day worklives. The 8 tokens each we got for the effort are a happy bonus.

Colin doubling up!From then on it was all drinkin’! Yeah! Back in March buying “full fat” tickets seemed a grand idea… we’d not really properly pondered the crazy Thu/Fri/Sat/Sun full-on festival experience of this though. Thursday was a steady session in the baths with an “early” night to bed in the hotel at about half past the witching hour. Friday was when the party really started, an afternoon BrewDog Mancs lunch then a grand and social IMBC evening – finishing up the night in Port Street with brewing scene stars then back in the Travelodge foyer with many of them at about 4AM. Adoring beer groupies, us. After this we slowed up… paced ourselves, enjoyed the beer, people, food, and information flow. The hangover on Saturday “lite” session helped with the slow-down ;) and a mid-session “nanna nap” helped with the evening winding back up to speed…. despite a pledge not to, on Saturday night we “accidentally” ended up in BrewDog Mancs with beerstars again… c’est la vie!

Lovibonds JeffDuring the event we attended a few talks – mainly for the sake of the beer. Not really, well – not entirely ;) In no particular order: It was excellent hearing @Lovibonds “I HATE PowerPoint” Jeff tell us of how “Sour Grapes” came about. From fortuitous twist of fate that, literally, seeded regular commercial production of sour beer. During the session we tasted the Henley Gold, the Sour Grapes, and the Barrel Aged Sour Grapes – three distinctly different beers with the same origin, it is the Henley Gold that becomes the sour by some sort of dark brewer magic.

RedWillow Toby "dry chipotles" a beer.

Whilst RedWillow @TobyMcKenzie‘s “IBU” talk was a non-starter for technical reasons, we ended up with a very entertaining talk on beer diversity instead – from live “dry chipotle-ing” a stout, through one of the best oyster stouts I’ve ever had, to a truly weird and wrong homebrew – Toby exposing his roots. Ballsy place to finish given that his 2012 IMBC “yeast” talk was pretty much a “here’s some not very nice beer, drink it in the name of science”. But believe me the real RedWillow product is damn fine. Oh my, I really need more of that oyster stout – it was amazing.

Simply HopsThe @SimplyHops Jack talk on use of hops in brewing was on the drier side (hah hah), but I like the technical as much as the entertaining – his exaggerated “where hops can be added” slide was great. I can hear the shout of the hop-head-hipsters: ALL OF THE HOP SPOTS! Scott from @thebeermoth introduced the probably-already-converted to some excellent “wild” beers, taste exploration – it’s what I’m all about.

Darkstar brewer AndyFinally @Darkstartbrewco head brewer Andy gave us an excellent, detailed and down-to-earth run-down of what’s up at the brewery – it looks to me like brewing in DarkStar has been passed on to good hands. (Factoid: Andy used to work for BrewDog! Seems to be quite a few former-BrewDog folk heading on to big things elsewhere.) That was our lot… sadly clashes and late-arrivals to sessions meant we didn’t catch several talks we wanted to.

I have video footage of most of these talks and some is definitely worth putting online, especially Lovibonds Jeff and Darkstar Andy. But first I’ll want to check it’s OK with the brewers and then I need to find the time to clean it up for publishing. For the moment there are some brief appearances from the speakers in my wacky video below!

Count the brewers? :) I gave up at 15. :-p I also have film of more Harlequin Dynamite Marching Band pieces which they’ve permitted me to publish, so I’ll see about cleaning them up too. The videoing is a bit crap, but the beatz are wikkid!

Food… haven’t covered that yet have I. A greater variety and better set-up and availability than 2012. We went to every IMBC session and ate at all but one of them and could have something different every time. Ideal. Not only that but the food was, as last year, far better quality than the typical beer festival fare. Quality and flavour – not “stodge” – craft eats? It was the Guerrilla Eats collective behind this, providing a culture- and taste-spanning diversity. Hand formed beef burgers made with rough minced beef that looked and tasted amazing, paella, dosa, rich stews (boar and black pudding – yum!), pulled pork, gourmet hotdogs with Punk IPA sauerkraut, nachos… IMBC is a solid as well as liquid festival for the tastebuds. And on top of all this the wonderful @NorthTeaPower folk brought an espresso machine along this year… perfect way to start a session after a big previous night of beery celebration.

Is IMBC a “Woodstock” for my generation of beer lovers?

I’m looking forward to 2014 already.

The Magic

P.S. After last year’s IMBC Kat put together some phone-taken video and photos to create this much darker “scary MagicRockStu clown” video:

#RIPScoop – makeup artiste!

Craft Beer Rising 2013

Colin at the Rake BarI’m recovering from Craft Beer Rising 2013 today — feeling utterly drained. Over-indulgence in beery delights does that. Of course it didn’t help that we downed some beautiful but strong beers in BrewDog Shoreditch after. Oh, and then had a bottle of Speedway Stout on the train. Ah, and had a pint of Green Devil in the Live & Let Live when we got back to Cambridge. Excessive drunken decadence. (Though in our defence not to the point of illness and memory loss!)

So how was this “Craft Beer Rising” gig? I’ve been asked this question a couple of times now and have been thinking about the answer. The simple answer is: it was a great beer event, worth the trip, and worth the money. Now read on if you’re interested in a much less simple answer…

Craft Beer Rising was a great event! Good beer, craft beer, interesting beer. It had a less craft vibe than the Independent Manchester Beer Convention and it felt a bit more like a trade-show. It had some decidedly not-at-all-craft-why-the-fuck-are-they-here attendees… but if that’s needed to pay the rent, say, and that means that events like this can work and be profitable then it is a small price to pay (and nobody forces you to drink their beer anyway.)

Importantly: Would I go again? Yes! However next time I might try and sneak myself into the trade session instead…

That’s the TL;DR — now for the properly “less simple” version…

Colin at the Greene King bar –VS– IMBC

I’m probably being incredibly unfair. I’m holding Craft Beer Rising up against the Independent Manchester Beer Convention for a compare-and-contrast despite the fact that my experience of the two events was very different. I volunteered for 3 shifts at IMBC, starting with set-up, and attended the entire event from start to finish over 2 days — it was a rich experience. For CBR on the other hand I attended just a single session on Saturday afternoon — more of an in & out surgical strike!

Samples at the Rake BarSo how do these two non-CAMRA beer events compare? Craft Beer Rising felt more like a trade-show than a beer-festival. Each brewery involved had their own little booth — all branded up, staffed by brewery employees, and fronted by a solid high bar. In this sense it felt much closer in spirit to the brewery booths at GBBF than  the more casual & slightly Heath-Robinson IMBC setup. To add to this feel we had many usual-faces of GBBF around the place as well — Marston’s, Greene King, Thwaites, and Brains for example. Even with the same staff in the latter two cases. (They recognised me from GBBF despite the lack of a mohawk!) The only real difference was the occasional keg font — in that sense this was quite clearly unlike a CAMRA event!

The presence of these breweries is probably one thing that made Craft Beer Rising feel less crafty than IMBC… This is unfair perhaps, Brains and Thwaites are making an effort to produce interesting beers that work for us non-traditionalists. Sharp’s too — sure, the brewery is owned by Molson Coors, but you’d be a jerk to call the amazing, weird, and wonderful stuff Stuart Howe does “not craft” just because of that. Marston’s and Greene King on the other hand were notably & unsurprisingly dull. I did try a couple of their ales, the Marston’s single-hop beer and the Greene King Yard Bird, both decent golden bitters and nothing wrong with them. Though to market Yard Bird as inspired by American IPAs is kind of taking the piss if you ask me. It really was a bit “why are they here?” I’m not saying the event wasn’t “craft” because these breweries were present — I’m just saying that my feel for the vibe of the event was less craft than IMBC (which felt like basking in pure distillate of craft). “Craft” is such a difficult & argument-inducing term!

Off Beat - Drink CraftIn my opinion CBR was also notable for who wasn’t present. None of my “top picks” for British craft beer were there. Again this is a purely personal thing… but no Buxton, Summer Wine, Magic Rock, Hardknott, Kernel, or Moor (just to rattle off a few that come to mind). Of course not every brewery can be represented… but for none of these to be there? Hmmm… There were of course Thornbridge, BrewDog, and the aforementioned Sharp’s. Established “craft” players with decent marketing budgets — I suspect that part of the problem might have been the cost of the event filtering out the small guys. (The Rake Bar did a bit to fill the gap. They had beers on from Summer Wine, Windsor & Eton, and Redemption for example. So some of the beer was there but the breweries weren’t.)

The feeling I got from discussions on twitter is that this odd selection of breweries turned a lot of craft-beer-loving drinkers away from the event. No harm done, because the event sold out anyway! However few people I know bothered — even those in London — and thus it was a somewhat less lively and animated affair for us. (Some did go to the “trade session” on Friday, and there I re-note that the fact I went to ALL of IMBC and just one session of CBR does make the comparison unfair.) On the up-side this meant I actually had time to “check in” most of the beers I tried on Untappd. We did meet up with Nathaniel Southwood at least, and hung out with him after the event for some beers in BrewDog Shoreditch — but 3 beer geeks does not a full party make! The sad part of this is that those who chose to reject the event because of the brewery list did miss out in my opinion. Nobody was forced to drink Greene King IPA and the good beer wasn’t any less good just because there was a cask of it in the room. There was some incredibly good beer on offer. I had made a “shortlist” of 16 different beers I wanted to try, more than enough for four and a half hours of drinking. (I didn’t manage to try them all.)

Colin inspects some keykegs...Another contributor to the different vibe was that people were trying to *sell* me their beer. No, not by the glass… they were doing that of course. I mean 50% of the time when I was chatting to someone at a stand about beer the conversation rolled around to how I can order their beer for a beer festival/pub/etc. Business cards… sales people. This contributed to the “trade show” feeling I suppose. I’ve nothing against people wanting to sell me their beer! In fact I’m quite happy to have met a chap from Osset/Rat brewery on this front & may be in touch with them if I do another CAMRA festival order in the future. Basically IMBC seemed to have more brewers and less sales people. That said, several of the breweries at IMBC were ones I’d previously dealt with thus they knew I already buy their beer (and that I already like buying their beer!)

The imported beer selection was odd at best. I think we have US companies trying to “buy in” to the UK “craft beer” market? Stone, Ballast Point, Rogue, yes… some of these make beers that are certainly worth importing. Fordham? Point? No… why bother? What’s the point? And what the fuck was up with the clear-bottled rum-flavoured Innis-and-Gun style stuff? I just felt I was being too heavily marketed at when I looked at some of these set-ups. I’d expect slick brands like BrewDog and Thornbridge to feel like this, but they were pleasant and real by comparison — with stands staffed by people who’re really into beer and not just spouting sales-pitch at you.

I didn’t spend a lot of time people-watching but the general feel and vibe of the crowd was young, so unlike typical CAMRA affairs. I’m used to being young for beer festivals, but at  CBR I felt a bit old! I think the CBR crowd may have been even younger on average than that of IMBC. This really changes the atmosphere of the event — it’s more lively, and as a result more enjoyable. People who know me probably won’t believe that… I hate crowds. But if I have to be in a crowd I’d rather it be a happy-feeling one. This may be a little unfair on CAMRA festivals but they do tend to feel, to me, quite grumpy sometimes.

Pork Pie & IPAI didn’t catch much by way of the talk/event programme. It seemed a little less organised than the IMBC talks/tastings. That said I’m not going to complain about being given free beer and nibbles by Melissa Cole at the one talk I did attend. Beer and food matching of course!

Just like IMBC the food at CBR was excellent… and so unlike most CAMRA festivals! I think CBR did a little better on the food front actually — merely because I didn’t have to queue for 10 minutes to get my lunch! :) However IMBC did have better sausage.

An eternal problem of beer festivals: toilets. The facilities were overwhelmed! Will there ever be a beer festival that has adequate toliet facilities? The worst part about the men’s toilets in this place was the high flat metal urinal. There you are taking a leak and some drunk chap steps in next to you and… well, it’s a bit splashy. Ick.

On that note I’ll wrap up this loose collection of only vaguely organised thoughts. The weekend is over, I’ve not done much at all today and I still feel pretty damn shattered. Craft Beer Rising 2013 was good fun, despite my criticisms, and I’d have liked to have done an extra session… I missed out on a few beers I’m just now hearing good things about. Oh well, maybe next time!

Colin enjoys a craft Carling on the train home.

Colin enjoys a craft Carling on the train home.

Empire Strikes Back!

The previous post was far too serious. So to make up for it here’s a home video. With beer, and a squid! Doesn’t get better than that.

Empire Strikes Back is an exciting IPA by Moor Beer produced to showcase a new British hop called Jester, developed by Charles Faram. For a British-hop IPA this is an amazing beer, but I must admit it isn’t quite in the same league as the best of NZ and the US.

Extra geek points: notice the Hashigo Zake bottle opener? Got that from the bar itself in exchange for British Craft Beer when I was down there in 2011. Ah, the memories. (They were probably glad to see the back of this drunken Aussie-cum-Pom, though their accountant may not have been;).