Matteo Malacaria – My Yorkshire beer experiences so far…

Elsecar by the Sea beer festival (Barnsley CAMRA)

The CAMRA Beer Festival instructions: go and drink

A CAMRA Beer Festival gives the chance to try great beers. The one at Barnsley was even better. I participated the Barnsley CAMRA Beer Festival and I have to admit that I enjoyed it very much. Barnsley is one of the four CAMRA outposts in the Yorkshire county. The festival was held in the small town of Elsecar, in the spartan yet big location named Milton Hall (a sort of town hall). To cheer the throats of thirsty visitors there was a tap list consisting of over 30 rolling beers (strictly Real Ale) and ciders. Ah, there was a stand alone draft beer as well.

It is a Beer Festival with a twist.

It is not the common beer festival, at least not for an Italian. Here the purely playful moment contains the business. Like any other CAMRA Beer Festival it lasts more days in a row. I got to participate in the first, the so named “trade day”. I took the opportunity to collect notes of my random samplings.

The format is the same for each CAMRA Beer Festival.

The most eloquent example is the GBBF. Simply the CAMRA Beer Festival in Barnsley is more modest – although defining modest a line of over 30 beers is heresy. There was also a moment for training. The Barnsley CAMRA Beer Festival brought together all the members interested in carrying out the “dirty” work of the beer taster. The lesson was brief but eloquent: go and drink. There is no way – unfortunately and fortunately – to understand beer but tasting it. Reading, culture and knowledge of beer styles make a difference – essential when it comes to competitions – but the sensitivity of nose and mouth is the result of a hard and constant training. Which in a nutshell it means to drink, drink and drink again.

The goal is simple: to produce numbers.

The only tool of the tasting is an evaluation scorecard. Its job is to accompany the taster in the evaluating path. Nothing too much complex, just the usual sections: appearance, aroma and flavour. At the end you have to determine a final grade, which will then be used to determine means and assign titles such as best beer or best pub. But now, after all this talking it is time to taste. Here’s what I’ve been drinking!

Ice Cream Stout, The Rat Brewery, 4.8% abv.

Evanescent foam. Black colour, opaque, with brown nuances. Roasted aroma welcome (milk chocolate, toffee, coffee, licorice). The aromatic body expresses softness and apparent sweetness: raisins, dried plums, stracciatella ice cream, “drunk” sponge cake and chocolate cake. The heart is both floral and fruity: rose petals and black cherries. No carbonation, medium-bodied, velvety mouthfeel with light astringent bites. Fresh beginning (black bread, chestnut flour, coca-cola, dark chocolate). Gradually takes sweetish red notes of cherry, wild strawberries and licorice root. Red fruits aftersmell, lightly toasted aftertaste of coffee and cocoa. Woody and smoky suggestion. Dry end, slightly astringent but balanced by soft ice cream memories (fiordilatte).

Ploughman’s Pride, Great Newsome Brewery, Deep Brown Bitter, 4.2% abv.

Coarse foam lasting more than the average. Brown colour with chestnut shades. The nose is graceful with a slight off-flavour of soy sauce to welcome. The aromatic body changes the skin and takes on the likeness of bread crust, caramel, butterscotch and toffee, hazelnut, candy sugar, chestnut flour. Heart of toast. Alcoholic soul that recalls the idea (just the idea!) of Sherry. Very few bubbles, lots of (apparent) sweetness, medium body with a light and soft mouthfeel. It starts with bread, caramel, chestnut and hazelnut. The alcohol accent gives a dry ending. Caramelized aftersmell, bread crust and hazelnut aftertaste.

Solidarnesc, Raw Brewing Co., Polish IPA, 6.2% abv.

This beer is a tribute to the English Bohemian beers, in particular its new generation hops: Sybilla, Marynka and Junga. No foam. Orange colour with golden hues; crystal clear appearance. The aroma is extremely fresh, that of a freshly washed laundry (lavender, flower). There is a “green” trend (kiwi and apple). Above all there is a nice blend of Mediterranean and South Pacific fruits (melon, watermelon, white-fleshed peach). In the mouth it is powerful. Former notes are sweet (peach, bread, biscuit). But it’s all fire under ash: after a while the mouth is filled with bitterness. Herbal, spicy (green pepper) and floral. Orange honey interlude. Fruity finish: orange, tangerine, peach and green apple core. Alcoholic and dry aftertaste, orange peel finish.

There is so much to drink at a CAMRA Beer Festival. You’ll have to taste everything. But don’t forget the business, between a pint and the other. If you are clever you will bring home a big deal.

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Andy Cullen

About Andy Cullen

Andy has been actively involved in CAMRA since the early 2000s after being recruited to sit on a National Younger Members Task Group. Since then he has held roles on the branch committee including Secretary, Membership Secretary, Magazine Editor, Chair and now Social Secretary. Andy has also been involved with the Steel City Beer & Cider Festival almost every year since becoming active in the branch.

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