Super Staffs Beer Fest 2011

L-R, back row: Dave Clark, Martin Salt (Staffs CAMRA); front row: Laura, me & Jane

The last beer festival of BB’s birthday month was the epic 4th annual Heart of Staffordshire Beer Festival. And what a way to see out my birthday month!!!  CAMRA Festival Organiser, Dave Clark, invited me a few months ago totally out of the blue because I’d never met him or had anything to do with Staffs CAMRA before. At that stage I couldn’t commit to any dates but then –  when one of my old work mates, top BBC Midlands Today TV reporter, Laura May McMullan, said she fancied going there – I had the perfect excuse. After getting to our hotel in Stafford, I gave beer festival virgins, Laura and her friend, Jane (who’s now a my new friend) the low-down with my guide to beer festivals. We all tootled over to the Blessed William Howard School hall in Stafford town centre. When we arrived we were greeted by a huge throng of people and the prospect of over 70 beers (plus ciders, perries & wines)

Sadly we were a little too late to catch the ‘Ladies session’ at 1930 led by the fabulous Claire & Vicky from Slaters Brewery. Apparently 30 girls joined in and Claire & Vicky told me it went down a storm. And, if you ever get to meet them both, you’ll know that everything is a barrel load of fun when they’re involved – two girls with infectious personalities + their loud, crazy laughs + beer = chaos! And when we stepped into the room about half eight, we were hit by a wall of heat (it had been another scorching hot day), a wealth of people, and the reassuring gentle hum of people chattering over a few beers.

It was surreal when we arrived cos Dave was on the door and the rest of the lovely CAMRA team (in their distinct, bright green Lymestone Brewery tees) were waving to me, shaking my hand and saying ‘Hello, Beer Beauty‘. It was almost like the receiving line at a wedding reception! I’ve got all that to come for real soon.

Judging by the news from Dave that he was anticipating placing orders for more beer first thing Saturday morning,  I’m sure the entire weekend will have been a runaway success. The good weather, the spacious venue coupled with some mega-friendly staff will have made sure of that. Martin Salt gets an honorary mention for being the MOST hilarious and wonderfully congenial CAMRA volunteer I have ever met in my life. Jane came along as someone who preferred cider and wine over beer. I made sure she tried a couple of beers (you know what I’m like!) but Martin was the one who helped her decide on a couple of suitable ciders to try. He also made sure Laura pushed her tastebud boundaries on the beer front  – Blythe Brewery’s Staffie came out on top for her –  and he did this all while cracking us up with his hilarious tales of behind-the-scenes prep for the festival.

L-R, back row: Dave Clark, Martin Salt (Staffs CAMRA); front row: Laura, me & Jane

For me, aside from my usual local brew faves (Batham’s Best Bitter & Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild), there was only one disappointment: Beartown’s Peach Melbear didn’t excite the tastebuds as much as it did when I first had it last summer. I put it down to my taste having evolved over the year.

Dave Clark (Staffs CAMRA & Festival Organiser), me & Ian Bradford (Lymestone Brewery)

The new beers I tried were corkers: Lymestone’s Stone The Crows was a real special: a dark 5.4% beer, with an invitingly floral aroma. A strong floral aroma always gives way two feelings in my brain (joy at the intensity of the wonderful smell and also worry that the beer will be too hoppy for me, cos I’m just not a ‘hophead’). The actual result was a gorgeous toffee taste and maltiness, with some seductive sweetness, all aligned to a gently hop bitterness (created by the Styrian Goldings & Fuggles low alpha hops; some Millennium hops were also thrown in ‘for a kick’) which didn’t linger too much in the aftertaste. Wicked.

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All-in-all, a delicious beer and a real surprise. So Ian Bradford (owner and head brewer of Lymestone who I had the pleasure of meeting there that night, with his lovely wife) and I were introduced. Laura, Dave Clark, Ian and I had all been tweeting in the weeks in the run up to the festival so it was fabulous to meet each other. Ian and I started having an in-depth natter about Stone The Crows, so much so that I was overcome by this feeling to whip out my iPhone and record him on my Voice Memo app. I’ve posted the interview for you. NB The very loud Brummie voice is me (my accent gets broader than broad when I get all excited about beer) so here’s the result….

 

One of the many things I loved about Ian was his down-to-earth quality. He talked to me ‘on a level’ about his beer and not in a snooty, ‘I know it all and you don’t’ kind of’ tone. Believe you me, I’ve been spoken to like that countless times. Needless to say I’ll be making a date to go up and visit Ian at Lymestone and have a good mooch around very soon.

So what other new beers did I drink? Blythe Brewery’s Johnson’s (5.2%) a dark brew vying for my affections alongside Sarah Hughes’s, but the liquorice element in the beer meant that for me it didn’t quite make my grade. Titanic’s Chocolate and Vanilla Stout (4.5%) was inspected for a myriad of reasons (one which will become clearer in about 4 months time!) and the other cos any chocolate beer I’ve tasted that’s been brewed with Vanilla has been pretty stunning. This one was ok in my book, a little too bitter for me, but interesting nonetheless. Dent Brewery’s T’Owd Tup (6.0%) was a cheeky little number from this Cumbrian brewery and a first for me. Very pleasant. So can you tell I’m a strong, dark beer fan??

Laura introduced me to the Rob Cocker and his wife who were lovely. Rob’s on a mission to drink in all of Britain’s pubs: he’s had a beer in every pub within a 20mile radius of his home a in Stoke and he’s visited almost 8500 pubs around the UK. He’s got a notebook full of them all! Us girls were all yakking to him so much, that by the time we wanted to get another drink, it was 11pm and closing time!!

We gave everyone we’d met a beery kiss goodbye and headed off to the luscious Stafford Balti (as recommended by Martin Salt) in town for a delicious curry. Cheers to the staff who didn’t moan or get angry about the fact we tottered in at almost 1am, just as they were about to close 😉

And a massive CONGRATS to the hard-working Staffs CAMRA team who made the festival a resounding success!

2 Responses to Super Staffs Beer Fest 2011

  1. Phil Vickers says:

    Well; thanks for the congrats BB. I’m going to be a bit cheeky now and suggest that what you really really need now to round out your PhB degree (Doctor of Beerology) is a peek behind the scenes….

    Yes ! You really need to WORK a beer festival ! Not only is it piles of fun but you will gain a whole new outlook (honest).

    The fact that I’m the Staffing Officer for Stafford BF is, of course, a complete coincidence and you should pay this no heed whatsoever. I certainly don’t. I’m merely concerned that you aspire to the epitome of the fest experience.

    Seriously; do try the other side of the bar. Virtually everyone who ‘bites the bullet’ comes back for more. I look forward to your application to work the even greater fifth Stafford BF next year. Yay !

    — PhilV

    • BEER BEAUTY says:

      Hey Phil. Hey I like the sound of the PhB, so it sounds like an offer I can’t refuse. Plus I’ll be working with the BEST CAMRA team in the UK, right? So you’ll have to pencil me for next year :-) Cheers for connecting and reading the blog. Stay in touch xx

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