What sort of food do you expect to find at a beer festival? Most of us are just looking for something to soak up the beer, but it would be nice to think that we are getting something with a good amount of quality and if it tastes good as well then a decent local connection.
I suppose if it were in a pub we would be looking at a packet of crisps, maybe a bag of nuts or even some pork scratchings. I was expecting to see a lot of burgers, hog roasts, maybe the odd sausage or too, breakfast type sandwiches and probably some pies. I wasn’t to be disappointed on that front.
All of those were available at the Nottingham Beer Festival this week, as were some more adventurous selections such as oysters, paella and biltong. I didn’t manage to eat all the options, but with some help worked my way through what I thought were the best of the offerings and the most popular stalls
The first option on the hog roast / pork cob front was at the Exotic Burgers and Hog Roast Stand, but to be honest although they were all bright and cheerful I wasn’t sold when I saw them pulling a joint apart for the meat, I wanted to see a hog or something still in animal shape
I was much more interested in the offering from The Pickled Porker, when I started taking pictures of the stand the lady opened up the trunk to show me her pork butts. Not sure I needed to see those little pig tails that were no longer wagging.
This was a good juicy pulled pork sandwich, it could have had a bit more seasoning to bring out the flavor, but I keep forgetting that I am in England and that I need to add my own. Perhaps there was too much juice and it sucked the flavor away, either way it did work in soaking up some of the beer.
Hunting down a burger at the beer festival was not that hard, probably a lot less tricky than it was hunting down the beasts to supply the burgers for this particular stall. This was the Exotic Meats Gourmet burger stall by Ank Marvin Ltd. It seems quite amazing when one thinks about it that it is getting easier and easier to get your hands on these exotic meats without having to go off on safari to some far flung country. We stood in front of the menu and pondered that there was not that much that we had not tried before, which seems like a remarkable thing to say. I had had them all, but my companion had not had Elk before so he got one of those.
The verdict was that the meat part of the burger did not taste of that much, but that the topping of caramelized onions in red wine, together with a bit of lettuce, and tomato made it a pretty tasty sandwich. As well as the meats on offer at the festival Ank Marvin also supply Angus Beef, Bison, Blesbok, Camel, Crocodile, Eland, Horse, Iberico Pork, Impala, Kudu, Llama, Mouflon, Oryx, Reindeer, Rose Veal, Water Buffalo, Wildebeest, and Venison. Ank Marvin are based out of Nottingham from The White House, The Crescent, in Alexandra Park.
I was very happy to see that the Bouverie Lodge had a stall selling their excellent Bison and Venison burgers. These guys are almost ever present around the local farmers markets where they often are also grilling up the burgers that they are selling. I like both the venison and the bison, but usually get the Bison Burger with the fried onions and Cropwell Bishop Stilton toppings.
The Jukebox café based up at 18-20 Hartley Rd in Nottingham were at the beerfest offering up pies, and the classic breakfast style sandwich. They are known as ‘an inner-city Nottingham-based 60’s retro café which sells award-winning builder’s breakfasts’ and they were quite proud of that fact with signs all over the place telling us of that fact.
Sadly there was no ‘Builder’s Breakfast’ on offer, but they were offering a ‘Belly Buster Breakfast Bap’ for £3. I wasn’t too fussed on trying one but my companion was keen to give it a go. The verdict was that it was a good breakfast bap but that perhaps the belly busting claim was a little ambitious. Essentially you got a fried egg, a slice of bacon, and some bits of fried up sausage in a bap with either beans or tomato.
I was glad that I forgo the opportunity at the Festival to try one and I think that I am going to head up to the Jukebox café to try the Builder’s Breakfast instead to see what they are really all about.
Duck Fat Roasties were there selling, well Duck Fat Roasties, now you might like myself think that this is going to be really bad for you, but they assure us via their website that “apart from the amazing flavour, Duck Fat is regarded by many as the healthiest animal fat to cook with. With a comparatively low level of saturated fat” Well I can’t argue with that, instead of a bag of chips, a bowl of these roasted potatoes was just what the doctor didn’t order but should have done.
Yuley’s Bratwurst were there as well sustaining us on the sausage front with their 9 1/2″ and 20″ bratwursts, and a 9 1/2″ Krakauer. They seemed to be pretty popular and we sat for a while with a group of Japanese students who each had one and were really enjoying them as well. They did also seem to be desperate for some chips as well so I think that they were out there looking for full on beer fest experience.
Over the weekend Yuley’s were offering up their sausages with their ‘famous’ Hamster chilli sauce, they also do have a range of gourmet burgers including a Camel Cumin and Apricot Burger, and a Wildebeest Coriander and Pepper Burger, which they weren’t doing this time, but worth looking out for at another festival.
It was good to see another local café represented at the Beer Festival. The pick of the bunch menu wise for me was Homemade who are based up on Pelham Street in the City Centre. They sell themselves on providing fresh, local, quality food. I did pick their stall to try some food as I could see it all being cooked up in front of me and one of the taglines from their website is “We are a not a fast food café we are a fresh food café so sit back and relax while your meal is prepared just for you.”
I had my eye on the paella pan which one of the guys was cooking up while I watched, I was however a bit dissapointed when they didn’t scoop out a ladle full from the pan, instead it came out of a warmer on the counter. It wasn’t that bad, just wasn’t as fresh as I hoped, it had gone a bit claggy in the warmer and the rice had lost any sense of solidity becoming a bit mushy. The taste was OK and there was plenty of chicken and chorizo sausage in there (not as much as you would get at my house) but you know this is a beer festival and not a food festival so one cannot complain and it certainly would be a good sized plateful to soak up the beer.
If you were in the mood for some spicy food to go with your beer, you had a couple of options on the Indian front. The first of those was the locally renowned and nationally recognized Indian restaurant Memsaab.
They had a simple selection both in the top tent and down in the grounds. It wasn’t the same as being at the restaurant, think all you can eat buffet and you are probably getting closer. I didn’t see too many people eating from their stalls, but perhaps towards the end of the night they would get more people getting one to take home. It was probably really good but it wasn’t really exciting me that much. I need something on a stick that I can carry around while I am drinking not a big bowl of spicy curry.
The other spice laden possibility was mirch masala who apparently specialize in a combination of Indian, Indo-Chinese, Mexican and Italian. They also had two stalls and were really pushing the sales offering a free samosa or spring roll if you bought a curry or rice dish. I wasn’t really that convinced by their food stall either, but they were really very enthusiastic.
The food looked ok when you saw it in its final resting place on the counter before being served up to the public.
It was however much more interesting to the casual observer to see the food on the hot plate just prior to the final journey to the counter.
Up in the top tent there was some much more decent fare in the deli section from The Cheese Shop based out of the Flying Horse Arcade and an offering of Mrs Kings Pork Pies from Melton Mowbray. Even though we didn’t buy any cheese from the stall, I could see it ‘flying off the shelf’ so to speak, trade looked good and brisk which was excellent to see as the Cheese Shop is the sort of business that deserves recognition.
Instead we did fall into the BeerFest food trap and bought one of the Pork Pies which we had cut into quarters to share. In our beer sodden state we felt that the meat was excellent all from pork shoulder I understand and the hot water crust pastry was also good. It was a pretty big pork pie for the money perhaps too much to eat at the end of a long day supping beers.
There were quite a few other offerings at the festival from jacket potatoes to pizza, and overall there was a pretty fair selection of food on offer for all tastes. It was very much beer festival food, and I am sure that some of the resturants would give you a finer experience if you turned up at their establishments. I wasn’t unhappy with anything that we ate, and it is just my opinion as to whether I would have dined at some of the other vendors, plenty of other people did and I am sure that everything did its job in soaking up the beer which was the main event of the show.
The CAMRA Nottingham Beer Festival 2013 ran from Wednesday 9th through to Saturday 12th October in the grounds of Nottingham Castle, we visited on the Thursday and Friday and between us we spent both days there eating and drinking, just for quality control purposes of course.