Nottingham Beer Festival or to give the correct name “The 2014 Nottingham Robin Hood Beer and Cider Festival” is one of the highlights of the Nottingham year in our calendars. It features much of which we love in this city Good Beer and some tasty Food. This year we took the day off on Friday and headed over on an early bird ticket (entry before 1pm) to sample as many of the beers that we could manage while attempting to also remain responsible members of sobriety erm I mean society. Located in the grounds of Nottingham Castle this was apparently the seventh Robin Hood Beer and Cider Festival held there and the 39th Nottingham beer festival held in the City. I can remember attending the festival when it was held over at the leisure centre near Sneinton Market, it was much smaller then than now, but was just as good an experience. They say that over this weekend they will expect over 30,000 visitors so it is a good job that there were over 1200 beers to sample!
Beer to start
We started off the day by visiting a number of our local favourites including the Castle Rock brewery who had a ‘Tavern’ in the lower grounds and a stand up in the Main Tent. I particularly enjoyed a glass of their latest offering the ‘Carl Froch’ one of their ‘Nottinghamian brews’ described in the menu as a Dark “lager style” cask ale at 4.2%. We also, as always, enjoyed glasses of Harvest Pale, Elsie Mo and ‘Hedgehog‘ one of their ‘Wildlife Beers’ described as a – Bonfire Bitter with a reddish tint’
They had a projector showing tweets that had been sent out on the day which we just had to test out
It was working well and kept us entertained for a while as we worked our way through the different beers on offer.
After the first few beers we were feeling a bit peckish and figured that before we went too much further it was time to sample a couple of snacks.
A bit of Food
One of the first stalls in the lower food area was from the Nearby Crafty Crow pub that sits just outside the entrance to the Castle Grounds. They were offering pots of their ‘Candied Beer Bacon’ for £5. They were serving this with a somewhat runny cheese sauce. I did like the thickly cut bacon strips, I would have liked them more if they or the cheese sauce were hot, but they were still good. They sell these in the pub as part of the ‘Snacks and Sharer’ section of the menu where they are described as “The perfect marriage of bacon and beer that is so good it should come with a health warning! Thick rasher of dry cured streaky bacon, glazed with beer and served with our own cheese ‘beerchamel’ dip”
Martin waiting for Bacon
One of our party found themselves in need of some pre-beer sustenance in breakfast form and they headed over to the Jukebox Café stall who were in almost the same location as last year.
They were still selling the Belly Buster BreakfastBaps for £4 – a rather large bap filled with sausage, bacon, egg, and tomatoes.
That sounded like far too much food so he just settled for a nice simple bacon and egg cob instead. Highlights (for me since I wasn’t getting to eat it) were watching the three slices of bacon cooking on the flat top grill and the lady using her cast iron grill press to make the bacon all crispy and crunchy.
I was also drooling at the egg yolk dribbling from the side of the bun when it was handed over to my mate to eat.
Sampling some more Beer
Still down in the Lower Grounds we next found ourselves visiting the Shipstones Tavern where I was to find my favourite beer of the day. This was the new ‘Gold Star – Blonde Ale’ described on their website as ‘A smooth easy drinking blonde pale ale, brewed in keeping with a Shipstone’s beer. Using quality pale malt and is double hopped with Fuggle’s and dry hopped with Golding’s’. The tasting notes say that it is ‘A very smooth well balanced beer which is clean, crisp and has a light subtle hop finish’. Now I am just a consumer and no expert so all I can add was that this beer was so good that I went back several times and had at least 3 glasses of it during the day.
Next we worked our way up through the grounds to the Main Tent where we tried a couple of beers from the local Navigation Brewery. I most enjoyed the ‘Apus’ which they describe as a “refreshing American style IPA brewed with lager malts well balanced with a full American hop – deceptively drinkable with a lasting aftertaste’. For some reason I had it in my mind that it was made by honey bees, apparently that was just some sort of subliminal thought process.
We stopped by the Dancing Duck Brewery stand to ‘adopt a duck’ and sample some beers. I really like their brews especially the ‘Ay Up’ which they describe as ‘An eminently drinkable pale session ale’, I can attest to the fact that is most certainly true. Today though I was sampling a couple of glasses of their ‘Nice Weather for Ducks’ described as ‘A refreshing summer thirst quencher’ I found it to be a real good thirst quencher for this season too.
At the Totally Brewed stand we were trying a few different beers all with excellent sounding names, the best name of which was the ‘Papa Jangles Voodo Stout’ at 4.5% it was described as ‘Cookies & Cream and Rum & Raisin with Smokey Roast notes’. I had the Space Brewster ‘Zesty and citrusy’, a ‘pale hoppy brew’ that was right up my street. You can also check them out on their Facebook page
Some more Food was needed
Some of the best sounding, best tasting and most tempting food was on sale at the Pickled Porker where there was a lot of slow cooked pork, beef, and brisket on offer. I was pretty tempted to try some of their Cider House Tapas, I would have had the ‘2 for £7’ offer with the “12 hour beef brisket + spicy BBQ sauce” with some of their “Sticky Sweet BBQ Pork Ribs” if I had been hungrier and not saving room for beer.
So what did we eat at the Pickled Porker? This lovely pulled pork sandwich filled with juicy and tender meat all cooked low and slow in a Yorkshire cider was the meal of choice. It was declared to be delicious but was a nightmare to eat and it was a bit of a messy affair with juice dripping everywhere from chin to trousers. Well worth that minor inconvenience though! Check them out on Twitter
Highs and Lows were to be found at the ‘Cowboy Kitchen were I was drawn in by the chalkboard advertising ‘The “Gunslinger” Burger. It was promising a sandwich of a ‘Double Cheeseburger, bacon, onion rings, lettuce, tomato, gherkins, nachos, and cheese’ ‘all on one bap’ for £7.
I loved the idea of it, but I wasn’t that enamoured by the reality of my sandwich, it had everything as promised but it just didn’t work for me as a burger combination and I was left a little flat. I ended up ditching most of the toppings and just eating it as a cheeseburger with bacon. Never mind we live and learn.
This minor hiccup was rectified quite quickly when we found another much Tastier Burger at the Exotic Game stall where we sampled on of their Wild Boar with some kind of marmalade glazed onions, very tasty indeed!
Finally back to sample more Beer
We managed to avoid purchasing one the Viking Drinking Horns on our way back up to the main tent, which was by now getting pretty busy. We worked our way around the various barrels sampling a whole lot more beer. In no particular order I supped and enjoyed beers from the Blue Monkey Stand to be exact I had the BG Sips – ‘A pale hoppy beer with enticing tropical Aroma’, and the Sanctuary – ‘A beautifully balanced traditional session bitter’. Next stop was at the Coastal Brewery from Cornwall where I had the Summer Blaze described as ‘a Deep Golden Ale’, then from the Maypole Brewery from Eakring in Notts I sampled the Wellow Gold which was described as a ‘Dangerously drinkable blond ale’ it was as described and I had to go back for a second glass. All in all there was as always so many beers to sample that you would need a team of 40 or more to work your way through a decent amount of them and you would have to some every day. I tried loads that I haven’t mentioned and I was surprised by many. One that blew my mind a little was the East Coast IPA from the Poppyland microbrewery in Cromer, a vegan beer at 7.0% described as an ‘American IPA with lots of New World hops’. It was a most warming and mildly numbing affair and was enough to almost end my session.
In the end though my highlight was that Gold Star Blonde Ale from Shipstones, it was so good that I fought my way back down through the crowds to the Shipstones tent to spend my last 3 beer tokens on a half pint.
Hoppy Days Indeed!