Last Wednesday saw the commencement of the annual National Winter Ales Festival at the Sheridan Suite, Oldham Rd, Manchester. The second festival at this venue, & boy what a venue, a homely, comfortable & amenity filled space that succeeds superbly in setting the scene for a comfortable & friendly gathering of ale drinkers from far & wide.
The day started with a pre-fest warm-up in the Marble Arch for those who don't know it's the Marble Brewery Tap, the choice was mind bogglingly good, Driscoll's End, Dobber, Utility Special, Chocolate Dubbel, Pint, the list goes on, we started with a pint of Driscoll's End, & talk about setting the bar for the day, a full bodied beauty of a beer, dry hopped & oozing quality it slipped down so easily, a stunner!
Halves of the superb Utility followed, before the exodus down to Oldham Road commenced, waiting at the busstop a vast swathe of us piled onto the first unsuspecting bus, upon arrival, programmes & glassware were frantically purchased.
A group of us including Dean, Nicki, Kate, Brian, Rob & Matt made our way quickly down to the Champions bar eager to make our first beer a good one, we launched ourselves into various halves of interesting winter beers, most were palatable & worthy of a spot on the champions bar, the beers were lacking condition but this is to be expected on the first day of the festival, as the beers are fresh on & not yet able to breathe & take in oxygen to bring them into life.
The day quickly descended into beery chatter amongst familiar & unfamiliar faces, always my favourite part of a such a gathering is catching up with like minded people, the beer almost becomes a bonus. Hours passed as we drifted around the great & good of the UK beer scene. Announcements were made on the winners with Hopback 'Entire Stout' scooping the top gong followed closely by the ever popular Marble Chocolate. A couple of stand out beers for me were Fullers Reserve No2 & Outstanding Matron's Delight, both on the higher end of the abv. spectrum, but incredibly well crafted beers.
We had a couple of beers at the festival in Zenith a 4.0% Pale Ale & Diablo a 6.0% IPA, both beers that are in our core range for 2011 & I was more than pleased with the feedback we received. The day seemed to quickly race away & it became time for a dignified exit as I had brewing duties the next morning.
Tandleman for such a well organised festival that should surely become a regular at the Sheridan Suite as I know there's talk of the festival moving next year, but judging by the way people have taken to this venue in just two years they really should think long & hard before moving this now legendary fest elsewhere. If you didn't attend this year, get your diary out now & pencil this one in for next year, you will not be disappointed!
If you'd like to read more detailed accounts of NWAF 2011 check out the following great blogs:-
The Beer Prole & The Good Stuff
Next stop on the beery calender is The White Rose Festival at Magna in Rotherham, 2nd-5th March 2011 & judging by the pics this should be a cracking venue...