I was unsure what to get the man in my life for his birthday, so was relieved to discover the Long Itchington Beer Festival came shortly after the event – ‘1 village, 6 pubs, 4 days’. Carl’s a big real ale drinker, so it was the perfect thing for him. A few clicks and a phone call later, I’d booked us into Marton Road Farm B&B for a night so we could go and get merrily drunk on the finest ales the festival had to offer before collapsing into a conveniently nearby bed for the night.
The B&B is on a campsite, so those not wanting to pay the price of a (very lovely) room might like to consider sleeping the ale off under the stars. Keen cyclists might also be interested to know Long Itchington is roughly 30 miles from Birmingham along the Grand Union Canal, so one could easily cycle up in the morning, enjoy a few drinkies before bedtime and then cycle off the fuzzy head the following day.
Now I’m not as much of an ale-drinker as Carl, being happier to drink inferior, pop-like lagers. So it was quite a lesson going to a real ale festival like this. Carl told me of the real ale geeks you get at some, who note down their thoughts on each ale and have empty Panda Pop bottles handy for storing samples of real ales they want to save for tasting later. I tried to jot down notes of my own of ales I tasted during the day, here they are:
Wye Valley Dorothy Goodbody’s May Queen – oats part coffee
Blonde Bombshell American pale ale. Light, refreshing, strong at 5.2%
Darling Buds – v flowery. Nice but strong aftertaste which made more than half difficult to down
Hecks Angel – slightly hoppy pale ale with fizz
Town Mill Lyme Gold – slightly hoppy and golden
St Austell Tribute – slightly sharp and citrus, nice
Greene King Alepril Fool – dark yet light and refreshing
The Ball Stitcher from Warwickshire Beer Co. – dark, sweet and malty
Newby Wyke White Squall – pale, sweet and flowery
Brew Dog Rip Tide – heavy and dark with a hint of coffee
Thornbridge Jaipur IPA refreshing slightly tart
Now although I very obviously don’t know much about real ale I know a few people who do and have picked up a few tips from them. The Wellington, The Anchor, The Barton Arms and The Black Eagle seem to be the best Birmingham pubs to go to. If you’d rather enjoy a few drinks in the comfort of your own home, be sure to buy them from Stirchley Wines – they have a brilliantly broad selection of beers and ales and the friendly proprietor really knows his stuff.
If you’re on twitter follow @tania_nexust. I know this lady and find it hard to believe there’s a real ale she hasn’t tasted, although she assures me different. She’s fanatical about the stuff and tweets her knowledge and findings with equal passion. Also follow @beerbeauty, who loves to share her love of real ale online (which includes some great hashtag lobbying of BBC1’s Saturday Kitchen show) and in the real world with Beer Beauty events.