The Chelmsford Winter Beer Festival 2014
Chelmsford has two main beer festivals every year, and for the second year in a row the Chelmsford Winter Beer Festival is being held at King Edwards Grammar School.
Costing just £3 to enter (or free if you’re alcoholic, I mean, early) and a £3 refundable deposit for a specially designed pint glass, the beer festival has several hundred beers, ales and ciders to try. So what better way to spend a Thursday evening than with a friend, some high alcohol drinks and a bunch of beardy weirdies?
Arm in arm with Loz, we skipped down from her house to the festival, which was a twenty-minute walk. Actually, she’d kindly made a massive fajita meal before we left, so it wasn’t so much an arm-in-arm skip as an arms-length amble with occasional threats from each of us that we may vomit due to overeating. I’m too honest on this blog sometimes.
We got there, having set the world to rights on smokers, discussed where white people came from and our new rankings in the Tots100. No matter how many times I type that on my phone, the autocorrect tries to change it to Tits100. If it hasn’t already been done, I might copyright that. That’s a top 100 I can take a keen interest in!
The beer festival was fairly busy, and as always it was manned by the most helpful staff around. From the man at reception who listened to me moan about having to buy pre-paid credit in order to purchase drinks (I mean, seriously, what’s that all about?), to the men and women serving the drinks who were happy to offer suggestions, tasters and where to go next.
What follows is a review of the drinks tried, in order.
Brugse Zot. A golden ale served from a bottle. Purchased from the fruity beer stall after Loz went hunting for something sweet. It was nice. (Yes, nice. Hey, I’m not great at reviewing drinks.) At 6%, it was described as an “easy drinking blond for beginners” I suspect that given the alcoholic volume, it could also serve as an easy way to head to the floor very quickly.
Acorn Drop Kick. Only 4%, it seemed obvious that I was likely to stick to the golden ales after being lulled into drinking the tar-like beverages in previous years that promised “infusions of chocolate and vanilla” and then proceeded to taste like it had been made from the crap that Costa throws away. The Drop Kick was also nice.
A pint of Fyne Ales Jarl was next. Loz had been talking to the cider man about potatoes and floods for five minutes. He seemed interested in what she had to say. I noted that he struggled to look her in the eye sometimes. I made a mental note to check what necklace Loz is wearing that he must keep staring at. Loz chose a cider with the name “Tramp” in it (which I have subsequently looked up and found it was Apple Cottage Filthy Tramp Juice). We both found this highly amusing, which means the alcohol was kicking in. Cider man said that due to the name it’s one of the most popular drinks this year. Inwardly I began plans to make a cheeky little vino called The Only Wine Is Essex for next year.
Loz chose a cider with the name “Tramp” in it (which I have subsequently looked up and found it was Apple Cottage Filthy Tramp Juice). We both found this highly amusing, which means the alcohol was kicking in. Cider man said that due to the name it’s one of the most popular drinks this year. Inwardly I began plans to make a cheeky little vino called The Only Wine Is Essex for next year.
Castle Rock Harvest Pale is my next one. 3.8%, and I’m feeling squiffy. The potato on the glass began to look more and more like a turd with a crown. Bizarrely, the men serving the beers start looking less like turds with crowns. I told Loz about the man next to me in the queue who was actively telling the Beer Seller that he rated the last drink as an 8 out of ten and that it was his fourth favourite so far. I suspect he has a chart somewhere. No doubt stored carefully next to his virginity.
Loz was now after some cherry beer. The woman serving explained the difference between the two that Loz was studying. “This one,” she said, clasping a bottle, “is bottled, and this one,” she pointed to a tap, “is on tap.” I catch myself about to ask her to run through that one more time, but she continued unabated. “The bottle one is 8%, the one on tap is 3.5%”
Loz asked what the difference was, bearing in mind that they were both cherry beers.
“The bottled one is very strong. Very strong” came the answer. It’s a good job she was there, as for years I wondered whether 8 was higher than 3.5, and now I knew for certain. Loz pushed further, though, asking what the difference in cherry flavour was. Apparently they “both taste of cherry” but, to underline a point, “one was stronger”
Loz went for the one of tap, we both tasted it and I commented that it tasted like someone had taken a pack of Cherry Drops and made them into beer form. Loz made little more that an appreciative “Mmmmm!” sound.
By now we were sat at a piano, facing the wrong way (or perhaps the right way given that we were both a bit pissed, and there’s nothing worse than a Drunk In charge of a musical instrument.)
Again, we put the world to rights. I pointed out a man with reeeeeally skinny legs across the hall. Loz leaned forward to look and then told me that the man’s girlfriend had clocked her looking. I promised to take the blame if she said anything, and would tell the girlfriend that her bloke had a nice arse. I’m not sure how this would have made the situation better, but it made sense at the time.
It starts getting hazy now. My phone battery died, so I stopped taking stock of what I was drinking. Loz went and got another cherry drink, this time the stronger one. She also said that she wouldn’t be wearing that top again as everyone was staring at her chest. I pointed out that it was probably her big boobs rather than the top.
We then had a discussion over the merits of big boobs and big bums. I mused that if someone had a big chest and a big arse, it would serve as a counterbalance to each other. If there were a big chest and a small arse, the woman would topple forward. I think Loz had stopped listening by now.
We decided to make a move from the festival and headed into the night air. We swapped our dirty glasses for clean ones, choosing to keep them and waive the £3 deposit.
The nice girl at the front refunded the money we’d not used on our cards and told us she’d stopped drinking as she was driving home. I’m not sure where that admission came from. I was trying to figure out what a girl in her twenties was doing among all the fifty plus people that seemed to run the events.
A quick trip to the Ship pub followed, complete with a game of flip / catch the beer mats, which Loz was infinitely better at than me. A loud, Drunk man who later identified himself as Justin told us across the pub that he was there with his son and daughter, before telling us two minutes later he was there with his son and girlfriend. There was definitely only one woman there, but we decided not to ask questions.
The night finished with a pint of Carling which was nice, and a JD and Coke, which was also nice.
Thank you, Chelmsford Winter Beer Festival 2014. Roll on the Summer Beer Festival!