Another Letchworth Beer Festival has come and gone, making it 20 that the branch has under its collective belt now. On the stats it was a good one as Letchworth festivals go, a handful more people than last year and a reasonable range of beer available until the end but not too much left over. All up 986 people came through the doors and they drank an average of 3.8 pints of ale each. Of course some of our visitors were of the more fruity persuasion – managing to put away nearly 1000 pints of cider and perry.
I had the honour of putting together the beer list this year – a job much more more difficult than it might sound. Several late evenings were spent poring over the suppliers’ lists trying to pick a range of interesting beers to fit the profile. I managed to arrange some special ales by chatting directly to some breweries online. This is how we got the Grain Blackwood Stout in an oak barrel – an impressive sight! Several ale drinkers, with a look of nostalgia in their eyes, were heard to exclaim something along the lines of “I haven’t seen one of them since I were a lad!” We also had a couple of beers from a new brewery in Norwich, Northcote, thanks to a special request received via twitter from a chap who was going to visit the festival on the eve of his birthday. Thus the Jiggle Juice, one of our two strong IPAs was acquired. Another was the Project Venus Venus Rouge the second in a series of collaboration brews involving brewsters from several British breweries.
During the festival I received more requests to recommend a beer matching a description along the lines of “pale and hoppy” than anything else. This isn’t one of our recognised styles and covers beers we classify as bitters, best bitters, and strong ales. Luckily our kilderkin of Buntingford’s Polar Star provided something we could offer the hop-heads until nearly the very end of the festival. Most of our other hoppy ales ran dry early on Friday. A particular favourite seemed to be the Bristol Beer Factory Acer – a “single hop” ale using a Japanese variety called Sorachi Ace. The flavour imparted to this beer by the hops was unusual yet compelling, very modern – it was described by one of our visitors as “hipster beer”. We may have to give this sort of ale a little more attention for future beer festivals.
Beer & Cider of the Festival
At the end of the festival we counted the votes and the beer of the festival turned out to be the Summer Wine Brewery Diablo IPA. One of our “pale and hoppy” beers and our other “strong IPA” – 6% ABV and dominated by flavours imparted by Citra hops. We will be arranging an award presentation trip as soon as possible – the brewery is in Honley, just south of Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. Keep your eyes on What’s Brewing and our website for further details.
On the cider front we found our winner somewhat closer to home – our own Apple Cottage in Baldock. Their Rumble, a medium-dry cider matured in rum casks, is our cider of the festival and I believe a presentation will take place sometime in October – again, check our website for details.
Future Uncertain for Plinston Hall
Sadly Plinston Hall is to be renovated and is not expected to be available for the festival next year. As is the case in Hitchin, the hunt is on for a new venue. We’ve held back on being too dramatic about this being the “last festival in Plinston”, look at our situation with Hitchin town hall… we’ll see you there again on the 9th and 10th of March 2012 for yet-another “last festival in the town hall.” Meanwhile we are still interested in hearing your ideas on possible alternative venues in both towns.
Since our first festival in 1991 Dennis Hill and his staff at Plinston Hall have done an excellent job supporting the festival. So it is with some regret that we must bring you the news of Dennis’s well-earned retirement. To recognise his contribution, former branch chairman Brian Mason presented Dennis with an Eric Watson Memorial Award at the beer festival on Friday. Fittingly, Brian was wearing the 1991 Letchworth Beer festival t-shirt at the time! We wish Dennis all the best for the future!
At this festival we chose to support two hospices local to our branch area, this was in memory of Cherry Harrington. The collection came to £106.58, the money will be split between the charities. Please support these excellent local organisations that do a great deal of good in our community: The Garden House Hospice & The Isabel Hospice.