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On our first outing of 2013 we took a short trip across the Essex border to attend the 6th Colchester Winter Real Ale Festival. It was situated in the heart of the town in the Colchester Arts Centre which is an old church converted into an multipurpose entertainment venue.
We arrived on Saturday afternoon at around 2:30pm and got in for nothing as it was free entry before 3pm. I am a big fan of free entry to beer festivals but I do understand charging £3 after 3pm as you need to give some incentive to CAMRA members who get in free all day. Our first impression when entering was that it was a rather small space. There were two long bars either side and in between it was jam packed with thirsty beer drinkers. We made our way to the right hand bar and ordered our half pints. Drinks were priced very reasonably as well with most half pints ranging from £1.50 – £1.70. It was also very good that they gave free soft drinks to designated drivers. So Ellie was happy with her Diet Coke.
After purchasing our drinks we looked for somewhere to sit. I say looked it was more like a witch hunt. The ratio of seats to consumer was probably 20/1 and this is something they need to bear in mind for future festivals. 30 mins later we find two seats on the stage area and 30 mins later we claimed two more seats. It was slightly annoying as we saw lots of stacked chairs out the back through the curtains. Yes space was very limited for lots of seating but there was certainly room for more. I am making an issue out of this because there was so many fantastic beers on offer but the claustrophobic atmosphere definitely shortened our stay. I think that maybe the festival has outgrown the venue.
So lets move onto a more positive note, the beer.
The festival will offer 100+ beers from around East Anglia, real cider and perry. There will also be a Belgian bar offering draught and bottled Belgian Beers. English wines from Mersea Island Vineyard will also be available.
Our individual tasting notes are listed below, enjoy!
Beeston – Old Stoatwobble. Dark, hint of oil. Goes down rather well.
Brentwood – Marvelous Maple Mild. Thick dark malty goes down a right treat.
Mauldons – Christmas Reserve 6.6. Strong flavour dark red in colour fantastic.
Shalford – Levelly Black. Traditional porter quite smokey thick texture. Nice.
Deverell’s – Tall Hot Dirty Blonde – Refreshing and creamy a very good blonde.
Colchester – Old King Coel. Very dark and smooth, a coffee dream.
Elephant School – C Note. Overly bitter for me. Did not like the hop flavour at all!
Deverell’s – Best Bitter. Standard. Not much flavour, quite watery. Refreshing though!
Saffron – Ramblers Tipple. A good refreshing bitter with fragrant hops, very enjoyable.
Mighty Oak – Captain Bob. Odd taste but not bad! Refreshing with unusual hop flavour.
Earl Soham – Sir Rogers Porter. A good roasty taste. Quite heavy, not great! Standard!
Harwich Town – Barwood Bitter. A strong bitter with a great smoked taste. Yum!
Colchester – Diesel. Nice bitter with a darkish red colour. Very easy to drink.
Beeston – Village Life. Red bitter with a nice taste, a bit standard.
Old Cannon – Rusty Gun. Average red bitter, a little bland but refreshing enough.
Shalford – Hyde Bitter. Nice bitter with a belgian taste, quite light and fresh.
Deverell’s – Tall Hot Dirty Blonde. A very different blonde. Very full bodied, lovely.
Mauldons – Eatanswill Old. Dark, mild and delicious. Hops aren’t too overpowering.
If you want to hear a more in depth analysis listen to the accompanying podcast here which is all about our trip to Colchester.
As you can gather we were very impressed. We are a big fan of winter ales and believe there should be more festivals like this one. The range of winter ales was fantastic so congratulations to Colchester and North East Essex CAMRA for a great selection.