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In its Eighth year, the Colchester Winter Ales festival is now firmly established as a quality winter festival in the East of England. I had never been before and knowing Colchester’s CAMRA to be superbly organised, I was anticipating a good one.
I was not disappointed as my Saturday visit was a delight. It was a classic beer festival. Sawdust on the floor, beards galore and simple, traditional, reasonably priced food available. One for the purist!
Colchester Arts Centre is an intimate venue, a converted former church. I arrived early and was able to obtain a seat for a short period of time. I would love to say that this festival would benefit from increased seating but I think that would affect the friendly, welcoming atmosphere.
The festival was selling a vast range of beer, some of which – particularly strong! Therefore it must be said that it was a shame that they were not offering thirds. But once again, I completely understand that as a smaller festival this may not be feasible.
Upon arriving I overheard a conversation which always send a shiver down my spine when attending the last day of a beer festival; ‘It’s mostly goldens left now,’. However I found a vast diversity of beer with only stout/porter underrepresented. Though this was only because it had been sold! I was gutted to find out that Comrade Bill Bartrams Egalitarian anti-Imperialist Soviet Stout had gone as had Cliff Quay’s Milk Float. Though by all accounts these were very good! Fingers crossed I’ll get my hands on these sometime!
Before reviewing the beers, it is important to highlight the best part of this festival and that was the absolutely outstanding service from the CAMRA volunteers. Possibly the friendliest festival I have been to. Special mentions must go to Mario who was brilliant and Suzy who pointed me towards my beer of the day.
So the beers I tried were as followed:
Bexar County Brewing – El Ultimo Adios – A strong barley wine. Very sweet and tasty, reminded me of Green Jack’s Ripper.
Colchester Brewery – Brazilian – The beer of the day by far; a fantastic porter with beautiful chocolate, vanilla overtones.
Harwich – Sint Niklass – A disappointment for me. Lacked the suggested fruitiness
Indian Summer – Black IPA – lovely aroma and body but lacked flavour
Mighty Oak Brew – Saxon Strong – An utterly fantastic strong amber bitter. Superb
Red Fox – Ruby Mild – Very sweet.
Grain Brewery – IPA – Excellent as ever
Elmtree Beers – Nightlight Mild – An absolutely delightful mild. The 5.7% abv really added character to this mild.
Colchester Brewery Mild – Standard mild
Shortts Farm – Winter Skiffle – A sweet and tasty
So in conclusion, the Colchester Winter Beer festival was a great celebration of local ale. Certainly one to attend if you can!