Could This Be Heaven?
Finding great events local to you is one of life’s little wonders. 10 minutes in the car? Perfect, I’m there! I came across the Guildford Beer Festival by chance a few days before it began and I’m so glad I did. Without hesitation, I convinced Ellen Recommends to drive and booked the tickets, all the while crossing my fingers for good weather!
Guildford Beer Festival – What’s On Offer
The Guildford Beer Festival has 26 Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire breweries on offer. If getting your head around narrowing down 26 breweries sounds tough, there’s then 126 different beers on offer, from ales and IPAs, to lagers and wheat beers. For those less interested in beer, there’s also 5 cider brewers who have 25 different varieties on offer. Sadly I didn’t make it to the cider tent, but I’m definitely going to track down Mr Whitehead’s Boxing Dog cider soon.
Ascot Ales‘ Final Furlong is a great session beer. The type where you grab your place at the bar (or the races) and settle in for a great time with great friends. It wouldn’t require food to bring out its flavours, but the Final Furlong could definitely hold it’s own well with most foods. Lighter than a traditional ale, there’s a slight hint of sweet and malt to the flavour, all in all a very refreshing beer. Ascot Ales have produced a super smooth ale with an eye catching Whisky colour.
The first thing that caught me about the Crafty Brewing Hop Tipple was the smell. Its yellow colour is reflective in the tropical pineapple scent. The Hop Tipple tastes like you’ve made a gamble and ordered a local beer on a beach on holiday and come up with a winner. A classic IPA with a subtle fizz and a nice subtlety of wheat. It’s not one I’d particularly look to order again, but interestingly it was Ellen Recommends favourite from the festival.
This is a proper summer, BBQ beer. Cherrywood by name and cherrywood by nature. Elusive Brewing’s Cherrywood Mild has the flavour and the smokiness of a roaring BBQ which really adds some character to this one. Best served slightly cooler than room temperature, the initial fizz is really refreshing. Black fruits also linger on the nose, making it feel perfect for summer.
Paired best with: BBQ chicken
Colour: Lighter end of Ruby
Malt: 0.5 / 5
Robs: 4 / 5
Firebird Brewing Company
Bohemia by Firebird Brewing became the most interesting tipple from the Guildford Beer Festival experience. When I first tried it, I wasn’t a fan at all. I was even tempted to chuck it – sacrilege I know. The flavour was overwhelmingly smokey and I just couldn’t enjoy it. By this point of the festival, food was much needed and after a bite to eat from the BBQ, my opinion of Bohemia did a 180. The flavour completely changed and it became an incredibly refreshing palette cleanser; a great alternative beer for a BBQ.
Bohemia is matured at sub zero for weeks and as a result is also best served so cold it almost tastes foamy. It has the fizz, texture and lightness of a pilsner and smells like nothing you’ve tasted before. With food, the smokiness completely goes and is no longer overpowering. Instead, it becomes a slight spice and the perfect accompaniment to some brilliantly grilled meat.
Paired best with: Hearty Sausages
Malt: 0 / 5
Robs: 3 / 5
Godstone Brewery’s Buzz caught my attention because it sounded so different to anything else on offer. A honey brewed beer? Yes please. Hiver is a honey beer brand which I’d tried before, however Buzz is like Hiver on speed. The smell is sweet and incredibly rich, but the flavour isn’t overwhelming. Buzz has a really good depth of flavour that lingers enjoyably. Smooth and not too floral, it has the luxury taste of Manuka honey. There’s a subtle fizz which slowly dissipates and the colour is thick, making it look almost syrupy.
As odd as it might sound, I imagine it’s what licking a beehive would taste like. A slight bitterness without being too sweet. Thankfully Buzz is a lot safer option to enjoy honey than licking beehives…
Paired best with: Roast Chicken
Malt: 1 / 5
Robs: 3 / 5
Just a picture of my future garage setup…
Hogs Back Brewery
Hogs Back is one of my favourite breweries and their T.E.A is my number 1 go to ale, so I’m always keen to try anything they might have on offer. It’s without surprise that the Hogstar was my favourite from the Guildford Beer Festival.
Lagers can sometime feel like you’re having a pint for the sake of drinking, but that’s definitely not the case with Hogstar; it’s incredibly flavoursome. The fizz is perfect and wouldn’t cause you to spend the evening feeling bloated either. An ideal accompaniment to a Saturday night takeaway, I would even take this over an Indian lager with a curry. Enjoy this one anytime of year with good food, it’s going to be my new summer weekend drinker!
Paired best with: a Saturday night takeaway
Malt: 0 / 5
Robs: 4.5 / 5
Itchen Valley Brewery
Pride of the Valley
Pride of the Valley by Itchen Valley is everything you’d expect from a traditional ale. Sweet, malty and does exactly what it says on the tin. The sweetness is quite bold, so I couldn’t imagine having more than 2 or 3 in a sitting, but the minimal fizz makes it incredibly pleasant. I’d love to enjoy this again sat in a country pub during an in between season (Spring/Autumn), with the dog by my side.
Paired best with: Good hearty pub-grub
Malt: 1.5 / 5
Robs: 4 / 5
The Last Hurdle
By this point I’d definitely underestimated how tough drinking 10 half-pints of different beers would be. The flavours, intensity and difference in them all really caught me off guard, so I can’t deny that I wasn’t struggling. However, for the love of beer, you’ll be pleased to hear I persevered! The final two couldn’t have been more different. A pitch black ale and a Blonde.
When poured, this ale had the same head as an espresso martini, which turned out to be a perfect description for it. Interestingly, Langham Brewery’s Triple XXX was the most popular of the bunch based on how many people around us were also choosing it as their Triple tipple!
The scent of coffee and chocolate is really something with this ale. It’s completely black in colour and reminded me of a 90% cacao chocolate bar with a brilliant coffee aftertaste. I’d rarely still be on beer when dessert comes around, but if I were to choose one to have for afters it’d be this. Triple XXX is one of the most complex ales I’ve ever had the pleasure to try, and will certainly be looking out for it again.
Paired best with: A cracking pudding
Malt: 2.5 / 5
Robs: 3.5 / 5
The first thing that hit me about this beer was the scent of apricots. Combined with the colour, it really did embody ‘Blondes have more fun!’. It’s light, floral and fun; the perfect poolside beer. Imagine you’ve just smashed through a sudoku (party on), you have a great tropical scented sun screen on, there’s not a cloud in sight, and this is the beer in your hand. Holiday heaven. Try and get your hands on this Blonde when the sun’s out!
Paired best with: Poolside snacks
Malt: 1 / 5
Robs: 3.5 / 5
The Guildford Beer Festival Review
If you’re in the Hampshire area this time next year, try your best to make it to the Guildford Beer Festival. If you’re not close enough to pop in, then make sure you find your local version. Finding incredible beers brewed on your doorstep is brilliant fun and also makes for a pretty awesome day out. We’ll definitely be back!
Rob Recommends Rating
Looking for more beer recommendations? See Beer of The Month here.