Wetherspoons International Beer Festival – 03/04/2014

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“I can’t stand by and see you destroyed, I can’t be here and watch you burn up.

Lie for the moment and lie as a decoy. Does it matter if I give in easy?

So why is it so hard to get by?”

(“Pounding” – Doves)

(Video link courtesy of mralan1969uk – YouTube)

To anybody who attends matches at The Etihad, Doves have had a special musical place – pre match – in City hearts. Jimi Goodwin is a Blue. Given the massive self-publicity of The Gallaghers being Blues, it is noticeable that it’s two Doves tracks that get played, the mighty Pounding and an instrumental of Words – both from the excellent album “The Last Broadcast”  – Proper tunes!

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A good Wetherspoons is like a barber or a dentist. When you get one that is well-managed, you never let it go! On this particular evening, my good friend Col & his lovely wife Sue fancied a nip to the local Spoons, especially as they were holding one of their regular “International Beer Festivals”. Ordinarily, having broken my Wetherspoon “fast”, I would have gone to Paramount or The Waterhouse in Manchester, but I don’t get out with these fine people much and good beer is more than enhanced when drunk in good company!

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Now this particular ‘Spoons, The Bulls Head in Walkden is one of their finer renovations. A substantial amount was spent on this place and -for an open plan pub – it really looks superb. Even though it is indeed open, there is a distinct feeling of separate drinking areas with some, obviously, being a Wetherspoon, more dedicated to the food offering. The main issue I have with this particular pub is the number of pumps that regularly have the “Coming Soon” label attached to the pump clips!

Tonight, however, only 1 was unused and surprisingly, being midweek, there were 4 (FOUR) of the “International” beers on. What the “I” word means in the context of this chain is that they get brewers from excellent breweries around the world to brew versions of their own beers at UK breweries. A great idea for those who might balk at paying substantial amounts for the likes of a Nogne O in its more usual “craft” bar habitat.

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Having decided that the four international beers were my choices for the evening, I set to. First, the Nogne O Brown Ale brewed at (and with) Batemans of Wainfleet, nr Skegness in Lincolnshire. I’m an enormous fan of their all too rare Mild, so I had high hopes for this!

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At 4.5% abv, this was a deep red/brown with a head that was creamy in both colour and texture with the aroma having a light chocolate note to it. The beer had a lovely full body with the flavours of light coffee and chocolate sharing palate space with a certain nutty flavour – hazelnut maybe? This wasn’t universally popular in our wee group, but I really liked it (and I’m no fan of Brown Ales!)

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Next on the menu for me was the Fermin Red Ale from Spain’s Alberto Pacheco at the Mateo y Bernabe Brewery from Rioja. This was brewed with Shepherd Neame in Faversham, Kent.

I seem to have moved on somewhat from this Faversham brewer, my tastes having gravitated away from their paler beers whilst holding a bit of a torch for their Porter which doesn’t seem to have the trademark “tang” that marks their pales.

This beer however was a belter, though hardly “Red”! More of a mid brown beer, this had an aroma full of foresty type fruit. In the mouth, at 5.8% abv, this unsurprisingly had a full body with the stand out flavour for me being plum, surprisingly, with a little sweetness complemented by a nice hoppy and bitter finish. Really enjoyed this one too.

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Moving swiftly on, next up was a beer from Wicked Weed Brewery – Sir Ryan The Pounder –  all the way from Asheville in North Carolina, this being brewed at Everards in Leicester. An amber/red beer this had a white head and quite a spritzy lemony aroma which was a pleasant surprise and at 4.7% was substantially lower in alcohol than the beers between which it was sandwiched! Smooth, medium-bodied with a light biscuit base danced on by juicy citrus hopping with lemon and grapefruit. Really tasty and well-balanced. My favourite of the evening.

The Klosterbock by Kloster-Scheyern in Bavaria was next and was brewed at Wadworth in Devizes, Wiltshire. At 6.5%, in hindsight, a pint of this was probably a mistake as I forgot that I really don’t get Bocks at all. Nothing wrong with this beer per se, just not my style. Really fruity and quite heavy feeling at the start, I warmed to it somewhat as the fruity flavours developed. But not my kind of beer really. Too sweet.

Whilst I’ve only rattled on about the beers, the evening was made really by being with good friends and having a really good chinwag, even if Sue gave me a yellow card for some rather fruity vernacular. I really don’t know what came over me!

In summary, a really nice surprise with the beer selection here tonight. All really well-kept and, to be fair, I’m yet to have a bad pint in this, my nearest ‘Spoons. Back soon.

On that note…’til next time…

Slainte!