Tom’s take.

Returning with a few key differences, Nottingham Beer Festival 2011 is back and as good as ever.

Tickets this year are £12.50 – for that you get all-day entrance, a special beer mug, and ten tokens. Whereas last year all the beer was served in halves, now you have the option of drinking in thirds of a pint. This actually makes a very positive change – you can sample more beer for less money, and you also have less chance of drunkenly falling to your death off the castle ramparts.

After having a scout through the programme – free to pick up from a stand opposite the entrance – I highlighted a couple of beverages that I particularly fancied trying. Making our way to the main beer tent, I began my quest to find a standout beer at this year’s festival. Below are some of the select beers that I sampled, or, to be more accurate, the ones I actually remembered to make notes on. I wanted to start with something fairly light, the following beer stood out to me for just that reason…

Kinver – Green Helle Wheatly (4.8% abv)

Programme description: A green hopped lager wheat beer.

My thoughts: Lagers are in short supply at this particular festival, but it was a familiar and relatively easy way to wean myself into this particular event. I have no idea what ‘green hopped’ means, but it was pale and clear. The taste was light; it was refreshing and easy to drink, with distinct fruity overtones. Overall, a decent start.

After that, I decided to continue the fruity opening, opting for the following…

Ridgeside – Desert Aire (4.8% abv)

Programme description: Orange amber with a huge juicy citrus hop flavour.

My thoughts: Continued the light and refreshing theme, again this was easy drinking and went down very nicely. Not as ‘citrus’ as described, rather the beer tasted like fairly standard light ale. Nothing special, but highly recommended when wanting a quick pint.

Deciding to return to another wheat beer, after enjoying the Kinver above, I quickly spotted one that sounded about right…

Sleaford – Wit Christmas (4.5% abv)

Programme description: Wheat beer with a citrus finish.

A simplistic description, but an excellent beer. A thoroughly tasty and satisfying brew, this was one of my favourites of the day. If wheat beer is your thing, this will be right on the money.

Sticking with the pale theme, my next recommendation is a blonde…

Joules – Blonde (3.8% abv)

Programme description: Pale brew with saaz hops.

I’m not sure what ‘saaz’ hops are exactly, but I like them. This beer went down like air; I could’ve had another few. That’s not to say it was overly simple, in fact it carried a decent amount of flavour considering the lightweight body. Another easy-drinker.

My final recommendation is something a little different…

Whim – Triple B Honey Stout (3.5% abv)

Programme description: Full roast dry finish, subtle honey flavour.

My final drink of last year’s festival was a stout that tasted like marmite and had the texture of tar. Failing to locate that one, I opted for the above. Lacking the oozing texture, nevertheless this drink still carried that lovely marmite flavour. I couldn’t detect the honey – presumably subtle is about right – but for stout fans this is an excellent choice.

There is of course a huge selection of incredibly varied beers, stouts, ciders, perrys, even wine, on offer at the festival, and what I’ve covered doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. The fact of the matter is, if you like any of the above then you’ll have a cracking time. While you can purchase further tokens, for most punters the amount given upon entry will suffice – therefore, you get a decent few hours of fun for a mere £12.50.

Aside from drinks, I should also note the variety of food that is on offer – from hotdogs to plates of curry, there is enough selection to satisfy those beer-induced hungers. It’s also mostly reasonably priced too, a rarity at this kind of event. Consumables covered, you will also find some live entertainment on offer – while we were there a rock band were playing in the lower part of the castle grounds. Overall, Nottingham Beer Festival is a whole host of fun and a cultural attraction that students should make an effort to go to during their time in Nottingham. Get chugging!

James’ take.

I don’t know anything about real ale, at all (so you don’t need to trust my judgement on the following descriptions). My girlfriend works in a real ale pub and all her talk of stouty malt hoppity hops goes over my head to say the least. Despite this I went into the beer tent with my complimentary mug and mini tokens ready to pursue a real ale adventure. With so many on offer I initially decided to only go for the drinks that had the best joke names…

Kinver – For Bitter or Worse (4.6% abv)

Programme description: Very pale and very bitter.

Indeed it was very pale, looking a bit like weak orange squash, and very, very bitter. Suffice to say I didn’t finish the whole third I’d had poured; it was the after taste that did it, sticking unpleasantly to the back of the throat and on the tongue.

So with a less than desirable taste on my pallet I decided to go for a cider, and I love cider.

New Forest (Hampshire) – Sweet Cider (6.5% abv)

Programme description: A blended cider made using cider apples.

Now this drink I did enjoy. Again looking like orange squash, but this time a strong squash, this went down very nicely and despite being quite strong alcoholically the lovely fruity flavour seemed to mask it.

My third and final drink of the day came on the recommendation of aforementioned girlfriend, and what a great drink it was to round off my day.

Blue Monkey – BG Sips (4.0% abv)

Programme description: A sippable pale ale, packed with Brewers Gold hops.

BG Sips was again a pale ale (I decided against braving the darker bitters) and this was considerably easier to drink than my first ale, and with a more pleasant after taste. I am told that BG Sips, and its brewery Blue Monkey, is incredibly popular, and it was clear why. The ale was light and fruity and this time I managed the whole half with ease, lad.

Please note – Impact in no way advises drinking excessive amounts. You can have a lot of fun during the festival, but know your limits. We saw a few people who looked worse for wear, trust me, you don’t want to end up like that when there’s fun to be had.

Tom Grater & James McAndrew

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