|Ealing Is The Place To Take A Mini-UK Beer Tour|
The 21st Ealing Beer Festival Runs Until Saturday
It always helps an outdoor beer festival when the weather is fine - and last night wasn't sunny, but it was a great night for sitting outdoors sipping fine real ale.
The 21st Ealing Beer Festival has been in Walpole Park for four years and it's a perfect venue on a summer's evening, with the beer and food sold from three marquees.
There's more than 190 ales to sample, as well as ciders, foreign beer and foreign bottled beer, so there's no shortage of choice - whatever your taste.
Not all the beers are on offer at once, as the organisers try to stagger them through the festival, so there's plenty left for the event's next three days.
It had been a sticky tube ride to the festival, so I started with something refreshing and went straight for a beer called Golden Sands (4% in strength), from Southport. Its citrus taste and golden hue hit the right spot and I realised I was on a winner when the barman told me he was also drinking it.
You can buy your ales in either pint, half or one-third ("nip") measures, and the volunteer bar staff will always let you try before you buy. Most half pints cost £1.50, depending on strength, with most nips costing £1.
Food is available from three caterers, specialising in pies, real meat/sausages and curry, with plenty of places to sit in a special marquee so you can drink your beer and line your stomach.
I do like my beers with a hint of fruit about them and these were available in abundance at this festival. My second choice was Wylam Magic (4.2%), which comes all the way from Northumberland, and had a taste of elderflower.
Anyone who also likes fruity beers will appreciate the offering from the Coach House Brewery, from Warrington in Cheshire. They had seven beers on sale, with six of them named as follows: Blueberry, Cherry, Ginger and Lemon, Peach, Raspberry and Strawberry. They are all 5% and I couldn't drink pint-after-pint of them, but I had a 'nip' of the Blueberry. The barman thought it tasted like raspberry and I couldn't disagree, with almost a kind of 'chewing-gum' flavour.
I moved along the bar, which is organised alphabetically, and tried Sleck Dust (3.8%) next, from Great Newsome Brewery in Hull. This was certainly more drinkable and I voted it one of my favourite beers of the night.
People who normally drink lager may get a taste of ale by trying something like Ceilidh Lager (4.7%) from Williams Brewery in Alloa. Sticking to the Celtic theme, I also tried Purple Moose (3.6) from Snowdonia Ale. This was another pale ale and rivalled with Golden Sands as my top beer of the night.
I was in the mood for golden beers by then - it was certainly the night for it, and popped back into the marquee to get a Swift One (3.8%) from Bowmans in Hampshire. I never had a problem waiting to be served on the night, but I expect it will be much busier on Friday and Saturday.
I was back on the Scottish ales before the end - trying Cairngorm Trade Winds (4.3%), which had more of a wheaty feel to it. My mini-tour of UK breweries ended with Humpty Dumpty's Little Sharpie (3.8%), a Norfolk-based beer which could be another one to convert any lager drinkers.
The festival is open from 12pm to 10.30pm Thursday to Friday, 12pm - 6pm Saturday. It costs £3 for non-CAMRA members and £2 for Concessions. CAMRA Members are free before 4pm, otherwise £2.
July 8, 2010