If you like beer, mark your calendars now. You're coming to Cambridge May 19-24, 2008, for the Cambridge Beer Festival.
This past week was this year's festival, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. It's a 15-minute walk from our house, includes 170 beers and scores of ciders, and even a foreign beer bar, not to mention the cheese bar, exotic meat grill, and freshly deep-fried donut stand. Here's what we've decided:
Belgian beers still rock. So do German beers, particularly dunkelweissens. Italian beers are refreshing. The City of Cambridge brewery makes some beers that are pretty tasty. Anything called "stout" or "porter" can be quite good.
But on the whole, we're still not huge fans of British real ales.
I'm trying very hard to embrace the warm, flat beer. Really, I am. And it's at great risk that I say that I only tolerate the real ales, because I've paid for membership in the Campaign for Real Ale but have not yet received my membership card. (Hey, it got me into the festival for free, and allowed me to jump the 300-person-long queue on busy nights. And it will get us a discount into the Great British Beer Festival, too. That one is August 7-11 this year, FYI.) But when you just want a tall, cold, lager, then the distinctive taste of a British ale just won't do. The program for the festival even says, "Please don't ask if we've got 'anything like Stella.'" Gulp. I have a case of Stella in my pantry.
I did find something new at the festival that I really, really like:
the Scotch egg. That's a hard-boiled egg wrapped in spicy pork sausage, breaded, and deep-fried. Serve cold, yet still fresh. Oh my stars. This thing is worthy of the heart attack that follows.
We also enjoyed the cheese bar, where we had six kinds of cheese. One favorite was called porter -- an Irish cheddar flavored with porter. The donuts were pretty dang good, and John has a kangaroo sausage that was fine, but more a novelty than a delicacy.
I got notes on most, but not all, of the beers we tried:
City of Cambridge Hobson's Choice - Tasty!
Elgood's Winter Warmer - Two stars!
Milton brewery Mammon - Two stars!
Ufford Setting Sun - British. [That's not a compliment.]
Adnams Regatta - Not very good. [But if my boss asks, it's grrrrreat! (his favorite.)]
Six Bells Big Nev's - pretty good
Titanic Nautical Mild - Surprisingly good! [but also my fourth half-pint that night, so that may be off.]
Goachers Real Mild Ale - just OK.
Gribble Pigs Ear - just OK.
RCH Old Slug Porter - Great!
Oakleaf I Can't Believe It's Not Bitter - Great!
Cornish Orchards Cider - pretty bad.
Dupont Saison (Belgian) - Meh. Just OK.
Augustiner Helles (German) - fantastic!
Karg Dunkles Weissbier (German) - Yum!
Schlenkerla Marzen Rauch (smoked barley beer) -very interesting flavor - actually smoky!
It took three (JT) and four (KT) trips to the festival to knock back all those. Maybe next year, we'll take vacation for it. :)