Beer, Swann and Hoagies

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Maltings Beer Festival 2011, Newton Abbot, April 14-16

I managed to get through only about 14 or so great beers over two days – and I am pleased to say there was not a bad one amongst them. I also got to see Nicky Swann live and indulge in some of the best sausage hoagies you will get anywhere. The 19th Maltings beer festival was better than ever.

Apologies for the photos – taken on iPhone 4; not very good at dark interiors in those days!

For some years now I’ve constrained myself to one session, starting at 5pm (opening time) on the first day (Thursday) and leaving by about 9 or 10. The start of the festival is very pleasant; not too crowded and plenty of time and space to take in the huge number of beers on offer and check off those I must try before the day is out. You are also amongst the first couple of dozen people to see the cup winners and so have a good chance of trying them before they sell out. This Thursday however it quickly became obvious that this festival was going to be bigger than usual, and the overall Champion beer was sold out by 8pm! As usual I had to try the amazing ‘real sausages’ in hoagies; they really are VERY good – so I had two!

I was glad I paid a second visit on Saturday afternoon as, apart from the fact I had a lot more beers to get through, NICKY SWANN was playing – and was very enjoyable. A hint of Joni Mitchell in there – and just as I was thinking that she covered Big Yellow Taxi! Incidentally, her sidekick played good bass but also had the most amazing acoustic drum machine I’ve ever seen – snare, bass and kettles all in what looked like an old orange box!

This seemed to be a great year for porters and stouts. The best beers from the selection I managed to get through are set out below – all highly recommended!

  • Box Steam Funnel Blower, 4.6%, vanilla infused porter
  • Bristol Oak Aged No.7, 4.2%
  • Cotleigh Somerset Commando, 4%
  • Exeter Darkness, 5.1%
  • Forge Handsome, 5.1%
  • Isle of Avalon Choc Orange Stout, 4.7%, my overall favourite
  • Liberation Ambree, 4.2%, zingy spring beer
  • Plain Inndulgence, 5.2%, dark ruby porter with a hint of chocolate
  • Tintagel Harbour Special, 4.8%, has a good citrus hop kick
  • Yeovil Stout Hearted, 4.3%, roast and chocolate notes on the nose

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