|Barley’s 2011 Real Ale Festival
There’s a hive of beer activity in Columbus for the first five months of the year: You have Columbus AleFest in February, followed by the Columbus Winter
Beer Festival. Then, in May, Barley’s Brewpub has their annual Real Ale Festival, with the Columbus Summer Beer Festival just two weeks later.
We at The Manor are proud to say that our Royal presence was seen, recognised and noted at all four festivals this year, with the pièce de résistance being
Barley’s (magnificent) Real Ale Festival.
While CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) has issues recognising that real ale is indeed available outside of Britain, US breweries have been quietly taking care
of business both producing excellent beers and EXCELLENT real ale.
Which leads us to Barley’s Real Ale Fest, the cream of Ohio beer festivals. It was with great anticipation that I made my way in The Manor “Roller” to the fest.
I even let Harry Crutchett, the Royal chauffeur have a tipple (with a gallon of water, I might add). Lord Derryberry of Wapak met me at Barley’s and as the
saying goes, here children, is where we begin….
1) Brew Kettle Brewing Co. Strongsville, Ohio.
White Rajah (7%)
I’ve seen a good number of Brew Kettle bottled beers at The Anderson’s Store, so I was curious to see what they were about. And where better to start than
an American IPA?
As expected, the bitter grapefruit flavours made themselves immediately avavilable, with a nice infusion of mint. Mild caramel came into the picture towards
the finish, but that was about it. I finished the glass thinking there was something missing. Interesting, but not setting my world alight. 6/10
2) Dark Horse Brewing Co. Marshall, Michigan.
Scotty Karate Scotch Ale (9.75%)
Right then, so let’s remember that beer festivals give one the opportunity to try beers that one might not ordinarily spend tons of sheckles on, or that one
might normally avoid like the plague.
Take the Scotty Karate Scotch for instance. It’s a Scottish Wee Heavy which would not be found within 100-miles of The Manor. The perfect opportunity to
confirm my greatest fears. It was indeed malty to the power of ten, but also exceedingly smooth. Tons of caramel appeared, followed by a ghastly flavour
reminiscent of rotting molasses that had turned bitter with bacteria. No, definitely not my cup of Assam. Hideous! 0/10
3) Thirsty Dog Brewing Co. Akron, Ohio.
Orthus Belgian Dubbel (7.%)
You’d think I’d head for something more palatable after the last disaster, but no, lets keeping heading into the “avoid like the plague” territory.
I’ve never seen the fascination for Thirsty Dog beers – to date, I’ve yet to try a beer of theirs that I’ve actually liked. Not the best preparation for their Orthus
Belgian Dubbel, which was aged on cherries. Here’s how I reviewed it: “Malty-Bitter-Cherries-Nasty-Malty-Bitter-Cherries-Nasty-More of the same-Nasty”. I
was clearly confirming my initial response. Nasty. 0/10
4) Elevator Brewing Co. Cowlumbus, Ohio.
Three Frogs IPA (8%)
I know, I know, I know – just like Thirsty Dog, it is VERY well documented that we at The Manor all believe that Elavator is totally incapable of brewing a beer
that any of us remotely likes. It’s been one hideous disaster after another. But, I hear you say, it’s an American heavily hopped IPA – the favourite beer
style at The Manor - surely they can’t get this one wrong. I mean, Higgins – our diabetic Royal cat – could produce a noteworthy IPA.
In two words – TOTAL SHITE! The Three Frogs was like drinking a mug of tap water with three drops of grapefruit juice added for colour. There was the
faintest of mild (and I mean mild), hop bitterness right at the finish, but otherwise this sorry excuse for an IPA couldn’t have been more diluted with no taste
whatsoever. It’s time for Elevator to throw in the towel and call it a day after this mess. IPA? IPA MY ARSE! -15/10 And as a postscript, I would humbly
suggest that the ABV should read 0.8%, not 8%. I mean, who are they trying to kid?
5) Ohio Brewing Co. Akron, Ohio.
O’Hoppy Ale (7%)
Firstly, I didn’t care for the stupid name of this beer and secondly I was starting to run short of patience for a decent pint. Surely there had to be a decent
pint of IPA in the house. This was almost it. The O’Hoppy Ale was another American IPA was considerably more body than the previous rubbish tasted so
far. Definitely more fruity and rich with the expected bitterness, but STILL – there was “something missing”. Having said that, it was pleasant enough and
certainly an improvement on the day. 7/10
6) Southern Tier Brewing Co. Lakewood, New York.
Why am I trying all these IPAs? So much for tasting different styles! Anyway, I have a lot of respect for Southern Tier – they brew the World Classic Old Man
Winter Ale, of which I still have a bottle from 2006 sitting in the Royal fridge.
Needless to say, this was rather odd. It started off bright and cheerful with some nice grapefruit bitterness, but turned quite harsh and sour, losing its
opening smoothness. It was also served waaaay too cold for cask ale which added to its harshness. I would certainly try this one again, I just think it didn’t
travel too well to Barley’s - and you know how fussy real ale is. 5/10
7) Barley’s Brewing Co. Columbus, Ohio.
Abbey Normal Ale (8.6%)
I couldn't help but notice all the high ABVs taking place at the fest, AND it was all being poured into pint glasses. Good job Lady Roberts put together a food
survival kit for me, with a few bottles of water.
The very thought of a Belgian Strong Ale put shivers down my spine, but this WAS an alefest, not an IPA fest. So, armed with the true British stiff-upper-lip
pioneering spirit, I went forth into unknown territory with the Abbey Normal Ale. Strong ales tend to be modeled on "old" recipies and so it came to pass that
the Abbey Normal was indeed old - old beetroot, old malt, old cherries, old shoe polish (for brown shoes), old cough syrup, old socks. The finish was of
more old cherries. In a word - GHASTLY! -12/10
8) Victory Brewing Co. Downingtown, Pennsylvania.
Headwaters Pale Ale (5.1%)
Let's get this straight right now, Victory Brewing Co. is THE BOMB. When Lady Roberts and I visited their brewery & brew pub on our way to Philadelphia,
they boasted no less than 23 of their own beers on tap, with three cask ales. It would take a week to get through everything and any brewery that can
produce such a magnificent Belgian-style Tripel, in the form of Golden Monkey is alright by me.
Headwaters Pale Ale follows their trend of magnificence in that "American Pale Ale" mold i.e. rich, grapefruity, very freshing with some not-too-heavy hop
bitterness. A well balanced gem or as Simon Cowell might say "Bloody brilliant!". 12/10
9) Bell's Brewing Co. Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Hopslam - aged for 5 months - (10%)
Were my eyes deceiving me? Not only was Hopslam on cask, but also aged for several months? There truly is gold at the end of the rainbow! And like an
old nail flying to a brand new 20lb magnet, I was at the Bell's table in a heartbeat. Oh yes, it was rich alright and very powerful, but due to being on cask -
and perhaps the aging had also made a contribution - the body was smooth and mellow and not overly bitter at all. Nothing was overdone with this beer -
essentially perfect! 15/10
10) Weasel Boy Brewing Co. Zanesville, Ohio.
Zurbrun Fret (5%)
Undeterred by the Abbey Normal Ale and flying on a crest of a wave from the previous two beauties, I was determined to find success from a non-IPA beer
style. After all, it's not as if most of the IPA's tasted had offered much to write home about. Aware of the fact that the high ABV pints were starting to take
their toll on my Royal self, I decided to make this my final tasting - thus, this one had to be a little ripper.
Weasel Boy are responsible for producing one of the finest beers on the planet with their Anastasia Russian Imperial Stout, so their version of a lambic
"style" would be nothing less than interesting. The Zuur Brun Fret was a combination of two beers: a Scottish Ale which was aged for 6-months in a
Cabernet wine barrel and their Flander's Brown Ale, which was aged for over a year in a barrel with wild yeasts Brettanomyces and Lactobacillus. It's
expensive work and truly a labour of love, but you don't find too many locally made lambic style ales, so hats off to Jay Wince and his team at Weasel Boy.
Rather than write paragraphs on the intensity of the flavours, I was able to reduce it to just two carefully picked words: "paint stripper". No sense in going
overboard. -12/10 So, on that "sour" note, it was time to call it a day on the 2011 Barley's Real Ale Fest. It could be said that I was a hard bugger to
please, but the bottom line is that everything is "A Quest for Taste" - it can't always be bells & whistles. The pleasure is in trying new beers, whether we rave
about them or not. Here's to the 2012 fest!