There’s no finer way to spend your Saturday evening than in the company of good beer and those who enjoy it. And having been invited to the first North Wales beer festival we dutily hopped (pun intended) on to the train and took the 20-minute ride to windy Wrexham to sample the best North Wales has to offer.
For a mere £3 entry the festival was an absolute bargain considering the amount of different ales on offer, 42 to be precise. Spoilt for choice and all that. So many beers and so little time. There were a few familiar names among a myriad of new ones, so we were understandably excited. What’s also worth a mention is that all the beers were well looked after by Bar Manager, later re-branded as ‘Supreme Bar Overlord’ as a result of the many beverages consumed. Kudos.
All in all the festival was a roaring success. A first of it’s kind but definitely shouldn’t be the last. We met some wonderful people (shoutout to Nigel and Sue, our delightful table company who also guarded our pints while we stepped outside) and tasted some brilliant beer. The overall organisation for the event was very professional and it was clear that it was a labour of love. Thumbs up for a splendid do!
On to the important matters, namely the beer. After carefully studying the festival programme and taking a few recommendations we were ready to try out the goods. Here’s what we thought.
McGivens – Bridge Pale 3.9%
As a great fan of Bride End Inn, Ruabon, Tom was overly excited to finally try one of Matt McGivens beers, and jumped straight into quaffing one. It posed sunshine golden and as clear as you like. The first taste of the beer was overwhelming with a great intensity of the glorious American hops packed into it. A slight sweetness takes over from the initial hoppiness and is followed with the distinct taste of citra and a dry finish. It was a perfectly balanced tipple. ITS ONLY 3.9%. It’s a fantastic beer, it’s amazingly well crafted and Tom rates it as one of the finest beers he’s had this year. High praise indeed! Five out of five.
Heavy Industry – Collaborator 5.0%
Deemed the gold award winner of the festival, this red bitter was definitely worth the tag. The Collaborator has a deep chocolate and roasted malt flavour but still manages to be light and airy. It packs a lot of flavour and aroma, but with the higher voltage it definitely isn’t a session beer. A definite four out of five.
Evening Leader – 40th Birthday 4.0%
A celebration beer that was brewed for the Evening Leaders 40th Birthday. It would have rude to have ignored this one, and praise indeed that it didn’t pass by unnoticed. It holds a wonderful aroma of sweet tropical citrus, which steamrolled its way through the palate carrying bucket load of hops. This beer shines golden, and is pleasantly easy drinking. Great character about it and it’s hardly surprising that in a previous session was the first to sell out. A solid four out of five for this.
Happy Valley – Dangerously Dark 5.6%
This beer promised lots of malt and roast barley and North American aroma hops, but delivered very little. It posed a dark colour and a strong aroma but the taste just doesn’t match up to what you would expect from a dark ale with this high voltage. The malts didn’t really come through and it left a taste of bitter coffee. Slightly disappointing, as one of the beers Kat was really looking forward to. Two out of five.
Tiny Rebel – Cwtch 4.6%
For Kat, this was the beer of the festival. Sweet, floral and citrussy, it’s almost like two beers in one. It has the earthy taste of a darker ale but at the same time it’s sweet like candy and light as anything. A celebration on all the senses, it has a floral aroma as well as a bang on taste. Top marks, five out of five.
Offbeat – Kiwi 4.6%
Another golden ale with promises of New Zealand packed hops. Unfortunately this was a real let down. Although it finds a right balance for the flavours it holds, there was nothing spectacular about this and in fact was quite plain. It’s reminiscent of a diluted cordial as it holds an essence of hope in the background for being a decent brew. Two out of five.
Arbor – Black Eyed PA 6.5%
Black IPA is a luxury that might not be everyone’s cup of tea (or a pint of beer) but this rich brew with coffee and malty undertones is a definite winner. It works on many levels, has texture as well as substance and leaves you with a delightful aftertaste of roasted malts. A strong four out of five.
Salopian – Divine Comedy 3.9%
A rather odd ale combining the traditional mild tastes of subtle bitterness and malts with a dynamic twist of passion fruit and tropical flavours. As for personal preference, this beer doesn’t work, the two styles don’t compliment each other, and it came across very watery. Two out of five.
Roosters – Wild Mule 3.9%
Not originally on the menu, this beer was the surprise element that you just had to go for. Sadly, it didn’t deliver. It has an amazing aroma that coaxes you in but leaves you with very little. The taste is limp and “soggy” like wet pastry. It’s a pale taste. Shame. Two out of five.
Ilkley – Mary Jane 3.5%
A pale ale driven with Amarillo hops, that gives off a fresh floral aroma, delightfully hopped and leaves you with a crisp finish. There no nonsense with this beer and it lets you know exactly where you stand. This is a perfect beverage accompaniment to a summer’s day, which could be enjoyed all day long. A deserving four out of five.
Boggart – Rum Porter 4.6%
It’s not a beer festival without a rum porter, said Tom, and had we not dwelled into this one we would have missed out! Smooth roast finish, spicy and hoppy, with a hint of dark rum. It’s sweet and juicy without being sickly, a definite winner. Four out of five.
Darkstar – Hophead 3.8%
Light and crisp pale golden ale with a clean, sharp taste. Hoppy as hell, but amazingly balanced. It’s full on flavour but gentle enough to make it as a session beer. Floral aroma that matches the taste, clear as you like and a pleasure on the palate. Four out of five.
Our next outing will be this Tuesday at the Chester Beer Appreciation Society’s food and beer pairing night in the Pied Bull. Exciting times ahead!