Last weekend was a busy one for beer lovers in Chester. Two beer havens went head to head, organising an Oktoberfest style beer festival to celebrate not only great beer, but their namesake in Germany. Friends of frothy ale had three days to sample their way through two very different festivals with very different agendas and venues.
Kash Chester, on Brook Street, went full Bavarian with a grand selection of bottled beers and some exciting cask and keg options as well. Blueball Brewery, the might behind the pub, had brewed some theme-appropriate beers for the festival – Blueweisser Bluevar and Oktoberfest 2014 to name a few. The tables, fittingly placed in long lines, were appropriately decorated with pretzels and flower arrangements and the walls were dressed with flags to get the patrons into the mood.
As an extra treat the festival saw the return of a beer we haven’t seen on tap in Chester for months – Köstritzer Schwarzbier, a black lager which caresses the tastebuds like cashmere. It’s been forever since we have enjoyed this taste sensation on tap and boy, it was still as good as it was in the beginning of the year, when it was last spotted in the Chester beer scene.
The entertainment was superb as well. Our very own Ken Peace and his merry men performed good old fashioned rock n’ roll for our adoring ears. We name Ken because, to be honest, we didn’t catch the band’s name and Ken totally blew us away with his mad harmonica skills, straight from the Delta:
We were surprised that a second bar had not been erected for this specific beer festival – something we’ve grown accustomed to in previous beer festivals in Kash. Majority of the German beers on offer were in the form of a bottle and the beer list didn’t have tasting notes – again something we’ve grown accustomed to. It’s by no means a compulsory element for a festival to offer tasting notes on the festival beer – and sometimes people feel it dictates to them how the beer should taste, which is a fair point. However for beer novices, especially when it comes to German beer with names you can’t even pronounce after having a few of them (say Köstritzer three times quickly after having a few, go on – we dare ya) simplistic tasting notes can be very useful.
From a Bavarian paradise on we hopped to Telfords Warehouse, to the second beer festival of the weekend. Telfords had set up a more traditional beer festival, with very little to no hints of the German influence experienced in Kash. In their defence, the festival wasn’t advertised as an Oktoberfest-style shenanigan, but a beer and cider fest. The beer list was full of traditional beers, of which none were terribly exciting or outrageous, but if kept well, they were bound to be tasty.
Unfortunately some of the beer in the festival barrels was not.
We ordered a half of one our all time festival favourite, Titanic Brewery’s Plum Porter, which we know to be thick and delicious with tasty malts and a surprisingly complementary plum flavour… however what we received was a half of an amber, light, see-through liquid that reminded us more of a cherry coke than the Plum Porter we know and love. When queried, we were simply advised that this is how the tipple is supposed to be. It isn’t.
We know that when pouring straight from the cask, the result is different than when pumping the beer through a handpull. This gives the beer air, which it obviously cannot get when poured out straight from the container. We know that. Still, we were disappointed to find that where many festivals have succeeded, this festival didn’t. We tried a few different types of beer from different casks and found them all lifeless, flat and in the case of the
unfortunate Plum Porter, downright wrong. Once we shifted focus to purchase the festival beers from the main bar the problem sorted itself and we managed to enjoy our tipple, but the experience at the festival barrels left a bitter taste.
Telfords has always offered us a great experience and great beer – and it must be reiterated that the beer at the main bar still was as fantastic as it has always been, so we sincerely hope this was just a fluke and perhaps a bad batch or two.
All in all, having two beer festivals in one weekend is a rare treat for any beer lover, and we consider ourselves lucky to have a city where it is possible to attend both in one weekend without having to pay entry or an extortionate price for the beer on offer.
This weekend, we’ll compare this experience to the Indie Man Beer Con in Manchester.