The Rotary Club of Warrington run a yearly ale festival.
Each of the ales is purchased by a commercial sponsor, and all profits from the venue go to charitable causes. Over the past 14 Oktoberfests, the Warrington Rotary has been able to donate £165,000!
I can certainly drink to that!
The event runs over a total of 3 days – with live entertainment and good beer provided in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Enthusiastic staff man the pumps, taking advantage of arguably the best perk of the job – a vast array of beers, readily available for them to try!
I was impressed with their offering. Over 75 ales, 9 ciders, and a vast array of bottled beers – we really were spoilt for choice!
It would be simply rude for me not to attend and have a thorough review!
Structure of Review
Firstly I am going to introduce some details about pricing and tokens. Next I am going to speak about the atmosphere and service provided. Thirdly, I am going to review specific ales that I tried from each section.
Oktoberfest 15: Was it expensive?
A first-timer to a beer festival might be a bit confused – my uncle and dad certainly were!
But it’s not that difficult. Your entry fee is £5: For this you recieve your branded Oktoberfest glass and a brochure containing a listing of all the ales on offer, their token cost, ABV, and some other details about brewer and taste.
After this, you will need to buy tokens. The pricing was as follows:
- £5 for 4 Green
- £6 for 4 Gold
One green token entitles you to one half pint of ale below 5% ABV. Conversely, one gold token entitles you to one half pint of ale 5% ABV or above. So in reality, weaker ales work out at approximately £2.50 a pint; Stronger Ales work out at £3 a pint.
Personally, I would argue you get more value for money from green tokens – as there was some really great green token ales on this year.
With 12 gold and 12 green between us, we embarked on our journey through the ales… Overall, we’d say that £33 for 12 pints wasn’t that bad! (Actually, he only charged us £32… No idea why…)
Atmosphere and Service
The place is like a giant community pub. A large warmly lit hall with banners streaming across the roof – and a band playing on the stage. We say band; the beginning of the evening consisted of one long guitarist who – comically – played Dueling Banjos against himself.
Light chitter-chatter flowing out of groups of happy drinkers; Staff off-shift mingling with the crowds; People in droves just having a really good time.
And you can see why – the staff were providing an excellent experience for the drinkers. They were knowledgeable, friendly and flexible.
Would you like to try the ale before you purchase? No problem!
Would you like a recommendation? No problem!
Would you like a fresh, clean glass? No problem!
Overall, I found the atmosphere relaxing. I really enjoyed speaking with the staff, though one of them did take me seriously when I made a joke about a lemonade top in my ale… (As if I would…)
It’s nice to know that the profits are going to charity, and we’re all having a good time whilst doing good.
If only all charity was this great.
I found the presentation of this years book fantastic. Beers were arranged by style and then by ABV. This means two things – firstly, you can always find an ale in a style that you fancy – and if it’s not available, you don’t have to look too far to find another one that’s very similar.
Secondly, there’s no moving back and forth through the book to find green or gold token ales – they’re all in the same place in each style section.
I found this particularly useful.
But that’s enough of that – let’s discuss some ales. Firstly, I’m going to discuss the category entitled – appropriately – “Ales”.
Format is Ale Name, Brewer, Location, ABV.
- Dikin Gold, Bridgehouse, Oxenhope 3.6% – Described as “Golden straw coloured ale, a nice refreshing drink” – I couldn’t agree more. The Dikin Gold as my first pint was a light slightly-sweet summer-y ale with a subtle bitter finish Overall: 3.5/5
- Export Bitter, Bushys, Isle of Man 3.8% – Described as “Aroma of pale malt & hops creates a beautifully hoppy bitter beer, despite predominant hop character, malt is also evident, fresh and clean tasting” – I’m not too sure about all that, but what I will say is I particularly enjoyed this ale. I thought it was supremely clean and light Overall: 4/5
- Dream, George Wright, Rainford 4.1% – Described as “Pale bitter with good balance of hop and malt, quite citrussy” and in my book I have underlined emphatically “citrussy” – this ale was light and fruity with definite citrus fruit flavours. This would be fantastic on a summer’s day, all day. This one was hand-pulled, and this made a lot of difference! Overall: 4.5/5
Strong and Dark
Sometime it’s quite interesting to look at the sponsors. The sponsor of “Diablo”, an IPA brewed in West Yorkshire, was “Environmental Waste Controls”… Don’t know why, but I chuckled at the time… On reflection it’s not as funny… Or is it? You tell me.
- Inspiration, Thomas Hardy Brewery, Burtonwood 6.0% – Described as “Rich & dark with a Scottish style sweetness”. I really love Scottish Ales. This one had a bold aroma with a bitter-sweet taste. What the Scottish would call a “heavy” ale, this was I’m told the brother of 10/- and 50/- Ales in Scotland. This ale gradually got more and more demanding the more you drank – still pretty good though! Too strong for a session ale at 6%! Overall: 3.5/5
- Oscar Wilde, Mighty Oak, Maldon Essex 3.9% – This is the Champion Beer of Britain 2011! Described as “Mellow, nutty, morish dark mild.” And I would agree – Mellow, nutty, and morish really are the key words here – with hints of chocolate to boot. Definitely better than the Theakston’s Dark Mild I’ve been drinking on draught anyway… Overall: 4/5
- Midnight Bell, Leeds Brewery, Leeds 4.8% - Described as “A premium dark milk. Crystal & chocolate malts combine to give a full bodied, complex character to this award winning ale” – If it were my choice, I’d give this ale awards because it was possibly my favourite of the whole event. It was sweet, smooth, dark and syrupy – but not unpleasantly so! I could drink this all day! Overall: 5/5
- Brooklyn Lager, Brooklyn Brewery, New York 5.2% – So, the Americans have a beer here? Interesting. Described as “Big Apple’s hometown beer. Acclaimed as the Best Craft Lager in America” – We’ll see about that! The first thing I immediately noticed was this was lager – plain and simple. It was ice-cold and carbonated. Not so much lager style as simply lager. The general consensus about American beers tends to be “It’s Ice-cold because it has no flavour; it’s only redeeming quality is its refreshing temperature” and true to an extend. If this is the best craft lager that America has to offer, then I’m disappointed… Overall: 3/5
Cider and Perry
Someone once told me the order for drinking cider and beer… They told me “Beer to cider, easy rider” and “Cider to beer, sends you a bit queer”. So, to not be “sent” a bit queer… I saved the cider for last!
- Double Vision: Cider 7.4% – Described as a medium cider, I’d have to disagree – it was definitely more sweet than it was medium. This was absolutely delicious with a rustic, but still refined, taste. Overall: 4.5/5
- Mr Whiteheads: Blackcurrant Cider 4.0% - A very low ABV cider, and rightly so because it slipped down an absolute treat. Refreshing, fruity, with a slightly dry edge. Overall: 3.5/5
- Double Vision: Impeared Vision 7.4% - A medium sweet perry, for 7.4% this was far too drinkable! Impaired vision would be a very quick side effect! Overall: 3/5
… I’m glad to report, despite going back to beer, it didn’t send me a bit queer! Guess their advice was wrong, or I was queer all along!
I like rhyming.
- Veltins, Germany 4.8% – It was a peerlessly smooth lager that was lightly gassed; A good ABV accompanied by a refreshing flavour – I wish I could buy this in the shop! Overall: 4.5/5
- Scaldis Ambre, Belgium 12.0% - You haven’t read that ABV incorrectly, 12%! The pièce de résistance… Coming in at three gold tokens a bottle – That’s £4.50! – We each chipped in a gold to give this bad boy a trial. You know what the shocking thing was? It was far too easy to drink. It had that syrupy texture that Leffe Brune has. You wouldn’t know you were drinking something as strong as wine, because it’s very sweet and tasty. I couldn’t finish it! Overall: 4/5
The Rotary Club Oktoberfest in Warrington is well worth the money. Overall the trip cost three of us £45 for plenty of beer and entry.
Three people could quite easily spend that in a bar or club – and that’s not benefiting charity in any way!
As I said earlier, if only charity could always be this good – unfortunately it can’t, but at least for one day of the year, I’ll be doing good whilst drinking my way through plenty of fine ales!
Remember, Oktoberfest 15 is running until the 15th October 2011 – so if you read this and fancy it, get down there! There’s still going to be plenty of delicious ales for you to try!
But until next time, Craig signing out…