Alltech Brews & Food returned in spectacular fashion for 2015 at the end end of last month. Rumours of a dialled-down beer offer at the three-day event proved totally unfounded, with a host of brewers from across Europe and further afield represented. The only bit that irked me was the translucent plastic beaker we were given to drink from. It made it impossible to photograph the beers so, rather than leave you bereft of the benefits of my singular lensmanship, I abandoned mine early on and used whatever clear receptacle I had to hand. On the upside, tasting my way like that through all three sessions did mean I got to try a vast number of beers. We have a lot to get through between now and Saturday. Let's get stuck in.
I'll begin where I left last week's Thornbridge teaser post, with the British breweries. Beavertown had a whole stand of its own on the Four Corners strip. Talk of the festival was Londonerweisse, a 2.8% ABV Berliner-weisse-style beer, prepared with gin botanicals. It's a hazy pale yellow colour and offers up a very fruity and funky aroma. The herbs are unmistakeable, lending a peppery bite to the clean and gin-crisp flavour. You sometimes get a waft of grainy wheat in this sort of beer, but there's no such fuzziness here, just perfect poise.
Staying on a highly-attenuated kick, Applelation is a saison, brewed stonkingly strong at 8.2% ABV, and with added apples. It's all about that saison funk, plus a dry finish preventing it from getting difficult to drink, as I often find with strong saisons. I'd been hoping for more of a fresh apple flavour but there's really none to speak of. I'm not complaining, though.
From dry to sweet and Beavertown Moose Fang made its début at the event, a super heavy brown ale of 8.6% ABV and tasting richly of espresso and chocolate ice cream sauce. The coffee roast balances the sweetness and makes for an excellent sipping beer. This is possibly the first "imperial brown ale" I've met that adequately hits the spots normally reserved by imperial stout.
And the other Beavertown headliner was Bloody 'Ell, an IPA with added blood orange, strong again at 7.2% ABV. This is quite new on the market and its freshness was evident from the get-go: a huge hit of heady, oily hop volatiles opens proceedings. The added ingredient works really well to complement the hop effect and you end up with a beer that's juicy in two different ways at once. So juicy, in fact, that it's very easy to forget how much alcohol is present. Handle with care.
Redwell from Norwich was back for a second year, with Mr Nate Southwood at the helm. He insisted, insisted, I try all their beers. There was: the irrepressible Redwell Hells, as smooth, full-bodied and bready as you'd like a helles to be, though at a happily modest 4.6% ABV; Redwell Steam Lager, a lighter, simpler, copper-coloured job; Redwell India Pale Lager, bringing us up to 5.5% ABV but not doing a whole lot flavourwise to justify the extra strength as the hops are quite muted; the near-inevitable session IPA Redwell Anytime: not a great example, with a bit too much butter happening and little else; and new special Redwell White IPA, a 6% ABV souped-up witbeer which holds back on the bitterness and allows the traditional spices to come through more, with a candy-fruit sweetness and a warming buzz of alcoholic heat.