Date visited: May 2017
This May marked the return of Portsmouth Beer Festival, now in its fourth year. Taking place at the Portsmouth Guildhall, the festival has been a regular event in our booze drenched calendar and, although we’ve been constant attendees over this period, this year marks the first time we’ve pulled our finger out for a review. The festival took place from Friday to Saturday and I was in attendance for the Friday evening session.
Portsmouth Beer Festival has continued to grow steadily over the years and appears in good health as there was a high turn out and some new additions to the festival. Welcome inclusions this year included craft beer on draught and cans available for the very first time. The festival has also diversified to feature a gin bar and wine bar as well as its regular cider offerings (for those that way inclined). This year also saw an overhaul to the token system – one token now being worth £1. In previous years the system has been simple; one token = half pint, two tokens = full pint. This new system generally made things a bit more complicated with different number of tokens being required for different beverages. Although this made keeping track of tokens a bit annoying and required a lot of drunken mental maths, I suppose it comes at the trade-off of having a wider range of liquid refreshment available.
The small craft bar was located in one of the side rooms and featured a range of big name craft breweries with some interesting offers. I had Yeastie Boys Bigmouth (4.4%), a sharp hoppy session IPA that I had been meaning to try for some time. I also tried Wild Beer’s Sleeping Lemons, a turbo-shandy like concoction that was more bitter lemonade than beer, reflected in its 3.6% ABV. I also had my favourite beer from the festival at the craft bar, In the Pines (5.3%) from Wiper & True. If you’ve followed the blog you will know that I’ve been enjoying Wiper & True’s offering and I wasn’t disappointed at all with this lovely amber ale which was rich with, you guessed it, pine flavours.
Craft cans at the festival were limited to a small refrigerated section. Although there were not many cans available, the selection was well considered with the core ranges from breweries such as Beavertown, Magic Rock, Siren Craft Brew and Tiny Rebel. There was even a Slag in the fridge. Being fortunate enough to have a good bottle shop near me (big up The Beer Musketeer!), I didn’t bother much with this part of the festival but did have a Hoi Polloi (4.8%) from Alphabet Brewing Company. Although perfectly drinkable it was perhaps a bit underwhelming considering what else was available at the festival.
The main room was packed festival goers, live music and cask ales. From local boys Southsea Brewing Co. I tried their latest edition to their lineup, a Golden Ale called Hot Walls (4.1%). I wasn’t particularly a fan of this and found it had a bit too much going on. One of the great things about a festival is having the opportunity to try something different. Irving & Co., another brewery local to Portsmouth were present as usual and I thoroughly enjoyed their Totally Tropical (5.7%). This was a great juciy pale ale which deservedly won the Strong Island Home Brew Competition 2017.
Other ales I sampled throughout the night included Robinsons’ Pint of Thrones (4%) which was poor despite the promising name, and Wild Weather Ales’ fruity Go Man Go (5.1%) which had a mango punch (and would have been better served colder). I ended my night with an enjoyable rich porter, Pot Kettle (4.4%) from Fallen Acorn brewery. The full list of beers featured at the festival can be found on the Portsmouth Beer Festival website.
Live music was provided throughout the night with local favourites Kojak’s Revenge closing a successful evening blasting out all of the 90s hits with covers from the likes of Blur and Pulp. The festival featured some great food as usual served in the outdoor area, with the even popular O’Hagan’s Sausages (and hog roast) returning as well as awesome artisan pizzas from Catch A Fire Pizza cooked in a wood fire oven.
Overall Portsmouth Beer Festival 2017 was another fantastic event with a vibrant atmosphere throughout the session. We’ve got our eyes peeled for an announcement about the Christmas version of the beer festival which is always a pleasant beery end to the year.