Beer… pirates… dinosaurs?! Arggggh! All of this was promised at the very first WarriorFest which took place back on the 29th of July. The festival was the brainwave of Portsmouth’s brewery and dinosaur enthusiasts Staggeringly Good who commandeered the HMS Warrior, to bring us an evening of craft beer action. WarriorFest was a hotly anticipated event in our beer soaked calendars and it sold out very fast. Fortunately for us, we managed to snag some tickets at the start of the year and were chomping at the bit to clamber aboard as the date loomed nearer.
It was a cold, wet night when we rocked up to the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard for this unique festival. Fortunately, we were heading to the perfect place to brave the storm, to the deck of the HMS Warrior, a historic naval warship now permanently based in Portsmouth and serving as a museum. It wasn’t really a night for hanging around up on deck so we climbed down the wooden ladders into the hull of the ship and into the heart of the beer festival.
WarriorFest was split into four main bars scattered across the ship all appropriately pirate/dinosaur themed and featured a range of cask and keg ales. The bars were; the Staggeringly Good Bar, The Booty Bar, The Boom Bar, and the Bilge Bar. The Staggeringly Good Bar featured, perhaps unsurprisingly, all of Staggeringly Good’s beers including the recently released Jurassix DIPA as well as their core range. All entrants to the festival received a free ticket for a beer at the Staggeringly Good Bar as well as an awesome Warriorfest Tulip beer glass. I opted to fill mine with a Hop Rod (5% IPA) to start the festival off.
There was also a fifth, top secret bar, located below deck which took a little bit of searching to find. This gave us a chance to explore some of the historic naval relics now housed on HMS Warrior. Exploring the ship was a lot of fun and there was no shortage of historic artifacts on board to admire in between walking the decks of the ship to hunt out the next beery treasure. Once we finally located the secret bar, I went for the massive Cloudwater Special Editon London Ale, an easy to drink DIPA that at 9% would knock you off your sea legs and leave you sprawling in a hammock if you’re not careful. My fellow Beer Voyager opted for the other beer available here, Weird Beard’s Defacer – a Triple IPA that felt like a cannonball full of hops to the face. These two beers did not last long once the secret location had been found by the patrons of the ship so we were happy to get in there quickly.
Beers were on offer from well-regarded breweries including Wild Beer, Weird Beard, Siren, Vibrant Forest, and Arbor, among others. Beers available varied in style and there was a good mix of both established and smaller breweries represented as well as those from the local area. I was particularly pleased to see fellow South Coast brewers, Brighton Bier featured at this festival and enjoyed a refreshing Heydaze (4% IPA) midway through the evening. After sampling a few others, I ended my night with Weird Beard’s Black Perle (3.8%), a delicious sweet milk stout that made the perfect nightcap to a successful festival and an enjoyable evening.
Music was provided by live bands throughout the evening, although I didn’t really stop to watch the bands properly, I really enjoyed wandering the ship and taking in the background music, it really added to the festival atmosphere. I particularly appreciated the film and TV theme tune covers by the Bossard Quartet who did a great take on the Game of Thrones theme as well as the pirate band based near the entrance that were happily playing some sea shanties as we queued to get our festival glasses.
Overall WarriorFest 2017 was a fantastic night and a really well thought out beer festival which represented both local breweries and breweries from afar. It lived up to and exceeded all expectations. The novelty of being aboard a ship for the evening didn’t wear off and we were sad when the bells rang to signal last orders. The HMS Warrior turns out to be the perfect size for a beer festival (not sure that was part of the original plans) which meant there was very little need to queue and it was definitely the ideal level of busy; enough to create a jolly atmosphere but not enough to want you to walk the plank in frustration.
I’ve already heard rumours that it will be returning for 2018 and I would advise readers to get in there quick with tickets as they will go fast. This is a festival not to be missed!