“500 different beers in one year? That’s some challenge,” I was warned when I embarked on the journey in the wee small hours of New Years Day only 8 months ago – no doubt I took it up on the basis that I was too inebriated to figure otherwise. And sadly, though, my 500-beer journey has now ceased. I have now completed the task. Yes, all 500. And, no, I won’t be providing tasting notes on each and every single one – nor would I bore you with the descriptions and photos of each venue they were consumed at. Suffice to say, my fate was sealed with a summers-worth of village fêtes & beer festivals, all of which had an array of local ales to sample. The last one – the occasion that took me past 499 – was the Holly Bush in Makeney (just north of Derby) this Bank Holiday weekend… an outstanding pub that I’ve mentioned in a previous post.
NB myself and Rupert are pointing only at Ana’s pie. The more astute amongst you will spot the posters on the wall of the Inn… it was an unusual beer festival in that there were only 2 brewers present – Oakham and Thornbridge – and it was a competition to see whose beers would sell quickest… points were awarded thus: 2 points for the beer that sold first, then 1 point for each beer that subsequently ran out, with 11 beers from each brewery on offer. So although Oakham’s “Citra” gave them an early lead with their 2 points, it was my favourite Thornbridge’s “Otter’s Tears” that sold out next, and it was eventually Thornbridge who won, because they sold all their beers before Oakham did. A full list of the beers on offer at this beer festival is here:
The journey has, as you can imagine, been a long but enjoyable one. I have learned much about the UK beer industry en route – by way of example, if you click the link to the Pattenmakers Arms in nearby Duffield, you’ll see just how much communities care about their local. Notwithstanding the hubbub regarding Enterprise Inns mentioned in the article, the good news is that the penultimate session of my 500-beer journey was at the Pattenmakers’ own beer festival, and it has to be said, the community are still standing by their pub – no matter if the owners run a questionable business model – because it’s the new manager who has continued to make the difference locally… just look at this beer splattered list of ales on offer.
My personal favourite for the year’s 500 happens to be on this list.. an 80/ (pronounced eighty shilling, or pint of ‘heavy’) from Scotland. It’s called “Loch Ness” by the brewery of the same name. Unsurprisingly (because of Nessie), this cask beer was long and dark – it had a heavy texture of toasted oaks, and smoked beautifully. Amazingly, it was only 4.4%. A great end to a long tail, er, tale. I’ve been so consumed in getting the beers under my belt (so to speak), I just didn’t get time to write witty pieces on my travels – lesson learned! So, for the next 4 months, I shall make the effort to capture some quaint stories en route, wherever the unknown destination may be.