As already documented by the indefatigable Tandleman, yesterday saw a coach load of freeloaders attempt a massive Spoons festival crawl. Thanks must go to Chris Riley for organising it and letting us in on some JDW secrets, the various staff who served us and the girls/ladies/women that put a buffet on for us.
The plan was to have 35 beers on between the participating venues. This amounts to nearly all the beers that are currently available-about a dozen or so are held back till later in the festival. I wasn’t keeping score, but a quick head count makes me think I tried 27-some of the better ones twice!
First stop was the Regal Moon. An impressive choice here with three rows of festival beers. Theakstons Grouse Beater was thin and unmemorable. Morrells Oxford Blue, despite the bizarre use of a long gone brewery was ok, as was Davenports Beer Hunter.
I found Batemans Hedgerows a refreshing palate cleaner, but the beer of the festival was discovered early on: Titanic Tomahawk. This had hops aplenty and a juicy body to go with it. There was just time for one local to get barred for eating too many (six) free bacon butties and then we were off.
The Cotton Bail in Hyde provided some al fresco drinking and a chance for some more sampling. Sharps Gentle Jane wasn’t hazy at all-despite the festival notes-but was pleasant enough. Triple FFF stunned many by winning Champion Beer of Britain with the decidedly average Alton’s Pride. On that basis they should do well with Rock Lobster.
Much better was the Val-Dieu Abbaye Blonde which was excellent and one that was repeated later. However, Fremlins was the disappointment of the festival: thin and without any of the promised flavours.
Stalybridge has the look of a town on permanent half-day closing and the Society Rooms had all the atmosphere of a gents’ lavatory on a wet Tuesday afternoon in October. However, there was nothing wrong with the beer; with Trashy Blonde going down a storm. The Herold Black Chalice was also very good.
The Ash Tree in Ashton was the first chance to sample Zululand Blonde and a disorderly queue duly formed. However, as often with continental beer cask attempts, it failed to live up to the hype. Not bad, but less than the sum of its parts and a little too sweet for my palate.
No such problem at the Up Steps in Oldham where the excellent Goose Island Honkers was greeted with enthusiasm by most. Although a few wimps, I mean dissenters, found it “too much in your face”. The guy to my right had been to the brewery and thought it a very good match. Meanwhile another of our party was reminiscing about seeing Jimi Hendrix play, just round the corner, many moons ago.
Last stop was the Squire Knot for some Boon Army (named after Clint Boon), some free Allgates and a buffet. I felt a bit sorry for the Allgates team as most people (not the beardy-weirdies, obviously) were more interested in the footie rather than meet the brewer. Apparently this was a phenomenon repeated up and down the land, although the result left many wishing they had stoked up on free beer beforehand.
So there you have it. Get down to your local Spoons for some cheap pongy ale. And, if you are a beardy-weirdie, don’t forget that you can use your vouchers-despite what some might say. Although, as I discovered, this may mean that you only get a 49p reduction instead of 50p, as the price cannot go below £1 a pint. Still, some sacrifices are worth making.