Another year and another round of all our favourite beer festivals begins. There are several local festivals in and around the Bedfordshire area and they are nicely spread across the year. Always the first is Luton, which is run by the South Bedfordshire CAMRA branch. Despite the hectic nature of life I had a free day and was able to attend the Thursday session. I could be lazy and just right “for details see last year’s post” but as I went to look for last year’s post I found that it has not posted or has been lost. So for the first time on this blog let me introduce you to Luton.
For my money Luton beer festival has one major problem, its location. The venue itself is perfectly fine, just getting to the venue can put off some of those who have heard the details of what Hightown is like after dark. If you are local-ish you will know what I mean. If you are from the Anglia region, I’m sure you will have heard about it on the local news. If you are from further afield, just Google it.
Once you have braved the badlands of Hightown you are perfectly safe inside what is normally a local sports hall, given up for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, as a the place to go for the beer drinkers of Bedfordshire and beyond. There are two main rooms. One has the LocAle bar and the cider bar. The other room has the national parks bar, the everywhere else bar and the bottled beer bar. As variety is the spice of life I suggest a wander around to try something from all the bars. There are great beers to be had at all of them.
Staff of the Black Lion receive their award from Local MP’s
We happened to be in the first room when the local MP’s for Luton (North) and Luton (South) stood up on stage to declare the festival open, even though people had been drinking for six hours by now. They then went on to present the South Bedfordshire CAMRA pub of the year to the Black Lion in Leighton Buzzard. I was again with my mate Jonny on this outing and he took much dislike to this. He found that politicising what should be a fun evening out was a step too far for him. Especially as two barrels of beer (one in each room) was sponsored by the Labour party.
Strangely sponsored Barrels!
There were some other curious barrel sponsorships as well. One barrel just said “Luton Haiku” with no contact details at all. Google tells me there is a Twitter account that just does Haikus about Luton. That is all I could find on the subject. Apparently Clod magazine has made these short form poems into books, it is now on its third volume. More mystifying that this, however, was the barrel which mealy said “ALAN WHEELER LEGENDARY LUTON LIBRARIAN”. Err… yes, well done Alan.
The important bit to remember is that it’s all about the beer. With that in mind here are a few of my highlights. First of all it was my first chance to try something from the Ampthill Brewhouse. They are a relatively new brewery, taking over from the short lived Ampthill brewery and they are the nearest brewers to where I live. I am pleased to report that their 3.4% Session ale is a beautifully easy drink to settle into a night at the beer festival. Continuing the local theme Leighton Buzzard Brewery had their 4.2% Cuckoo originally only meant to be served in the Cuckoo micro pub in Toddington. Also, staying local I tried a medium/sweet Evershed’s Town and Country Cider, from the north of the county.
Brewdog’s Vagabond – Gluten Free Pale Ale
Moving further away we tried several beers from far and wide in the non-local room, however the stand out for me in here was a bottle of Brewdog’s Vagabond, 4.5%. We had a lengthy discussion with the chap behind the bar about whether CAMRA should even be serving Brewdog products, not being real ale an’ all. I doubt there will ever be a definitive answer.
One final beer I want to mention was Sorachi City by Golden Triangle, 3.9%. If anyone out there has had a try of this fantastic beer please get in touch and tell me what that flavour is I get on the nose! It is driving me mad. I asked the guy behind the bar and he instantly said blue cheese, his speed in response proved that there has been previous discussions about this beer. I can see where the cheese idea comes from but I can’t be sure that is it. There is certainly a very creamy mouth-feel to the drink which could convince some of the cheese flavour but I’m not so sure.
If you like the sound of Luton Beer Festival it is on the third weekend of February each year at the Hightown Community Sports & Arts Centre, York Street, Luton LU2 0JD. For more information: http://southbeds.camra.org.uk/