It's been a couple of weeks since the launch of the Good Beer Guide. Our local branch decided to have a little launch party in the local Wetherspoons. Apparently some of them were worried it would be a waste of time. Well I'm not sure what they wanted to achieve, but it seems it got some local press interest and I enjoyed the afternoon as well, so I think it was worth it.
There were three notable interesting things there for me. First was the chance to try Blackbeck Brewery's first brew, called Trial Run, no ABV declared on the clip but I imagine a typical just under 4% type of thing. This brewery has been a long time in the pipeline. Indeed it appears on the now out of print Ale Trail1 leaflet that was printed about 3 years ago. So, is the beer worth waiting for? It's certainly inoffensive. Some might just say bland. It's certainly very quaffable, if a session ale is the thing you are looking for. Not exactly exciting, but then not unpleasant either.
The other ale I had a chance to try was Whitehaven's recent addition called Breeze 3.9%. I'll be honest in saying I haven't been overly inspired by the beers from this Ennerdale based brewery, but at least they have been brewing, and with some enthusiasm. They don't appear on the Ale Trail map but have been going for a couple of years now and are certainly getting their beers out there. Because Sheila is a jolly nice person and still talks to me even if I have been critical of her beer I was keen to find one I liked. Was this going to be the one? I can say definitely it is. Breeze is a nice balanced beer, a good session beer with malty body and some nice hopping. No evidence of anything unpleasant to my palate and I could have very happily had another.
However, there was the Ennerdale Blonde 3.8%, also from the same brewery, I had tried to be nice about it last time I drunk it, but was not completely happy with it. Everything deserves a second chance. Wow, what a difference. Actually, really, really a whole load better. These people really have been learning I'd say. Sheila was there and told me they had been working really hard to improve the beer. It shows, grand job.
But of course you can never be sure when you get a bad beer if it's the fault of the brewery or the fault of the pub. Despite my dislike of Wetherspoons, the Bransty Arch in Whitehaven looks after it's beers well. After all, it also got into the Good Beer Guide, along with us, so it must be good. I can honestly say I've never had a bad pint there and this occasion was no different.
Oh, nearly forgot, they decided to have a raffle, a bit of fun. I took along a bottle of Tokyo* just for a laugh to put in as a prize. I'm not sure they knew what to make of the strongest beer in the UK.
1The Ale Trail was a cool idea that came out of the Foot and Mouth disaster. This agricultural disease not only caused farming great problems but severely damaged, and possibly changed forever the tourist industry in The Lake District. Grant aid provided the funding to produce a leaflet that gave information for the visitors about the microbreweries in Cumbria. It got revised and reprinted about 3 years ago funded by the breweries themselves with a little bit of further grant aid and some support from CAMRA. It is currently out of print.