Portsmouth Beer Festival Christmas Session; my review...

Monday, 19 December 2016

So now that my head is cleared it's time to reflect (and try to remember) my night at the Portsmouth Beer Festival on Saturday 17th December.

It's actually the first of their events that I've attended, as my shifts just haven't worked out previously.

I attended the Saturday evening (6pm to 11pm) which was the third and final session.

So what did I like about the event?

Well first of all, it was great value. Tickets were only £10.50 which included a souvenir glass to use at the event and keep (pint or half pint, your choice) and one free beer token.

Then the tokens themselves were £21 for twelve; with one token then worth a half pint of any beer inside. My maths tells me that means you're paying £3.50 a pint, which I accept doesn't include your entrance fee, but I think still offers pretty good value for money.

The fact that you buy your tokens on the way in means that there are no cash transactions at the bars, which then means very quick serving time. I don't think I ever waited more than around three or four minutes to get served, which when you consider that this event was a sell out is excellent.

The bands that I saw in the Saturday night sessions were very good. Local band Winters Hill kicked off and their folk/rock sound was perfect for the event. Dirty Diesel Outlaw Orchestra were a raucous delight and the headliners Fleetingwood Mac wowed with a host of well recognised crowd pleasing numbers. But my personal favourite were Steel Strum. This was the second time I'd seen them at a beer festival and their steel drum instrumental versions of an eclectic range of covers was amazing. There was also something very amusing about watching people's faces as they tried to work out what track the band were playing... you're just not used to hearing an Usher song played on a steel drum and it sometimes took a while for the penny to drop!

Food options were pretty good and whilst the £5 I paid for the hot dog from O'Haggan's BBQ may be a little steep, there is no denying that the Pork and Plum sausage inside was top notch. On reflection I've paid more for less quality at other events.

I know that some comments made on a craft beer forum had been dismissive about the range of beers on offer, criticising the 'safe' nature of the selections and the lack of any stronger Double IPAs or Imperial Stouts.

However I actually think the selection was pretty spot on; although there was a lot of traditional real ale offerings there were also representations from some very forward thinking craft brewers. There really was something for everyone.

The beer highlights for me;

The extra hoppy StaggerSaurus that Staggeringly Good brought along was a juicy hazy delight and I hope is something they do again (maybe for Warriorfest?...).

Southsea Brewing's Casemate cemented itself as one of my favourite IPAs and we really are lucky to have another great brewery on our doorstep.

Wild Beer's Bibble proved itself to be a cracking session Pale Ale.

Crème Brule by Darkstar was even better by cask than it was by can.

Bristol Beer Factory's Milk Stout was a dark creamy unctuous wonder.

To add some shade to the light, there were two aspects that didn't work so well for me;

The biggest issue was that it wasn't too far into the Saturday evening session that some beers started to sell out. Getting the quantities right must be near on impossible, however to have something as amazing as Dark Star's Crème Brule sell out so early was hugely disappointing.  I've also seen on the Facebook feedback that a number of the ciders sold out very early. I don't know what the solution is but when the Saturday evening session is first to sell out, steps need to be taken to ensure that those attending don't feel like they are missing out.

Also, the acoustics seemed slightly off as for two of the bands it was difficult to make out the vocals above the instruments. When you've got such good acts performing it's a shame not to be able to get the most out of them.

But these two points are only meant as feedback as I had a cracking time, I think it was a huge success and will definitely do my best to attend again in the future.

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