Yo ho ho.... Warriorfest 2018

Sunday, 29 July 2018
Yo ho ho.... Warriorfest 2018
Sunday, 29 July 2018
This glass was definitely half full
“Some pirates achieved immortality by great deeds of cruelty or derring-do. Some achieved immortality by amassing great wealth. But the captain had long ago decided that he would, on the whole, prefer to achieve immortality by not dying.”

Anyone who read my review of last year's Warriorfest, or indeed my recent blog post about surviving a craft beer festival, will understand why self preservation was at the fore front of my mind as I approached this weekend. 

Warriorfest 2017 was without doubt one of the best, if not the best, beer event that I'd been too. So my concerns were two fold; could the organisers, Staggeringly Good, match (or even top) the previous year and could I show some restraint when faced with a frankly ridiculously good beer list?

Well it was a big piratey "Aye" to both questions!

After the success of 2017, Staggeringly Good took the brave but ultimately wise decision to spread the event over two nights, effectively doubling the amount of beer lovers that could enjoy the fun and I understand that both sessions were close to sell outs. But thanks to the strict numbers policy of the dockyard this still meant that there was more than enough room to swing a cat of nine tails and I think the longest I waited at a bar was about five minutes.

The setting itself is as unique as it comes; HMS Warrior, the first iron hulled armoured battleship, was launched in 1860 and after a wonderful restoration now survives as a museum and private hire venue. So when boarded by hundreds of beer drinkers the atmosphere, surrounded by cannons, muskets and cannonballs, is unmatched. 
The historic HMS Warrior
Music was provided by a number of local acts including Lady and the Dukes, Skaraman and the Bossard String Quartet, although if I'm being honest I was too busy enjoying the beer to really appreciate the bands. But I was delighted to see the return of the Shanty Buoys who roamed the ship, leading the tables of drinkers in rousing renditions of various historic tunes. 

Food was provided by Need Street Food who offered a small but very tasty menu of Pirate Pork Dogs and fries, with veggie and vegan options available.

Of course the setting, entertainment and food mean nothing if the beer line up isn't up to scratch but here is where Warriorfest truly excelled. As well as championing local producers like Southsea Brewing, Unity and Vibrant Forest, some of the truly great craft brewers from the UK and beyond were also represented including Deya, Cloudwater and Warpigs to name just a few. 
A truly world class brewery list
The beer list was so good that even if you missed something that you really set your heart on, there was something just as good for you to pick instead.

I didn't drink a bad beer all night but the highlights for me were;

Deya's "Invoice me for the microphone" IPA - classic haze from the Cheltenham based superstars
Brewdog's "Paradox" Single Barrel Absinthe Aged Imperial Stout - darker than the bottom of the Mariana Trench, this rare beast packs in the flavour but is scarily drinkable considering it's ABV in excess of 13%
Vibrant Forest's "Gyroscope" DIPA - a rare cask outing for this stunning double IPA crammed with citrus flavours
Arundel's "Maple Syrup, Chocolate and Coffee Stout" - I'd been itching to try this ever since it was released, every flavour listed in it's name is present and it was a perfect beer to end the night on.
Arundel's Maple Syrup, Chocolate and Coffee Stout was like desert in a glass
To keep things moving smoother at the bar the currency was token based; with a bag of six tokens costing £20 (working out as £3.33 each) or you could buy them individually for £3.50. Then depending on the beer a single token would get you a third, half or two thirds. It's a system that worked well and with the staff pouring by eye into your own souvenir glass most of the the pours were on the generous side. I spent less than £30 on the night itself and certainly didn't feel like I went without or that I hadn't got my monies worth.
Staggeringly Good didn't scrimp on the details; check out these "beer tokens"
There are still small areas for improvement. For example I had trouble locating any drinking water at the bars I asked at, which would have helped not only to hydrate myself but also to rinse my glass when switching from a heavy imperial stout to a hazy IPA. But this is meant only as feedback and I'm sure these very minor quibbles will get ironed out as the event matures.

Overall Warriorfest 2018 was a huge success and amazingly an improvement on what was already a cracking event. I've already checked that I have the last weekend of July 2019 free in my diary as I don't want to miss what these guys bring next year.
Deya's "Invoice Me The Microphone."

Brewdog's "Paradox."

Good Chemistry's "Disco Fizz."

Vibrant Forest's "Gyroscope."

Weird Beard's "Kill Pills."

Siren's "Spin Botany."

The beer menu....

...that just...

...kept giving!"

"I'll be back."

The Northern Powerhouse Brew Series

Monday, 2 July 2018
The Northern Powerhouse Brew Series
Monday, 2 July 2018

I may be a beer writer based at the very bottom end of the UK but that doesn't mean that I don't recognise and appreciate the amazing craft ale being brewed by our friends in the north. For example Magic Rock are one of the true original trail blazers of the scene, Cloudwater's hazy IPAs and DIPAs are sought after all over the world and there doesn't seem to be a style that Northern Monk can't nail. Which explains why I was so excited when it was announced that Wylam, one of the hottest breweries in the UK, was releasing a series of collaborations inspired by the Great Exhibition of The North. 

Only 6600 cases were produced and I was able to grab mine from local bottleshop The Beer Musketeer.

You can read my thoughts on each individual beer below but in summary the quality of across the various styles was of a very high standard. What helps is that compared to the most recent Rainbow Project collaboration releases, none of the beers were too "out there" in style. That's not to say that there wasn't a certain degree of experimentation (American wheat ale with jasmine flowers and orange peel) but there wasn't a can amongst them that wasn't incredibly drinkable. If this becomes an annual project you can be sure I'll grab myself a case next time!

001 : Wylam x Buxton Brewery Company : Chocolate Chip Vanilla Imperial Stout 
ABV 10.5%
It pours glossy black with a caramel head that doesn't hang about and has an aroma of caramel, dark chocolate and digestive biscuit. It has very little carbonation, is not as heavy bodied as I'd hoped but does have a lovely smooth mouth feel. The taste is a heady mix of thick black treacle, cocoa, vanilla cream and digestive biscuit with a warming alcohol finish. This is a typical Buxton stout which if you've ever had one, is all the praise that it needs.

002 : Wylam  x Cloudwater Brew Co : Strong Brown Ale
ABV 6.3%
It sits in the glass an opaque, almost foreboding, dark brown with a small latte coloured head. The nose is a sweet blend of chocolate and vanilla, which follows through into the taste along with hazelnuts, a slight hint of floral hops and a sweet creamy finish. This takes the a traditional nutty brown ale and drags it into 21st century. 

003 : Wylam  x Black Lodge Brewery : Mixed Fermentation Farmhouse Ale with Apricot, Peach & Mango
ABV 7.5%
This looks stunning; bright cloudy orange with a small white head. Apricot and mango are both strong on the nose, with mango then dominating the flavour with a hint of banana esters on the finish. The mouth feel is smooth, almost creamy, with the whole package feeling like a Saison/New England IPA fusion and I love it.

004 : Wylam x Thornbridge Brewery : American Wheat Ale with Jasmine Flowers and Orange Peel
ABV 5.5%
This one pours a straw yellow with a small white head that offers some lacing. The aroma of orange peel is obvious with the delicate perfume of jasmine flower present but not overpowering. It's well carbonated with light mouth feel and is quite floral upfront on tasting, then pithy citrus bitterness comes strong. At the end there is a perfume like quality that threatens to overpower but is just about kept in check by the orange peel. 

005 : Wylam x Magic Rock : Forest Fruit Kettle Sour with Blackberry, Blackcurrant & Raspberry
ABV 4.5%
This is one eye catching beer, pouring a rich vibrant pinky red, with a white head that laces well. The nose is a wonderful punch of blackberries and raspberries and those fresh forest fruits are front and centre on tasting with a finish which is tart rather than face puckeringly sour. It has a light body with lovely carbonation and is one of the most refreshing beers I've had this year. This is top stuff and one of my favourites out of the box.

006 : Wylam x Hawkshead Brewery : DDH Pale with Citra BBC, Chinook BBC & Amarillo
ABV 5.0%
This has that classic modern pale ale look, hazy sunshine yellow with a tiny white head. The nose is grapefruit, mango and apricot and the body, whilst not as soft as some I've had, is light with a nice carbonation and a pleasing mouth feel. Stone fruits follow through strongly into the flavour before a pithy drying finish. It's a very solid session pale ale and one that I could happily drink all day.

007 : Wylam x Northern Monk : India Pale Ale with Citra BBC, Mosaic BBC, Vic Secret & Galaxy
ABV 7.2%
Straight from the can you know that this is going to be good, pouring a hazy creamy yellow with an aroma full of pineapple and mango. It has a creamy, medium body and the taste is ripe juicy mango, a little bit of sticky pine, before a slightly drying finish without any real bitterness. This is a great example of a New England Style IPA.

008 : Wylam x Box Social Brewing : DIPA with Citra Cryo, Amarillo Cryo, Bru 1 & Galaxy
ABV 8.5%
This DIPA pours a pale yellow with a haze that glows when the light hits it. The nose is a refreshing hit of citrus and it's pithy grapefruit that dominates the flavour, with hints of sticky pine before a drying finish with a nice smack of bitterness. It's not got the slightly cloying heavy body of some recent DIPAs and this beer overall is brilliantly executed.

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