Last weekend was the second year of the Stonehaven Real Ale Festival. We went along to the first event a year ago and had a fantastic night with a lot of excellent beer on tap. This year happened to coincide with my (and my brother’s) 30th birthday, it would be rude not to pay a visit really.
In it’s first year I was working the next day and so played it fairly safe with the ABV numbers. This year I had no worries on that front yet found that on the whole there was a mainstream feel to the beer list. Very few high ABV beers on show, not that I was out to get trashed but I wasn’t going to be actively avoiding it this time round.
There were 66 taps listed on the slip included with your entry pint glass so a plan of attack was needed. Now, my knowledge of ale is always improving but even then there wasn’t many beers on show that I’d actually tasted. The obvious route was to avoid beer I already know and pick interesting names. Apart from that it was just going to be pot luck.
Upon arrival we threaded through the packed crowd and found ourselves standing at the Carron section of the bar. The first tap I saw was from the Moulin brewery and so fate had dealt me my first beer of the night. I’d been in Pitlochry earlier in the week and had planned to visit the brewery but a sore knee put me off walking up the hill and we visited the hydro dam instead. Now I could make up for missing the visit by sampling their beer instead and a fine first drink of the night it was.
At this point some of our friends started to arrive to help welcome us into old age and the boozing began in earnest. During this period Cairngorm’s Autumn Nuts, the festival ale Spirit Of Glenury (au natural version), Ayr’s Leezie Lundie and Traquair’s Bear Ale were all ticked off my sheet.
My beer tokens were running out fast and I made a trip upstairs to the Celtic bar featuring Welsh, Irish and some local breweries for a glass of Skinner’s Ginger Tosser. This had been causing us great amusement all night due to the hair colour of a couple of members in our group. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones with ginger friends who tried that particular beer in their honour, a fine marketing gimmick in a country with more strawberry blondes than any other.
It was around this point, still quite early in the evening that I had to buy more vouchers. To be honest it all gets a bit hazy from then. I tried a pint of Burnside’s Empire which I had one taste of and had to return it to the bar. No idea what was wrong with it but it didn’t taste right at all and the lady behind the bar confirmed I wasn’t the only one that thought so. Hanging around that part of the bar later on it seems all their beers were suffering from the same malaise. Hopefully it was a freak occurrence rather than a feature of their flavour. The ticks on my sheet suggest I also tried Deeside’s Nechatan and Otley’s O1 at this point though by now everyone was just having a great time cracking jokes and enjoying the atmosphere. It didn’t matter so much what we were drinking.
At some point I also tried the Bramble Ale that was proving very popular, Tempest’s Emanation and one other beer which I don’t appear to have marked down. It was the end of the night and I think I’d given up trying to borrow a pen from someone by that point.
Of all the beers we tried there was one clear favourite. The Spirit Of Glenury (Barrel Aged) was brewed especially for the festival and aged in whisky casks in tribute to the old Royal Glenury distillery which used to make whisky in the town. A superb ale with a very distinctive taste that definitely gave a suggestion of whisky but it was a sweet flavour rather than an expected harshness. Everyone we were with who tried it thought it was excellent.
Interestingly I’ve just looked through the list of beer I drank (see below) and I didn’t have a single one over 5% in strength. So even though I wasn’t actively avoiding the high ABVs I still didn’t find myself drinking them. Not sure what that says, it was just a surprise after I looked back over the night.
The Stoney ale festival is a fantastic local event fully deserving of continued support. Well organised, with a great selection of beer, we had a great time for the second year running and it was a wonderful entry into my birthday week. Around 8000 pints were enjoyed over the weekend with the last one being poured at 9pm on Saturday night. Next years event falls on our actual birthday, sounds like a great excuse for a drink to me!
Here’s the full list of beers I tried (minus the final mystery pint I can’t recall):
Skinners Ginger Tosser
Traditional Scottish Ales Bramble Ale
Ayr Brewing Co Leezie Lundie
Cairngorm Autumn Nuts
Harviestoun Hoptober Fest
Spirit Of Glenury Au Naturale
Spirit Of Glenury Barrel Aged
Moulin Light Ale
Traquair Bear Ale