We Reviewed the Stags’ Beer Festival Ales And Got Quite Drunk


It has come to the time of year when the Stags Head, the pub on campus, has its annual beer festival, where a collection of local cask ales and craft beers are sold. Wessex Scene had the chance to sample the ales on offer, so naturally I jumped at the chance. I also roped in my colleague Cameron Meldrum, as having nearly 11 pints to myself seemed a little too ambitious.

Only the 10 1/2 pints to get through…

For those unfamiliar with the Stags’ Beer festival, it consists of 11 cask ales from local breweries (although the flyer says 12 – only a small oversight there; maybe the makers of the flyer should get that checked) and 12 local craft beers. We’re saving the beers for another time, so only our review of the ales are below. We had one pint of each (apart from a 9% ale, which was 1/2 a pint), and we used many technical terms such as ‘aroma’, ‘palate’ and ‘aftertaste’. So, without further ado, here goes!


Ale no. 1 – Winter Meltdown (Darkstar)


Smell: We agreed that it smelled of the seaside, with Cameron noting the aroma of the Suffolk coastline. Subtle hints of seaweed also came through.

Taste: There was unanimous agreement that the aftertaste was strong, but the fact that this was our first ale may have clouded our judgement. The comment that is tasted like a watered-down version of flat Stella Artois was also noted.

Michael’s rating: 7

Cameron’s rating: 7


Ale no.2  – Original (Darkstar)

IMG_0770Smell: Very mellow, with a fruity hint, that was subtle yet apparent to the novice ale drinker. We also commented that the aroma exhibited an earthy persona.

Taste: Whilst the flavour certainly didn’t hit you as soon as the silky black substance hit your lips, it definitely did after you swallowed. The phrase ‘alcoholic flat coke’ sprang to mind, but that is certainly no bad thing.

Michael’s rating: 7.5

Cameron’s rating: 6.5



Ale no.3 – Taiphoon (Hopback)

IMG_0771Smell: This aroma certainly made an impression on our nasal cavities. The prevalent emanating odour was certainly that of unclean hospital, with it being swiftly taken over by a stench that can only be likened to that of Jesters’ toilets that haven’t been cleaned in about a week.

Taste: Like so many ales in this list, the flavour hits you at the end of the sip, with a sugary aftertaste being left behind as the speciality ale trickles down your throat.

Michael’s rating: 5.5

Cameron’s rating: 8


Ale no.4 – Old Dick (Suthwyck Ales)


Smell: A rarity on this list of ales, as the odour exhibited was one of nothingness; you would need nostrils displaying exceptional prowess in the field of aromatic detection to pick up on the subtle hints of weak squash emanating from this ale.

Taste: Certainly an entry-level ale; Old Dick was very easy to swallow, with the contents effortlessly flowing down our throats. Certainly the aftertaste is metallic in its nature.

Michael’s rating: 8

Cameron’s rating: 7



Ale no.5 – Smells Like Team Spirit (fff)

IMG_0773Smell: Unfortunately this ale doesn’t really smell of anything at all; although the point that this would be an ideal ‘festival ale’ does come through, with a whiff of the hedgerows of Cornwall coming through if you focus hard enough. The phrase ‘bubblegummy’ also comes to mind.

Taste: Sadly more Nickelback than Nirvana; when drinking this ale you feel like you aren’t drinking anything at all. Despite this, the somewhat fruity aftertaste does linger in the roof of your mouth throughout.

Michael’s rating: 6.5

Cameron’s rating: 7.5


Ale no.6 – Gold Spice (Keystone)

IMG_0775Smell: Christmassy, with a hint of that clean bathroom smell. Easily identifiable with an 80’s Christmas party. The aroma also displays subtle hints of gingerbread and fortified wine, like the sort your gran may get too merry on at the family Christmas dinner table.

Taste: This ale ranks amongst our favourites, and it is certainly sweeter that most ales that are on offer in the Stags. The taste does hang around in your mouth for quite a while, but it never seems to get any stronger, no matter how many sips you take. We would also affectionately describe this ale as flavoured dishwater.

Michael’s rating: 8

Cameron’s rating: 8


Ale no.7 – Black Stag (Vibrant)IMG_0774

Smell: Two words – liquor coffee. The smell is very strong, and Cameron indeed noted that if you smell it for too long you start to get a whiff of burnt tyres.

Taste: Very oaky in its texture (whatever that means). It also reminds you of that time you had one-too-many Jack Daniel’s at your mate’s 16th birthday party.

Michael’s rating: 7

Cameron’s rating: 7.5


Ale no.8 – Black Oktober (Vibrant)

IMG_0776Smell: The only ale which was served as 1/2 pint due to the fact that is was 9%, it is very metallic, similar to the aroma you get when you leave a bottle of Apple Sours out opened for two weeks.

Taste: It certainly feels thicker than any other ale we’ve sampled so far, with a very strong marmitey aftertaste – as written down in our (highly scientific) notes, this ale is ‘earthy throat coffee’. It is certainly too alcoholic in its taste for ale. We were joined at this point in the evening by our ale-loving friend, who provided the succinct analysis that this ale was like ‘marmite which grew up, got a job and then lost everything’.

Michael’s rating: 5 (mainly because it only came as a 1/2 pint)

Cameron’s rating: 3 (he really didn’t like this one)


Ale no.9 – White Wing (Hammerpot)IMG_0777

Smell: Like normal beer/ale – nothing special, yet whiffs of weak marmite occasionally come to the fore. We would imagine that this is a good entry-level beverage.

Taste: Like standard ale, certainly an inoffensive beverage. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Michael’s rating: 7

Cameron’s rating: 7


Ale no.10 – Perridge Pale Ale (Flowerpots)

IMG_0779Smell: The first word that came to our heads when describing the smell of this ale was ‘cold’. When taking a good long sniff of this beverage, you could easily imagine yourself surrounded by a deep layer of snow. Other aromas that come to the fore are that of a swimming pool, and, weirdly, dried apricots (that was Cameron).

Taste: Very hopsy (as if any of us have any idea what that means), and also very light on the palate. It also lingers in the throat like when you accidentally spray deodorant too near your face, and it also has a certain ‘hotness’ in its eagerness to remain on your tongue.

Michael’s rating: 7

Cameron’s rating: 7.5


Ale no.11 – Bunny Chaser (Longdog)

IMG_0778Smell: Certainly a few contrasting aromas were detected here. On one hand, the soapy aroma that this ale exuded reminded us of our Nan’s bathroom, straight from the 1970’s, complete with pink bubble bath. On the other hand, a ‘farmy smell’ also became apparent – not of hay or straw or anything like that, but the shit from the animals.

Taste: The ale was fizzy on the tongue with a sandy & salty aftertaste, and after swishing it in our mouths a few times memories came flooding back of the times when you were in the sea and you accidentally got seawater in your mouth – certainly a salty surprise.

Michael’s rating: 6

Cameron’s rating: 6.5


So our review of the ales on offer at the Stags’ beer festival is at an end, and yes, if you have many pints of strong ale you will get quite tipsy. Our personal favourite is certainly the ‘flavoured dishwater’ that is the Gold Spice ale! So congratulations to that particular beverage. Of course, by the end, every ale was amazing and we were slurring our words beautifully. We even did text-a-toastie (thanks to the folks at the Christian Union!) about five times.


Of course, whilst myself and Cameron are right about most things, we cannot determine everybody’s tastes, so really the only thing that you guys need to do is to try all the ales from the Stags and work out which one is your favourite – but to be honest, they are all better than Stella or Fosters.

PS: Please drink responsibly, or at least convince others that you are.


Deputy Editor of the Wessex Scene for 2015/16. I often write News, Politics and Opinion pieces. As well as writing for the Scene I can be found in the Surge Radio studio, where I am the Head of News. Also, as I'm new to twitter and desperate, follow me!! @95moliver

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