The Stag’s Head Winter Beer Festival – Reviewed

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Last week saw the Stag’s Head play host to a variety of local ales and world bottled beers, with the promise that the most popular of each would become a Stag’s Head regular. I dutifully popped in to check out what was going on.

The crowd on the first night, Tuesday 22nd, was slightly larger than the usual midweek Stag’s crowd, swelled by the presence of several societies, notably Rocksoc who were making the most of the selection of beer on offer. I met up with a group of people also there to try the beer, we ordered pints and got down to the serious conversation.

My first beer of the evening was an Elderado, from the Bowman brewery. It turned out to be a fairly light ale with a delicate floral flavour but a pleasant bitterness to it as well. At a not too strong, being 3.5%, I could certainly imagine enjoying one of these with a good pub lunch. A great beer but maybe not ideal for the Stag’s Head.

As we drank and played darts, people were discussing the selection of beers available. It was generally agreed that while the ales were a reasonable cross-section of what the local area had to offer, the bottled beers were nothing special at all. Someone remarked that anything you can pick up at Tesco has no place at a beer festival. Particularly disappointing was the presence of Brahma, not a bad lager by any means but despite its Brazilian origins it is brewed in the UK for sale here and is produced by the largest brewing company in the world.

The atmosphere in the Stag’s head was compared to other local beer festivals, particularly the South Western Arms autumn beer festival which had just taken place. Consensus was that the South Western took the honours here, with the sheer quantity of beer lovers they get through the door, and the fact that the Manchester United game was showing in the Stag’s Head, distracting most people from conversation. The Stag’s Head lost out in other regards too, the South Western Arms typically offer thirty or more different ales whereas the Stag’s could only manage thirteen.

I polled other drinkers about what they had chosen: Joe Spencer said Moondance was drinkable, but not one to savour, maybe a good beer for a serious drinking session. He added afterwards that it was a bit bland and watery to start an evening with. Matt Couldrey was enjoying an Old Cooperage, telling anyone who would listen “I am happy with this.” Carmine Wainman was disappointed with his drink, but told me “it’s not so much that the beer is bad but that it was poured badly.”

I myself was by this time trying Alton’s Pride which was very refreshing. It tasted of citrus and was crisp but the aftertaste was very bitter – a cleaner finish would have been better. It only served to reinforce how much I had enjoyed the Elderado.

All in all, the winter beer festival was an enjoyable experience and made a pleasant change from the regular beer choices in the Stag’s Head. Hardcore ale fans would possibly turn their noses up at some of the choices but for the more casual beer drinker there was something for everyone.

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