Since I’ve been writing this blog the rhythm of Scottish beer festivals has kind of etched itself into my mind. The season starts in spring with Larbert, carries on with Paisley, SRAF in Edinburgh, Fyne Ales festival at the brewery, and then Alloa is the last before winter. There are some others, Helensburgh, Stonehaven, Troon, Black Isle’s jamboree and Bo’ness, but they are a bit further afield and I don’t make a point of going to them every year.
Alloa itself, as I’ve previously found, is pretty poor for beer but the area round about is relatively well served with breweries. As a result Alloa beer festival has some of Scotland’s best known breweries on its doorstep: Harviestoun, Tryst, Williams Bros, TSA and some rarely seen except in their own pubs: Devon, Tin Pot.
I think Alloa is my favourite CAMRA festival now. Last year I was skint and couldn’t afford to go as a punter, so I volunteered to work on the door and behind the bar and had a great time. So much so I did it again this year.
What I like about this festival is that it’s so late in the year, the overnight temperature in the hall has dropped, so there are no problems with keeping the beer cool. As a result the beer is generally in fantastic nick. I was pouring ridiculously lively pints from gravity casks, giggling to myself as I thought about the idiots who occasionally try to tell me that gravity beer is always flat. Lovely fresh beer.
The first three pints I sold were from new-wave brewers Cromarty and Alechemy. Who says CAMRA only like dull bland beer? Both breweries had supplied intense pale ales with a heavy dry-hop character. Alechemy had their Cairnpapple served two different ways: one cask dry-hopped with Citra and the other with Galaxy. Both were stunning, the Galaxy version redolent of tropical fruit, the other dry and citrussy. Cromarty’s Hit The Lip was on the dank side, Rogue Wave similar, just stronger. Sadly the solitary cask from Fallen was stowed away and didn’t make it onto the bar.
Fyne Ales, Harviestoun and Tryst were all well represented with beers that were less perfumey and aromatic, but more bitter and satisfying. It’s a far cry from a couple of years ago when I complained about Scottish brewers making hopless bilge in the mistaken belief that it’s traditional. Or perhaps I’ve just learned to avoid those beers.