Here in Scotland spring takes a long time to arrive.
When the sun finally comes out I take the first chance I get to sit in WEST’s beer garden with a litre of St Mungo, even if I do still have to wear a coat and hat (hat jammed on firmly to stop it blowing away).
The other sign of spring is the appearance of Forth Valley CAMRA’s Larbert Beer Festival, so I always look forward to this one.
You can say one thing about Larbert: it does a good job of reflecting trends. The first time I went there was still an abundance of “traditional” under-hopped beers called 70/– and 80/–. In successive years it went for pale ’n’ hoppy in a big way, and this year all manner of botanical beers were in evidence.
In addition to the expected local brews, there are usually some rarely seen English beers.
I started off with Mary Jane from the Ilkley Brewery which was superbly fresh and bitter, just the thing to wash down the dust. Manchester’s Boggart Hole brewery then supplied a Dark Mild, full of roast coffee, chocolate, light and sweet.
Liverpool Organic Best Bitter came next: sulphury nose, citrus, long bitter finish.
The beers from Edinburgh’s newest brewery, Pilot, have only just started appearing in Glasgow pubs. I’d previously only tried a tea beer from them which wasn’t my sort of thing; if I’m going to drink something that tastes like tea, I’d rather just have a cup of tea and save on the alcohol and the expense. But their Mochachino is something else. Sweet, dark chocolate liquor and coffee roastiness, reminiscent of Tia Maria.
Demon Brew are back on the scene after parting company with their previous home in Prestonpans. The beer is currently being brewed at Tryst in Larbert just round the corner, so should be as fresh as can be. Their Firehead IPA certainly doesn’t taste like a Tryst beer: full, sweet, slightly slick with balancing resin. Slight yoghurt, berry fruits, gooseberries, much heavier mouthfeel than the ABV suggests.
Windswept Tornado is fruity and woody, but the surprise of the afternoon is an old favourite – Tryst Raj IPA. You’d think it would be starting to taste a bit jaded alongside the new-fangled Um Bongo-hopped beers, but on the contrary it’s the best I’ve had it in ages, spectacularly, almost harshly bitter.
After Larbert, the festivals follow in quick succession: Paisley starts tonight, then in June come FyneFest and then the first festival put on by Glasgow CAMRA in a generation. Should be good.