Scottish Real Ale Festival 2014

I'd only had cask ale a handful of times, so the Scottish Real Ale Festival was going to be a crash course in real ale. I arrived on the first day a few hours after it opened. The entry fee was 6 pounds with a full or half pint glass included in the cost which allowed free re entry to the event if you wanted to come back at a later point in the festival. The event was held in a large open room at the Edinburgh Corn Exchange. The setup consisted of a large island in the middle of the room where all the casks were arranged alphabetically by brewer. Around the island a few stands, food, high top tables, and limited seating were available. The extra room left made me wonder if more booths would be at the later days of the event.

A quick walk around revealed that despite it being early at around 3 in the afternoon, all the tables were already occupied. I noticed that the pricing was done by ABV, and sometimes a 1/3 was cheaper than a 1/2, sometimes the same, and sometimes not. The pricing made it convenient to try a large variety of beer and since a 1/2 pint cost the same per volume as a full one it didn't encourage over consumption by making drinking more cheaper. I grabbed my first 1/3 of a pint and had a seat on the floor.

The early crowd consisted of mainly older men. I guessed the average age of the patrons to be around 45 but possibly even 50. A few younger people were in the crowd and fit into the general beer enthusiast niche. I'd imagine later in the day or over the weekend the crowd would be younger and more diverse, but during working hours it felt slightly like attending a retirement party.

At one point towards the end of my time there I started to hear some strange noises, and after some brief mishaps with the PA system a few announcements were made. They started with some basic housekeeping and thanking everyone for coming out. Then it got down to the business of what the judges had rated as the best three beers out of the sixty or so at the festival. I had no idea that this was going to happen, and it was interesting to see what the panel of judges thought. Third place went to Fyne Ales Jarl which I had already sampled earlier in the afternoon. It is a golden style ale with only 3.8% ABV. I found it refreshingly hoppy, and I felt it would be fun to session. Rabbies Porter from Ayr Brewing came in second. The pamphlet from the event described it as, "rich dark sweet treacle fruit malts full bodied and a little smokey". The winner was Dark Moor brewed by Kelburn. I was almost done for the afternoon when they made the announcement, so I figured I could stomach another 1/ 3 of a pint to taste the best of the best. I personally wasn't that impressed with this old ale and was surprised that it was rated the best at the event. It did have some unique aspects to the flavor, which I assume the judges appreciated. At the end of the post I have brief tasting notes on the beers I sampled.

There were a few areas I felt the festival could have been better. The lack of seating was a nuisance, and I spent the whole event sitting on the floor or standing. The eight or so high top tables weren't enough either. It would have been great to be able to more comfortably sit, put your beer down or take tasting notes if you wanted. The lack of comfortable space lead to plenty of people standing by the bar around the island which made ordering difficult at times. A water fountain or access to cheap water would have been helpful too. I didn't realize I could have brought a backpack in to the event, so I didn't bother bringing a water bottle. Another area water would have helped was being able to rinse out your glass before having another sample. After awhile I had to wonder how the mixing of all the different beers in the glass would affect the flavor.

Despite a few drawbacks the Scottish Real Ale Festival was an enjoyable experience. The large selection of ale with very reasonable pricing allowed me to sample a very wide range of the wares on hand. The atmosphere was very relaxed and the crowd seemed to be having a good time. The free pamphlet handed out at the entrance had detailed descriptions of every beer available which made ordering simpler. The pamphlet also had information about real ale, styles of ale, and CAMRA news from different areas of the UK. I just wish I would have looked at the page which said, "When you have sampled 6 beers, each from a brewery from a different branch", you can have one of the 40 free t-shirts available. Although I didn't get the shirt I was still able to enjoy myself, and I'll consider going to another CAMRA Real Ale Festival in the future.

Beers Sampled With Brief Tasting Notes

Tempest Long White Cloud - mild hops, floral, tropical, decent, 7

Alechemy Black Aye PA - roasty smell, sweet, pretty good, easy to drink, licorice, 8

Fyne Ales Jarl - kind of bland but easy to drink, tropical hops, pretty good, would session, slight caramel sweetness, 8

Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted - what is that flavor, weird Chinese food packet, kind of gross, 5

Highland Sneaky Wee Orkney Stout- good, light roast, could drink plenty, chocolate, super smooth, 8

Stewart Brewing Radical Road - good but a bit weird, hoppy but not bitter, could maybe drink again, 7

Tryst Raj IPA - good fruity flavours, would drink again, strawberry nerds, weird, lemongrass, 8

Kelburn Dark Moor - slight grape, little bitter, ehh this is really the best beer?,  cranberry, 7

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About averageguysguidetobeer

Hi, I'm Colin, I love a good hoppy IPA, but I can find immense enjoyment in a solid session beer, imperial stout, quadrupel or a nostalgic beer from my past.


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