Eight years and still going strong. Sunfest 2014 could well be the best yet! Unintentionally, this year’s celebration of real ale has taken me into an exploration of brewery collaboration beers. There are half a dozen or so of these on offer this year. Brewery collaborations are a fantastic way to share ideas, expertise and knowledge and have some fun while you do it. Abbeydale did its first formal collaboration this year with Founders Brewery of Grand Rapids, Michigan. The beer is 3712, a 7.0% American PA beast – named after the distance in miles between our two breweries. A more recent collab led us all the way to Raw Brewery, Staveley. The idea – which as far as I know hasn’t been attempted before in the UK – was to try a Kaffir Lime leaf Coconut Stout. This is called Lady Boy and it’s 5.5%. Other collaborations are highlighted in the programme.
In total there are 110 beers on offer from 81 breweries. Eleven brewers are featured more than once mainly because there is either a good story behind them or it’s just beer I simply had to include! An ex employee of ours for example, up and left for Siren Brewery in early May. I exploited his betrayal by insisting he brought us up some beer for this weekend. We never miss an opportunity to source some new and superb quality beer. New Breweries to us this year include; Briggs Signature Beers, Firebrand Brewing Company, Fuggle Bunny Brew House (Sheffield’s newest micro brewery), Highland Brewing Co., Isle of Purbeck Brewery, Keltek Cornish Brewery, Keystone Brewery, Pigeon Fishers Craft Brewery, Stonehenge Ales, 360° Brewing Company & 6° North. Good luck trying them all! Give’em all a tweet if you have the time or patience. Use the hashtag #SunFest14 and Twitter addresses provided for most of the breweries.
One very special beer deserves a massive thank you from me personally to Stuart Neilson at North Riding Brew Pub. With several attempts (all failing) to get our heads together to collaborate together on a beer, Stuart produced a beer to commemorate the birth of my 9 week old son (as of this week). We discussed beer style, abv and hops etc but Stuart was adamant from the beginning that the name was going to be Benjamin James. The beer, "Benjamin James" is a 5.2% pale beer and if Stuart had had anything to do with it, you know it’s not going to be hop shy. And neither will Benjamin if his upbringing has anything to do with it!
On to speciality beers. From fruit, ginger, coffee and even chilli beers to spiced and wheat beers. They can be found in the Sunfest programme with a red box around the beer colour identifying them as extra special. To summarise, it’s "speciality" (red box) if the beer has something other than the four main ingredients; water, yeast, hops and barley. We also have a gluten free beer.
We’ve gone all out with the craft keg beer bar this year. Stepping up from six to now eight. I’m happy to announce we will be helping to launch a couple of local breweries’ new keg beers. We’ll be showcasing Acorn Brewery’s No. 1, a 4.5% modern pale ale and Stancill Brewery’s Lager at 5.0% and using an old original Pils recipe. I’m also really looking forward to a Punch In The Face 4.8% by Totally Brewed and Tiny Rebel’s Hank 4.0%.
Lastly, (said in hush whispers) two extra special casks are the beers from the wood. Absolution 5.3% – tried and tested before this weekend in our two pubs. And Old Ale 7.2% – a new beer of ours, purposely designed to be aged in a wooden cask and for an added extra oomph we’ve primed the cask with Maple Syrup and dry hopped it. The casks certainly imparted lovely oaky, whisky flavours in the Absolution, so the Old Ale will be very exciting.
… I said it was to be the best year yet didn’t I!
Hope you all enjoy the festival and please spare a thought for our charity this year Cavendish Cancer Care. I’m sure their cause requires no introduction. You will find collection buckets dotted around hoping for a spare coin or two or the rest of your beer ticket. Other ways to donate are on their website (cavcare.org.uk) or just drink some of our charity beer Dr Morton’s Survival Kit, available for the first time at this festival. For every pint sold Abbeydale will contribute 10p to Cavendish so fill ya boots 🙂
Cheers & Beers!