Factoberfest 2011

Door into the Cafe
Lovely redbrick factory
After a lot of Northern Ireland beer drinking recently it was time to get back across to England and where better to visit than one of my favourite “discoveries” of the year, BristolBeer Factory (BBF). Last weekend saw the return of the annual Factoberfest to Southville in Bristol. 

Just up the road from the brewery, the two-day event is held in a converted Tobacco factory. In addition to the regular bar and café was a temporary stillage set up outside with a selection of 30 beers from across the South West and beyond. There were also ciders and a perry for those fruit inclined and a selection of food and craft stalls and a stage for live music completed the picture.

A selection of bottles to buy
Turning up on the dot at twelve o’clock (due to panicking I may not be able to try all the beers I wanted to in time for my return train at 4:30) I was met with a fairly empty courtyard with a few stalls. Following my beer hunting nose I turned a corner and met with the site of an open but empty bar…perfect.

After sussing out the prices (a very reasonable £3 a pint, regardless of ABV) I began my day with Arbor inferiority complex and set about to perusing the beer list in order to formulate a plan of attack. A reimagined mild but packed full of resinous and aromatic floral notes from the blend of hops from all the usual suspects finishing with a dry and bitter aftertaste. Tonnes of flavour for its 3.4%.

Sticking to halves (which as all good beer festival attendees know means you can try more beers) I ordered myself a half of the Oak Aged version of the BBF No.7 Having not tried the original No. 7 I’m not in a position to compare the flavours, but taking the beer on its own, the presence of the oak is immediately noticeable. Rounded caramel and vanilla notes along with the general “oaky timbre” of a virgin wood aged beer were to the fore, with a malty bitter hiding in the background, finishing with an orange peel note. Certainly less one dimensional than certain Scottish barrel users…

Half of the beers on gravity
 Needing a palate cleanser after that oak attack I went for the BBF Independence. A good example of a new world pale ale this beer was pithy, resinous and clean with a floral aroma. The beer really benefitted from its 60 minutes continual hopping with centennial, cascade and amarillo, probably my favourite three US hops.

I was felling peckish by this point and decided to investigate  the food. Wooed by the free samples I settled on a tub of Chilli Daddy mixed beansprouts and Szeuchan noodles. This went perfectly with Melissa Cole/Otley’s collaboration beer Thai Bo. Light blonde with noticeable galangal and subtle lime on the nose. The lime on the palate helped to cool the spicy chilli of the noodles and a spicy malt finish with a hint of the bubblegum/hay/tangerine flavours from the sorachi ace hops. A brilliant and unique beer.

After that slew of pale beers I fancied something darker. I’d hoped to be able to try the vanilla stout (part of the upcoming twelve stouts for Christmas range) but the brewers were not happy with it so instead I opted for the other newcomer Chocolate Stout. Pitch black with a chocolate malt nose with spicy rasins with cocoa powder and a hint of peppermint. Very deceptive for its 5% with a chalky dry yet sweet finish.

It got busier throughout the day
Having heard a lot of noise in the blogosphere about Moor’s unfined beer I decided to try their Confidence. Starting well with a pithy, orange peel the flavour became dominated by earthy yeast and wheat notes, killing all the other flavours and ending with a weird soil/milk note. This was probably my biggest disappointment of the weekend. Not to worry however as the next beer would turn out to be one of my favourites, BBF Saison. Light amber with banana and gentle cloves in the nose. Plenty of black pepper in the body, but also a slew of tropical fruit flavours with pineapple and tangerine particularly boisterous. A chat with the brewer revealed that these flavours came from the high dose of Bobek hops with First Gold and Pioneer providing ample support in the bittering department.

After being so impressed by Arbor Ales first thing I decided to go back and try their other two. Stella is another Australian hop variety and not one I’ve knowingly tried before. Grapefruit and redcurrant on the nose of this single hop creation with a pithy shortcake body and bitter finish with a hint of melon rind. Next up was their Black-eyed “Pale” Ale, a black IPA. Dusty Terry’s Chocolate orange on the nose with more pithy orange in the body and a dy chocolate sweetness. As a comparison I decided to try the Otley Oxymoron. This was almost a dark saison with coriander and chocolate on the nose and a spicy lemon peel taste and bitter finish. I preferred this to Arbor’s attempt but both were enjoyable.

Almost ready to head on there was just nough time for a pieminster pie and a few swift halves. I chose the Heidi (feta, sweet potato and spinanch) which went down amazingly with the chocolate flavours of the black IPA. (I would return on the Sunday for the other veggie option, asparagus and wild mushroom, which was also superb). BBF Sunrise dry-hopped with Galaxy would provide my penultimate beer. I was impressed by the use of this hop in St Austell Trelawny but feel Greene King murdered it in Old Golden Hen. Sunrise gave a good blank slate on which the hop could work its magic with grassy malt and caramel sweetness being taken over by the dry hoppiness and peach of the galaxy

No beer festival would be complete without a “silly” beer and this was provided in the form of a cherry stout from Fyne Ales (makers of the superb Jarl). Plenty of black cherry and plain chocolate on the nose the ruby brown beer and a cherry yoghurt flavour with a dry and fruity finish. This rounded off the day nicely and all that remained was for me to grab some 5-chili olives and rush back to the station for my trip home. All in all a superb day, with no dull beers and few disappointments. I’m certainly looking forward to BBF’s Christmas Stouts if the chocolate one was anything to go by. If you haven’t yet tried any of their beers, why not?! The postage rates are very reasonable, so get onto their online store and order yourselves some!

 There are no pictures of the beers as I was too keen to drink them!

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