Wetherspoon Festival roundup

Yesterday marked the end of the second of 2011's JD Wetherspoon beer festivals. I've just got back from a great weekend visiting the Northern Ireland Wetherspoon pubs and got a lot more beers tried. Before the festival I was sceptical about the beer line up, so how did my experiences pan out?

The Good

By far the stand-out beer for me was Adnams American Style IPA (good brewer vlog here). It pissed all over Stone's effort (which I was disappointed about) and I enjoyed it so much I managed to fit in three pints of it over the weekend. For such an unassuming amber beer it is packed full of hop flavour, with character from each of the five hop types used, perfectly balanced. I only hope Adnams make it a regular brew, hop availability permitting!

St Austell Proper Black was even better in cask-conditioned format than the afore-tasted bottle.

Bend Eclipse Cascadian Dark Ale was the best of the American efforts. Plenty of cascade hops on the nose with a balance of sweet lemon and bitter chocolate and great condition made it very moreish.

The bad
Caledonian brewery and Doug Odell got together to produce cask 90 shilling. The beer was basically pure butterscotch and not at all pleasant to drink. Conversely, some people really enjoyed this.

Taking the pith had far too much peel added making it seem like drinking washing up liquid, I'd like to see future versions with much less.

The ugly

The first third of Everards Whakatu I tried was undrinkable, horrible beer a real butterbomb. I put this down to brewery error and it was the first beer in about three years I've been unable to finish.I gave it another try back in Belfast and itwas much better, perhaps a little thin but a decent NZ-hopped session beer. It goes to show that for all the decent cellar managers Wetherspoon ha, there are still those who don't know how to look afterbeer properly

My biggest disappointment? Caledonian Cossack Imperial Russian Stout. Neither fullbodied nor complex as the tasting notes suggested. Very little hop character andtasting more like a low ABV stout than something of 6%, verydisappointing indeed.
In all theturn-outwas mediocre at best thistime around, with a couple of hidden gems that I'd drink again. I got through 30 of the 50 beers, not bad going for living in the arse end of nowhere! If you're interested in what I thought of the other beers than check the ratebeer thingummy over there --->

As  always, I'm nosy and want to  hear your thoughts on the festival selection or your reasons for avoiding if that was the case.

There are a few other festival write-ups already online. The beer monkey did a Glasgow perambulation whilst Tandelman got a chance to try a lot of beers in one night and agrees with me Re Adnams.

(I'll update this post with other links if I find any more!)


  1. I'm sorry I missed the Adnams IPA in Wetherspoons. I had a pint of the (delicious) bottled version yesterday (although, if I remember rightly, the cask version has a considerably lower ABV, as with Broadside). The Caledonian Cossack was my biggest disappointment too, but from a very small selection; I was too busy to be able to make more than a couple of brief visits to the festival...

  2. Adnams bottled the american ipa last year but at a higher strength - it was really good.

  3. interesting, I put alot of the variations down to Wetherspoons knack of being a franchise pubco that somehow offers completely unique taste experience in every pub you visit and sometimes in the same one :)

    for me the Stones and Adnams IPA arent the same style of beer. the Stones I had was definately hoppy, BrewDog hoppy infact or akin to a Summer Lightning, it definately had that American IPA hop bomb style and bite to it that Id expected and wasnt disappointed by it even if Im not sure how much of it I could drink.

    The Adnams American IPA is (and always has been afaic) an English style IPA but made with American hops, its not trying to be an American hop explosion (certainly if it is, it fails on that), thats not to decry it, its a nice beer but its fairer IMO to compare it to Brewsters American Chopper, which Id say was my favourite beer of the festival, which was citrussy and zesty with a decent hop finish, or Piston Broke (a close 2nd favourite) which was more rounded fruity but still had a nice hop to it.

    disappointments, Fat Heads Yakima Sun, frankly it tasted off, or end of barrel at least, and Whakatu which might just be the naming it sounded like it would be more impressive than it tasted, and impressive it tasted not.

    overall Im not a fan of all the beers they produce specially for the festival, since chances are most of them wont see the light of day again, its all a bit experimental and you increase the risk of bad one off brews. There didnt seem to be as much promotion of the event as in previous years, certainly not as many people joining in, even though one pub I visited had completely sold out of all its festival beer one night and was passing off its regular beer as part of the festival line up, made me wonder if supplies were actually quite limited as things seemed to change round despite there being few drinking.

    thing is when Wetherspoons started doing this, beer festivals in pubs were quite rare one off/province of the odd real ale pub kind of thing. thesedays thats not the case lots of pubs manage to put on mini beer festivals for a week or weekend, they are almost as ubiqiutous as the pub quiz or karaoke and have as good a selection of beer on (encouraged I think by some of beer wholesalers if you can escape the tie) of course they cant compete on price or cheap food but be interesting to see if Wetherspoons look to carry on as they are with these festivals, or try something different next time.

  4. Very long comment there stono! I finally managed to get a taste of american C-hopper last night, but suffering a bit from palate fatigue perhaps as it tasted very subtly hopped. The stone was all bitterness and no aromatics, plus fairly thin, whereas Adnams had the malt bill to balance the hops.

    Didn't get a chance to try the piston broke either.

    I was surprised with the lack of promotion too.

  5. Steve

    Langers and I sampled 'Taking the pith' on Friday (see my ratebeer widget at the NEW blog http://cuddlybadger.blogspot.com ). Truly awful. Awful beyond belief. The Gingerbeard (a Wychwood concoction) was not great either - mind you the Curtis serves beer far too cold for my liking. The Kalamazoo Black Silk was ok; unspectacular but the best of a rather poor bunch.........but Spoons still took our CAMRA vouchers ;-}

  6. Gingerbeard was pretty tastywhen it came on fresh at Coleraine, but was looking forward to it by then.Kalamazoo was very thin. Shame about the Lucius Curtis, sounds like its gone downhill as serve temp always used to be ideal.

    I got some pints at £1.15 in NI, not quite as good as 95p last year though!

  7. The chance to try something in Cornwall other than St Austell/Sharp's/Skinner's did lure is into our local Wetherspoons. It was better than some we've been in and had several festival beers. They weren't in bad condition but they weren't exciting either. The "American Craft Beers", as I think they were billed, were definitely on their last legs by the time they got to us.

    Down here in Penzance, miles away from the variety that's standard in London or other big cities, and living on a budget, we do more clearly see the point of Wetherspoons and why so many beer enthusiasts are fans but, at the end of our visit, concluded that we wouldn't be rushing back. If Morrison's decided to open pubs alongside their cafes, this is what they'd be like.

  8. i was chomping at the bit for the wetherspoons festival knowing that stone were doing a beer for it i was straight in my local spoons(the bollin fee, wilmslow) on the 1st day of the festival & they had the stone on.. RESULT!

    well so i thought.

    i got a pint the aroma was great the 1st mouthful was hoppy & bitter it appeared to be really good then the following mouthfuls it changed fast the bitterness overpowered the other flavours & they died out fast the beer started tasting of caramel after about halfway down it resembled some standard boring english ale.

    having tried the (ballast point/shepheard neame colab) calico amber ale at the festival the year before which to me was amazing
    it had the real american taste to it & tasted much similar to american bottled version

    i was thinking stone would deliver the goods
    just as good. but at the first taste it was a let down

    the adnams ipa was very good indeed by far one of the best beers ive had from them as someone else said they did a stronger one last year was available in m&s was also very nice but this one for wetherspoons definatly topped it in flavour.

    the odell was awfull i bought a pint of it confident it would be nice i now wish i had just got a half as i struggled to drink the pint

    the cascadian dark turned out quite nice

    but the other american ales were pretty poor

    cotleigh ipa was very drinkable & refreshing
    not really what i would class as an ipa though i like lots of hops.

    wharfebank treacle toffe stout (wretches)

    wish i had got to try the mordue red rye & the st austell proper black

    but anyway
    i went in the spoons in stockport on the last day of the festival and the stone ipa was on so i thought i would give it another shot.
    i ended up in there most the afternoon sunk 4 or 5 pints of the stuff and it was on form so much better than at the beginning of the festival i think the beer must of needed a bit longer to balance itself out.i dont know if anyone else noticed this but i was glad i finally got some in good condition. the beer totally redeemed itself.

    going back to the ballast point brew i remember reading they actually sent over & cultured the ballast point yeast at shepherd neame. im not sure if they sent any other ingredients but i think that was a major factor of how the beer ended up tasting so much like the american version

    maybe in future the american or foreign brewerys doing these brews for wetherspoons should use do the same.

    or at least brew at a decent brewery.

  9. Thanks for the interesting comments everyone. I wonder if Wetherspoon will take any notice of this if I passed the link on to them?

  10. would be nice if they did!