Victory Cafe Summer Cask Ale Festival
Rich and I attended the summer version of the Victory Cafe’s cask ale festival this past weekend, put on in partnership with CASK!. I covered the winter version for Food TV, but this time we were just going for us.
Upon arriving we noted the crowd wasn’t quite as big as at the winter version, and we didn’t have to wait at all to get in. The two women running the ticket booth noted there was a short lineup just 30 minutes prior to our arrival, but even so, at the winter festival it was pretty well full from open to close, with at least a 15 minute wait (often longer) at all times. That said, there were still lots of people in attendance to enjoy what cask ales were on offer this time around.
Ticket prices included a nice souvenir half-pint glass and two beer tickets for $8. If you wanted food as well, your admission was $12 instead (we saw sausages being enjoyed by many of the attendees), and for $3 you could purchase an additional beer ticket. Not a bad price considering what you’re getting!
Rich and I did our usual method of attack when it comes to these events: each of us got a different ale each time we refilled our glasses and let the other taste, so in total we got to try 6 of the casks. Here’s what we had, complete with some notes:
C’est What? Caraway Rye (County Durham Brewing Company) – Interesting, tasted like caraway rye bread or crackers. A bit of a novelty, not something we’d order regularly.
Cameron’s High Hop Silver – Absolutely the winner of the afternoon for us. Hoppy and a bit sweet and just really good. Great summer beer. Searching Cameron’s blog tells me that this is a special beer they only make occasionally, a blend of their Auburn and Cream ales with the hoppiness kicked up a few notches.
Compass Albion Ale (Better Bitters Brewing Company) – Rich refers to this one as a good session ale. It’s an Extra Special Bitter, easy drinking, and not strongly flavoured (so goes fine with whatever you might be eating).
Great Lakes Orange Peel Ale – One of my favourites on tap at the Vic last year, so I really wanted to try it on cask. It was great, refreshing and with a hint of orange peel flavour. I’ll seek this one out again.
Michael Duggan No.9 IPA – Really good, classic IPA. Well rounded, not just hops.
Neustadt Black Velvet – A novelty beer again – a mixture of cider and stout. Someone else there commented there was a bit of a shoe polish smell/aftertaste. I can’t say I disagree. Not bad overall but not something I’d ever order again. Hey, I was being adventurous; I ordered this one when they were out of the two I wanted to try instead (Black Oak Summer Saison or F&M Stonehammer Strawberry Light).
We’ve also had a number of the beers on offer previously, so we avoided getting things like Durham’s Hop Head or Hop Addict or Granite’s Hopping Mad, given we wanted to try new things instead. All three of those are great, hoppy beers for those who enjoy that; highly recommended and well worth seeking out. Victory Cafe usually has Hop Addict on tap and often has either Hop Head or Hopping Mad on cask in their regular rotation.
The next Cask Ale Festival should be in January 2010. I’m not rushing away the summer, but I am looking forward to attending the next one!