So last Saturday and Sunday, this happened. The inaugural Beer and Bacon Festival in Topsham. I had my instructions which were to not get drunk. Well, I’m sure I could cope with that. All I want is a tiny little taste………of as much beer as I can lay my hands on! The food was good too, but much of it resembled something like a Peppa Pig jigsaw. Don’t get me wrong, I love bacon. Who doesn’t? But the real reason for the visit was the beer after all.
Now on stepping up to the bar I see a few names I recognise and some I don’t. The Exeter Brewery and The Exe Valley brewery were present along with Branscombe Vale Brewery who brought with them Branscombe Mild. Now this beer is something of a rarity in these parts as apparently us southerners don’t drink a pint o mild any longer and most of it ends up a little further north!
Hanlons were also here, unfortunately their Copper Glow had all been drunk but the Port Stout was still on. Now if you like a good malty, toasty, chocolatey stout, this is one for you. It’s not heavy at all and the tickle of port and fruitiness of the hops just finish it off nicely.
Now, tucked in the corner of the main marquee I made a truly fantastic discovery; The Occasional Brewing Company. These guys have only been around for a matter of weeks, but they really know how to brew something special. When I saw a chalk board with the words Hop, Porter, IPA and Fragaria, I knew walking away would be a mistake.
Small batches, rammed full of passion, knowledge and the odd fake moustache, have lead to some truly outstanding and unique beers. It’s so refreshing to see a new, local brewery, so excited by their work.
The flavour the OBC have managed to cram inside their beers just blew me away. The pales’ are all so fruity and bitter, and their dry crispness really makes for a clean drink. The porter, which I will add was supplied with a full background talk on its history, is sublime. Massive fruit notes but malty and toasty at the same time. Really quaffable and oh so addictive!
I was intrigued by the Fragaria, as not only had I never seen a beer by that name, but if I’m honest I’m not sure I’d even heard the word before? Fragaria, a genus of flowering plants in the rose family known as strawberries for their edible fruits. Now that’s all well and good for the biological geeks, but what about the beer? I’ll be honest I’ve never been a fan of fruit beers, but this is different, very different. Forget Frulli and all the fruity wheat beers, this has a refined taste of strawberries with a subtle hint of vanilla coupled to a fine stout base. All of this makes for a beer that’s in a league of its own. It’s just sweet enough without being overpowering and the smoothness of the vanilla and stout really make this beer a joy to drink.
Right, that leaves just one more Occassional Beer. The horrendously massive Imperial IPA. I truly believe they lost count of the number of hop varieties they crammed into this beer. It also wouldn’t surprise me if they forgot they had this brewing, and ended up with the truly breathalyser insulting 9.6% ABV when they realised it was still there! Now for me, this is what it’s all about. Unashamedly, almost offensively, massively hopped pale ale. Surprisingly darker than I expected, but still with a glorious deep golden hue. This beer is immense, like the Yorkie of beers; no balls, need not apply. This is a brew to savour, if you can manage to not sup it all up at once. Your heart will race as it sets your buds on fire. All those hops really set it off and you actually end up with a very drinkable beer. The aftertaste almost burns as it sets your mouth alive. And all of that happens long after the aroma rids you of all known nasal ailments.
I’m so impressed with the Occasional Brewing Company, you now have a customer for life.