It's strange how the politics of a republican changes from left to right as you travel from east to west across the Atlantic Ocean. Arguably England's greatest historical figure would also have found it strange. He would not have approved of my recent visit to the town where he lived for a period as a tax collector. Oliver Cromwell might have been a top bloke but he was not big on fun. My visit to Ely in Cambridgeshire was in no sense puritanical, I was there to drink beer, and smile while I was doing it!
The occasion was the fifth Elysian Beer Festival. It was my first visit. The festival was small and parochial, concentrating mainly on very local beers. Not a problem with that. Held in a community centre on the outskirts of the town it felt quite an intimate affair. There were forty odd ales there. A goodly selection. Here's what I tried, and sort of in the order I tried them:
- Black Dog Mild 3.6%: Elgoods Brewery. A mild I've had on a number of occasions and it never fails to please. A classic mild, nice round flavour, with a slight hint of musk. I could drink a lot of this.
- Norfolk Terrier 3.6%: Buffy's Brewery. A light coloured ale with a slight floral bouquet, some "hamster bedding" and a surprising bitter aftertaste. Another good one!
- Isaac's Flying Coach (festival special) 3.9%: Buntingford Brewery. A light copper coloured ale brewed with a blend of English and American hops. Sweetish and mildly malty.
- Elysian Mild (festival special) 4%: Wissey Valley Brewery. A mild with added honey and elderflower. The honey comes through as soon as you put this brew to your lips, but I couldn't sense the elderflower. There was an interesting and not unpleasant mothball after-taste. Nice!
- Mid Life Crisis 4.5%: Bull Box Brewery. A dark ale with the smell of Fuggles. A fruity beer full of complex flavours and an astringent finish.
Anyway back to the tastings:
- Oatmeal Stout 4.4%: Buntingford Brewery. This is how a good stout should taste. Not too bitter, some hoppiness with a roasted barley burnt porridge gutsiness.
- Black Country Mild 4.8%: Cambridge Moonshine Brewery. A strong dark mild with hints of plum and camel hair coat. Followed by a slight metallic after-taste.
- Flat Land/Big Sky (festival special) 4.6%: Hereward Brewery. The name of this beer refers to the Fenland countryside in which Ely is situated. It has a very flat landscape, large days and an abnormally high suicide rate. None of that here though as this beer is full of joy. A very dark porter style ale with bags of roasted malty taste. Yummy.