Barley Mowat 

Winter Fest of Ale @ St. Augustine’s

without comments

This Saturday saw the coming and going of CAMRA’s annual Winter Fest of Ale (previously incarnated as the December Caskival at Dix). As one would expect from the sort of “high-functioning alcoholic hiding behind the guise of beer geek” that I am, I was there for much of the day. In most ways that matter, this event was a solid improvement over the previous Fall HarvestFest at the Railway Club in both atmosphere and brewery dedication.

I won’t bore you with dozens of tasting notes on the highly-obscure (and more than one 1-off) brews served up during the fest. I’m sure those are all over the interwebs, and also just to the right in my beer reviews. I will, however, highlight some key changes I noticed during this fest:

First, the tasting glasses have progressed from the age-old mini-lager glasses to the newer style 4oz mini-tulips. As a guy who as all but ranted about glassware previously, this had me smiling and nodding. The types of beers served up at festivals looks, smells and tastes much better out of this style glassware. See for yourselves.

It’s ok to lick your monitor. Perv.

Second, virtually all the breweries put their backs into this one. The list of beers included casked versions of seasonal treats, one-offs, and crazy experimentals. In fact, I’m only going to call out Phillips Brewing for phoning this one in. Guys, sending a couple cases of bottled-product and a rep just won’t cut it (in fact, I didn’t see even the rep, so that might not have happened). We appreciate the chance to sample the ’10 releases of both your Barley Wine and your excellent Dopplebock, but c’mon. Try harder.

Compare that lazy effort with James Walton of Storm, who 1) Brewed up a “very special” smoked porter, 2) Made it so overwhelmingly smokey that I felt as if I had just brushed my teeth with campfire charcoal, and 3) Showed up dressed like this:

Pictured: A man who does not do half measures.

Third, I know I’ve been down on the joint in the past, but St. Augustine’s is a very nice place to hang out for an afternoon pint. I would strongly recommend it to any and everyone. Just check the UFC schedule first–I failed to do this previously, and hit 2/2 fight nights, and came under the unfortunate conclusion that all of Surrey with a BAC of .10+ flooded out and filled up this establishment every second night. In reality, the fights are few and far between.

There were only two things they could have done better to make people feel more welcome, one under their control and one less-so. 1) The hors d’oeuvres were not fantastic, and cost a whole drink ticket per item. This did not promote sobriety. A 4oz sample of Dave’s Xmas Cake Ale, or a 1.5″ long cold mini-sausage? Easy choice. If it tastes sorta like food, it’s the same thing right?

And 2) with only one functioning bathroom, we had the unfortunate circumstance of the ladies and gents sharing the remaining 3-station room in unison. When one of the two functioning urinals started flooding the room, that was the building’s subtle way of telling us to get the fuck out.

Still, I plan on coming back periodically (even if only for the new Nitro taps), and perhaps even checking out one of their more civilized upcoming Beer Pairing Dinners:

You should, too.

Or, you know, start at the left and work your way right.
It’ll be like a race!

Written by chuck

December 6th, 2010 at 10:13 am

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