Derby CAMRA Beer Festival: The One With Cheese and Chocolate

Saturday afternoon at  Derby CAMRA's summer festival and standing room only has already been and gone. Splayed on the stairs, skulking behind pillars, sardined into the main hall... it's busy busy busy. But a thirsty toper can always conjure up some table space. In the quiet room, in a corner, opposite a ticker who seemed lost in the minutiae of his rapidly receding hit-list. My claim staked, my intentions simple: cheese and cider; dark beer and chocolate.

My sweet tooth is legendary - alongside my salty tongue, sour face and umami mouth - yet I prefer a cider or perry that's sandpaper-dessicated. I plump for the driest cider on the menu, Badger's Spit by Naish. After all, who wouldn't want to drink Badger's Spit? Lots of green apple tang, almost lemon-pithy on the tongue. I could see myself falling off a hay bale after a few of these.

A glass of cider always has me hankering after a good lump of cheese. Thankfully, Derby is one of the few festivals I've been to that has a decent cheesemonger on site. Morgan's is a stalwart of the city's Eagle Market and their ever-busy stall offers a great range of cheeses both British and continental. They've nailed their beerfest offering; a platter with a couple of cheeses, some crackers (or bread) and a dollop of red onion marmalade. 

With a dozen-ish cheeses on offer I chose two of my old favourites, an aged Red Leicester and Snowdonia Cheese's sublime Black Bomber. The latter has a creamy feel that belies its name, smooth for an extra mature cheddar but with a real depth to its flavour. If the Badger's Spit bites, then Black Bomber curls its lips and flashes its teeth at you. Put together, they get along famously. For the dry, slightly sweet and nutty Red Leicester I plumped for a perry. The Butford Organics was on the sweet side of medium for me, but its lemonesque flavour and low tannins kept it refreshing and palate-cleansing.

That was lunch. What to have for dessert? Dark beer and chocolate seemed blindingly obvious. And I do like the blindingly obvious. I'm a sucker for Fuller's London Porter and with the brewer having their own bar at the fest, the blindingly obvious option became even moreso. But what choc? Well, Burton-based Merry Berry Truffles had plenty to choose from. They are regulars at beerfests and aren't afraid to play with flavours. As their dark chocolate pieces with chilli and orange proves.

London Porter on cask reveals its ashy edges as casual charcoal marks your palate. The chocolate is more sleight-of-hand. Oily orange seeps when you hold a piece in your mouth, the slender slab collapses, a subtle chilli delivery system replaces citric tang with prickly heat. A mouthful of porter is an abrupt reset. orange to ashes, chilli heat to charcoal cool. And then do it all over again.

One last pairing? Go on then. Double Top Brewery have really impressed me recently and Tungsten Stout is no exception. With a robust body and a keen coffee roast about it, a handful of Merry Berry's chocolate covered coffee beans proved the perfect partner. Shards of beans and mocha echoes in the beer made for a great way to round out the session.

Well, almost. Fuller's Golden Pride had just come on - the only beer left on sale at their bar - so I just had to have a third. Or a half. Paired with... something caramel perhaps? Maybe spicy? In the end I went for the only viable option; pair it with another half pint of the same. Because, just sometimes, the best thing to pair with beer is another beer.


  1. I always like a beer with an elemental name...I wonder if it is possible to drink the periodic table?

  2. The periodic table is certainly full of potential beer names. Promethium IPA, anyone :-)