Nottingham Beer Festival: The Shock Of The New

With over twelve hundred beers on offer, many scoopers saw 2012's Nottingham Beer Festival as a tortuous paradise. One where they could not possibly try every beer they 'needed', not even with third-pints and bottling cartels in full swing. I'd no intention of scooping wildly; after a day of drinking North to South on Thursday, I needed a Friday plan.

That plan: to have no plan.

Instead, graze around and try a few beers from brewers that had crossed my horizon. And stick with them for as long as I dare. Here's three of the best. Albeit there's only one beer.

First up: Tiny Rebel. I first got to know about them via the Tweets of Glyn Roberts, everyone's favourite Womble. Their IPA, Urban, sounded like it would be right up my boulevard. And indeed it was. Sticky fruit salad, bittery biscuits, sweet start segues to dry finish. I had several of these. Several halves. And there was a point where (almost) every man jack in our posse of Men Too Fat And / Or Old To Be Seen Sat On A Wall Drinking Beer In What Is Obviously A Kiddies Play Area was drinking it.

Now, I like cider. I like dry cider. And when I say dry cider, I don't mean "really sweet but less sweet than the sugar suspension that we call our medium cider". So I'm wary about buying dry ciders that I know little about. Sometimes I'll ask for a taster. But a third-pint is basically a decent taster. And in the case of Salt Hill Urban Fox, it was more than bloody decent. Sharp flavour from the eaters/cookers mix. Sandpaper-itchy dry. Was worth more than one taster. Of the half-pint variety.

There comes a point at every festival where I end up choosing a drink based on its name. I try to kid myself that it's a cunning exercise is marketing analytics, comparing customer expectation with product deliverables. But it's actually because I've had a few drinks and I can't be arsed to choose anything any other way. Which is how I ended up becoming pleasantly surprised by Lustonberry Perry. Produced by the Marches Cyder Collective, it's another finely-dry drink with a plump pear flavour and an almost perfumed aroma.

Three drinks I learned to love over the course of a windblown festival afternoon. I drank a fair few glasses of each. Because I don't know if I'll ever see them again. I've never seen a Tiny Rebel beer in a pub in the Midlands / Yorkshire and the ciders / perrys are so vunerable to poor crops this year that the volumes produced for 2013 may be critically low.

My advice as always: if you like what you drink, drink it more. Enjoy the shock of the new; it may never get the chance to grow old.

Thanks to Ray Kirby and Nottingham CAMRA for the gen on Marches Cyder Collective. If anyone knows any more about them, I'd be interested to hear from you.