When you turn up to this festival with a tankard they give you a free half. This adds to the atmosphere of this circular Napoleonic fort but the organisers should probably invite a re-enactment society to come along too. Built in the early 1800s to protect the port of Harwich against the threat of invasion it is now a museum housing displays in its original rooms of guns, uniforms, and general militaria.
The festival took place on the old parade ground in the centre of the fort, where we were also treated with a live performance from Polly Haynes, a North-Essex based singer songwriter, singing bluesy songs with her acoustic guitar.
Getting here was easy, it’s a 5 minute walk from Harwich Town railway station with its connection at Manningtree and the main Norwich to London line. There’s also a bus stop right outside for anyone travelling from the Colchester direction.
I sampled 11 different beers across a range of styles, although drinking out of a pewter tankard does make it difficult to assess the colour of the beer. Let’s go through them one by one – there is no logical order, just what took my fancy at the time.
A subtle chocolate orange flavour from chocolate malt and curaçao orange peel, which isn't dominant or overpowering. There's vanilla in there too, which keeps everything nicely in balance. A thin body and subtle bittering towards the end makes for a surprisingly refreshing drink for a stout.
Very easy drinking but full-flavoured bitter honouring the fact that Nelson's body was returned to England preserved in a barrel of brandy, which was either subsequently incorporated into the sailors' ration, or surreptitiously siphoned off, depending on which historical tale you believe. In any case, brandy is added to this brew, although I'd be hard-pressed to identify it. What I do get though is plenty of hedgerow fruits, spice and liquorice.
Light and very obviously brewed with American Citra hops, this one has a kick on the palate and characteristic long-lasting grapefruit bitterness, but not an unpleasant one as there's enough tropical fruit coming from the hops to temper the overall flavour. If you like new world hops then this is for you. If you don't, then try it as a gentle-ish introduction to golden ales.
One of this brewery’s space-themed beers, Apollo has a light malty, grassy taste with lots of bitterness. I'm not sure about 'one giant step for mankind' but this is a very pleasant, unchallenging, session ale.
Brewed for the charity Global’s Make Some Noise, it tastes like there's a good mixture of hops in there, and indeed there is. Inspired by the charity’s initials there's Galaxy, Simcoe, Minstrel and Nugget. Not as easy drinking as the Apollo I'm not sure I would drink much more of this, and of all the beers I've sampled so far, it's taking the longest to go down!
Organic lemons add a subtle but unmistakable zesty finish, which results in a very drinkable and refreshing summery brew. If I can find this in bottles I’d pop them in the fridge as I would happily drink this a bit cooler.
A well balanced ale with some bitterness but not overly sweet. The brewery calls it a mild, but don’t think of it as a traditional mild – it is much lighter and fresher.
A light refreshing golden beer, with tropical fruit, citrus, and floral flavours from the use of Cascade and Amarillo hops. A very crisp and clean finish makes this a very session-able beer.
A strong but very smooth mild with a lovely chocolaty taste and an almost spicy herbal aroma.
A subtle citrus aroma follows through to sweet lemons on the palate and a bitter finish.
I’m a big fan of Colchester Brewery and I chose it as my last beer of the day. This is one of their ‘retro’ beers and is heavily malted, quite sweet, slightly earthy but entirely balanced.