The Secret Racegoer bottles Ascot’s Beer Festival
It was one the Secret Racegoer’s more challenging assignments. Report back from Ascot’s two-day Beer Festival.
Beer! Two days! A strategy, not to say self control, would be required.
First, this was not something the Secret Racegoer could achieve on his own. So, step forward a delightful companion who proffered her help.
Off they headed towards what Ascot’s bowler-hat brigade referred to as “windy city” – the far-end of the grandstand. And, about half-a-furlong from the winning post, Friday afternoon’s Ascot crowd was growing in size the closer to the Beer Festival one got.
And there it was. Scores and scores of barrels stacked on shelving behind over 20 individual bars.
The tasting guide described more than a dozen different types of ale, plus cider and perry. This is when the first executive decision was made by the “delightful companion”, who said it’s not the weather for cider or perry.
So, that reduced the task to assessing around 250 ales.
Bring on the next stage of the strategy. Head for the furthest counter on the basis that the crowd would be thinner. That’s thinner in numbers, rather than thinner in girth.
The furthest bar was number 14 and, as ales were offered in alphabetical order, we were up in he Ws. That included the offerings of the Windsor and Eton Brewery.
Now, that was a bit of a shame, as the excellent W&E brew is on offer at Ascot all year round, so something new was preferred.
Started to go wrong
And here is where it started to go wrong. The “delightful companion” tried a half of bitter and gave it a favourable review. It was the same for the ale which the Secret Racegoer sampled.
A race was watched after which the “delightful companion” pointed out that, as she was driving, her involvement in beer tasting had come to an end.
The Secret Racegoer was now tasting solo, which shouldn’t have been a problem. Surely he was capable of trying a few more brews, and recording what had been sampled in the Beer Notes booklet.
Six races went by, horses won and lost, beers had been tried and tasted, and it was time to go home.
The “delightful companion” drove straight home. The Secret Racegoer, however, had got the taste. His route home was via a Battersea pub. It was there that a Guinness or several were consumed.
Despite a hangover, much of the previous day was pretty much remembered apart from one crucial aspect. Not one of the Beer Festival ales tasted could be recalled.
The decision to shun Windsor and Eton was dragged from the deepest recesses of the mind, as was a decision not to consume anything above 4%. However that didn’t much narrow down the field of what was served at Bar 14 and its neighbours. What’s more, no notes were made.
It’s true that the Secret Racegoer returned to Ascot for the second day of the two-day meeting. And it was dedication to duty as railway engineering works meant it took four trains, via deepest Surrey, to get to the Berkshire track. But, for some reason, there was little inclination to head back to the Beer Festival.
Two days later, another racecourse in the Royal County of Berkshire was celebrating the art of brewing. This was Windsor’s Okctobefest.
It was on a slightly different scale to the weekend’s Beer Festival down the road.
Racegoers were told to be sure to visit the biergarten located in the paddock lawn marquee for a real taste of Germany. Attempting to capture the Oktoberfest feel was an open-sided marquee, rows of wooden benches and blue and white bunting.
The real taste comprised a bar selling Kaltenberg Royal Bavarian Beer and a bloke playing the accordion, with more papa than oomp.
The quality of the Royal Bavarian Beer is overseen by the brand’s ambassador (you’re not a brand unless you have an ambassador), HRH Prince Luitpold von Bayren.
The prince presides over the licensing of the beer to international brewing sites. Does this mean that not all Kaltenberg Bavarian Royal Beer is brewed in Bavaria?
Adding to Windsor’s take on the taste of the Germany were food outlets offering BBQ grills, pizzas and Indian street food. Could they have done wurst?
Making a welcome stand for the home nation’s beer was the presence of the Windsor and Eton Brewery represented by their excellent Guardsman ale brewed with Maris Otter and traditional whole leaf hops, Fuggles and Goldings.
Except that it wasn’t. The good folk from Windsor and Eton had, a few days earlier, been up at the crack of dawn to pick fresh hops that had a brief shelf-life which meant only limited supplies of the ale could be brewed, about two weeks worth, using the early-morning harvest instead of Fuggles.
The result is a much fresher taste, keenly sought by W&E’s trade customers, who try to get their hands on as much of the limited brew as possible.
And, it was on sale at Windsor Racecourse, having come a mile or so down the road from the brew house in the middle of town under the shadow of the castle. So it was authentic Windsor, if not Eton. It would make a prince proud.
And here’s what the notes would have said: “I’ll have another”. Which is what the Secret Racegoer did on the way home.
More Secret Racegoer reports
A nice lunch in Newmarket http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2xk
It’s pretty much all Champion in Ireland http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2CT
Royal Ascot 2019 part 1 http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2bn
Royal Ascot 2019 part 2 http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2co
Sydney Arms, Chelsea http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-1E3
Saluting Enable http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2h2