5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer & Cider Festival – Blackfriars Priory.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,

 

Amidst the background buzz of the conversation of friends and fellow beer and cider enthusiasts alike, the names of quality craft ale and ciders from great small producers punctuated the hubbub like little siren calls in the glorious afternoon sunshine. These sirens shouts popped out of the hum filling the square and rooms of the festival like echoes as those lucky people drinking great craft ale and cider mulled over the taste and colour of the cup presently under consumption.

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Ready to go at Blackfriars Priory.

There cannot be a grander, more historic place to hold a festival to celebrate the great taste of craft beers and cider. Where once the harmonic utterings of Dominican friars echoed around the ancient quadrangle – now lovers of beer and cider, studied the form of the festival card. Some with a plan of just which beers they hoped to sample in half or third measures and some with a more randomised approach.

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Runners and Riders. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Good beer and good conversation are made for each other. Beers were sipped and sampled, occasionally exchanged for taste, held skyward for  comparison of their amber hues now illuminated in the bright blue of the glorious city centre Friday. The combination of the buzz and the wonderful acoustics of the priory square filtered out just about all noise from the city that is wrapped around this ancient monument.

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Early Doors on Day One. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

It’s a true oasis in Gloucester city life insulated from the noise and traffic smell of the workday commuting. Friday welcomes many local CAMRA members and beer lovers from further afield. Many locals had used their GL residents cards to proudly claim the discounts on offer but all were glad to be back in the Cathedral to Beer now in its fifth year and fast becoming part of the history of the city itself.

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Stag Day starter. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Wye Valley Brewery were one of the the main event sponsors bringing the fabulous Lady Marmalade, Daisy Duke and their HPA, Chepstow’s Baa Brewery where there with a best bitter and , in this anniversary period of the crossings,  Two Bridges. The great forest brewer, Hillside were here of course with a couple of light beers, HCL and a new brew Don’t Stop.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
Basking in the Spring sunshine. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

The chosen charity for the event this year was the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust at Slimbridge and their events manager David was on hand to tell everyone about the charity but with strict instructions not to sign up any new members under the influence. That would have been a good  night wouldn’t it, to wake in the fug from the night before only to realise that somehow, you had become a member! It’s a great charity, with a great restaurant incidentally, and very close to our hearts so well done Gloucester Beer & Cider Festival.

Spring sunshine at the 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival historic Blackfriars Priory.

Beer festivals aren’t a headlong dash into oblivion and debauchery. They are an appreciation and days of revelry mixed with self-education and shared passions, particularly Fridays, which seems to attract many more CAMRA members. Here there is a like-minded convivial group with whom to shared passions for the craft of beer and cider and the industry and skill of small producers across the country.

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Ten deep at the bar. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Whatever their style all sampled and tasted a fabulous range from Porter through session to light craft beers by breweries such as…….For lovers of the apple, great names and great ciders abounded. Many single varieties were in evidence like Gwatkins’ Yarlington Mill and Weston’s with County Perry.

Visitors ranged from far and wide. Many travelling in by train or with designated driver from the Forest of Dean & Wye Valley and
even a large group from the states visiting Gloucestershire for the first time had heard about the festival and called to check it out and sample the beers on offer.

beer, festival, craft, ale, beer, cider, perry, blackfriars, wyedeandeliconfidential, david broadbent photography,
5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Those in need of sustenance had burgers and hotdogs available in the quadrangle and a really well stocked cheese bar in the refectory. Well stocked and well-chosen with some great local cheeses on offer including our own favourite Charles Martell Gloucester. Accompaniments included chutney and celery and fabulous pickled eggs made near Stroud.

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Dinosaur eggs for sale with cheese. 5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Finally some post-match stats for you hot off the press from the organisers. Over 1700 people attended over the two days, with 90 and 92% sales on beer and Cider/Perry respectively – a great success for a great event!

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5th CAMRA Gloucester Beer and Cider Festival, Blackfriars Priory.

Voting for best beers went as follows: IN reverse order ladies and gentleman, boys and girls in third place Imperial Porter. In second place Millionaire Stout and the winner of Best Beer of the Festival went to Stouty McStoutface from Mad Dog Brewing in Monmouthshire.

All three winners being dark stouts and porters (we started the day with half of Old Moor Porter from Acorn Brewing) is a really interesting indication of where the craft beer market is going.

It’s research Jim, but not as we know it: 

Read our previous article on the event here

Watch our time-lapse of the set up here

http://www.gloucesterbeerfestival.org.uk/

Twitter @GlosBeerFest

Beer Festival Facebook page

The Monmouthshire Food Festival 2017

 

Food Festivals are great fun and, quite rightly, big and very good news. Especially in this fabulous area in which we live, stuffed full as it is with great produce, makers and eateries. So don’t miss The Monmouthshire Food Festival on 20th to 21st May 2017 at Caldicot Castle. Monmouthshire has some outstanding producers and makers (many of which have featured in this magazine) and so The Monmouthshire Food Festival is definitely an unmissable food event. There’s a full programme of demonstrations, talks, tastings and lots of food and drink to try and buy.

The Chef’s Theatre always features many of the finest chefs from across Monmouthshire. They will showcase the finest food the county has to offer in dishes that show both flair and imagination, a positive treat for the taste buds. The Look and Learn Theatre features master classes, tutored tastings and demonstrations on a wide range of food and drinks. Meet the people who really know about the food on offer, the producers.

Bring the kids too. The Children’s Quarter will have lots of activities for our young foodies to enjoy with one or two surprises! Browse the Producers Market which will have stalls with many different products to try and buy. Come and taste beer brewed just a mile from the festival or take home locally made preserves made from foraged fruit.

 

This year the supported charity Guides Dogs for the Blind. Staff and dogs from the charity will be on hand offering visitors a chance to get up close to a guide dog or puppy and find out more about their vital work – and of course help out with a small donation. So don’t miss this event. A food event packed with great tasting food, top tips and help with “how to” sessions it’s going to be fab! All set in the glorious surroundings of Caldicot Castle and grounds.

How about a family picnic in the glorious Caldicot Castle Country Park with delicious food and drink from the food festival? So why not take an empty picnic basket with you and buy your picnic at the show, find yourself a great spot in the castel grounds and dine like Lords and Ladies?  

 

The Pantry

village shop, David Broadbent Photography, village, shop, Deborah Flint, Cinder Hill Farm, local, service, village life, rural, UK, England,
village shop, David Broadbent Photography, village, shop, Deborah Flint, Cinder Hill Farm, local, service, village life, rural, UK, England,
New village shop in a traditional style.

Whenever one reads anything about rural services it is seldom good news. Cut backs and closures and the age old gripe that local businesses often loose out to supermarkets and shopping centres in terms of support from their locally based customers. It’s all too familiar a narrative we have come to associate with local rural services in last few decades. But one village in the Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire is bucking that trend and may even be an example of how the market may change for the better in the coming years.

St Briavels, the picturesque village purchased 800 foot (240 m) up on the edge of a limestone plateau above an ancient meander of the valley of the River Wye is packed with history including its very own castle. The hot news is, it also now has a local shop – just opened – to add to its list of services. That’s right, a village shop that has just opened!!

village shop, David Broadbent Photography, village, shop, Deborah Flint, Cinder Hill Farm, local, service, village life, rural, UK, England,
New village shop in a traditional style.

On the face of it this story is a great rural news story about a new village shop. One which stocks great produce offers great, friendly and knowledgeable service. But it could also be a metaphor for the dynamic of changing rural life evolving because of the way we work as a society.

The Pantry (opposite the local pub) is a modest but nonetheless extremely welcome, well appointed, very bright and airy shop in the true tradition. It is owned and run by Deborah Flint, half of the innovative and lovely people from the desperately successful (and very nearby) Cinder Hill Farm. The engine of the Cinder Hill Pie House success was good olde “word of mouth” from those who had tried their fabulous homemade pastry wrapped pies, sausage rolls and “Foggies”. We think that the enormous marketing engine that is “word of mouth” will soon make this little haven of village retail goodness as successful as the farm in growing a rural business – and that seemed to have worked out well!

New village shop in a traditional style.
New village shop in a traditional style.

On the day we visited the shop there was a steady flow (even in what Deborah called the quieter 2-3 slot) of customers. Locals buying milk and eggs and ordering bread for the weekend, frantic tourists desperately in search of some batteries for a gadget followed by more locals seduced by the small but very well curated selection of local cheeses and, of course, Cinder Hill’s Foggies and Boar sausage. The most noticeable thing was that not many customers arrived by car. Even the tourists were lodging in the Castle youth hostel 500 yards away.

village shop, David Broadbent Photography, village, shop, Deborah Flint, Cinder Hill Farm, local, service, village life, rural, UK, England,
New village shop in a traditional style.

In one of those quirks of fate that sees Deborah cutting cheese from the various wheels on offer only to find that they weigh exactly the same, the opening of the shop 3 weeks ago on 5th February 2016 coincided with the closure of the last village shop 10 years before. On the day they opened a villager brought in a newspaper cutting about the closure of the much loved “Dot’s”. Exactly 10 years ago! How does that happen?

village shop, David Broadbent Photography, village, shop, Deborah Flint, Cinder Hill Farm, local, service, village life, rural, UK, England,
New village shop in a traditional style.

So we have a new shop – Yay! It’s bright, clean and airy. Well stocked with a mix of staple products and great locally made produce. Great bread (from the Crusty Loaf and Longhope Bake house), free range chicken and duck eggs, lovely cheeses and much more. Homemade tray baked chocolate cake sold by weight so you can cut as much as you like and good coffee to accompany your cake or pastry. Deborah is on hand at the helm with a bright smile and a chatty disposition to all which is the outward expression of her commitment to the quality of service The Pantry aims to provide.

village shop, David Broadbent Photography, village, shop, Deborah Flint, Cinder Hill Farm, local, service, village life, rural, UK, England,
New village shop in a traditional style.

It isn’t just about where a business is situated that makes it a “good local service”. When some business owners talk about supporting local services they have a tendency to assume that the” local” bit is most important. Any consumer will tell you that those businesses have got it completely wrong. The “service” bit is by far the most important part of the equation. You could be next door but if your service is bad, I’m sorry but I’m off to the competition!  There also seems in our view to be an anecdotal correlation between business owners those who misinterpret the local /service balance to those complaining about lack of support – connection perhaps?

village shop, David Broadbent Photography, village, shop, Deborah Flint, Cinder Hill Farm, local, service, village life, rural, UK, England,
New village shop in a traditional style.

Neither Deborah nor her other half Neil had any background in farming when they opened Cinder Hill five years ago. But even that story has a hint of the just get on with and trade approach that would make Lord Alan Sugar swoon and reminisce about the old days.

Deborah and Neil landed at Cinder Hill for their version of The Good Life and five years ago from two pigs, found themselves suddenly with a surfeit of 23 little porkers to deal with. Their butcher (still very much associated with them today) helped by creating cuts and products that the two would be farmers from a fund raising and IT background needed. Deborah made sausage rolls and immediately threw herself into mastering the local market trade too. Her very first attempt to sell their product left her with, a surfeit of sausage rolls which she sold the very same day by going door to door in the village!

village shop, David Broadbent Photography, village, shop, Deborah Flint, Cinder Hill Farm, local, service, village life, rural, UK, England,
New village shop in a traditional style.

One of the problems (for that read several) about being a small local producer is the age old issue of getting your goods to market. We produce fantastic local produce in the Dean & Wye but, to be a success, that produce also needs to be sold. What then better than a new local outlet that can be that shop front for those great producers?

village shop, David Broadbent Photography, village, shop, Deborah Flint, Cinder Hill Farm, local, service, village life, rural, UK, England,
New village shop in a traditional style.

The Forest of Dean & Wye Valley demographic has changed drastically over the years. Rural village populations have been gradually changing everywhere to a mix of born and bred and incomers. St Briavels has a healthy balance of both. Amongst those incomers serving the long apprenticeships to be recognised as here long enough to be called local are the professions and the blue collar workers tired of living in the conurbations. It’s the people who covet rural life and a rural place to bring up their families. What’s changing even faster that that is the way we work now and will work in the future. More emphasis on working from home, family friendly hours and (at last) improving rural broadband provision that makes working from home much more feasible for everyone. You could almost say that St Briavels is a model, a small wormhole on what “work” may look like in another ten years’ time. All of those people who used to leave in the dark mornings of winter only to return home in the dark evenings of winter turning villages into little more than dormitories are now trickling back. They travel to their actual place of work less and less often instead of daily and are returning to a village home life that will have more in common with a 100 years ago then 10.

village shop, David Broadbent Photography, village, shop, Deborah Flint, Cinder Hill Farm, local, service, village life, rural, UK, England,
New village shop in a traditional style.

Beer and Food Pairing

 

Two of the most enjoyable meals I have ever had have been tasting menus where the accompanying drinks were skilfully and expertly selected specifically for me course by course.

Start with a great and characterful menu of interesting ingredients and then pair your chosen tipple to the specific flavours, acidity, sweetness and aromas of the food – Genius! Many of you may have had similar experiences but it doesn’t just have to be about wine. Lots of great, and sometimes surprising, combinations work and appeal to the palate enhancing the flavours of the food and the accompanying drink. The skill is in the pairing. Occasionally this happens by accident (see our Ice wine and pizza article) but it’s much more successfully achieved by experts! Those clever local food people at Harts Barn and ace beer brewers at Hillside have teamed up to prove it to you in a fab event coming in September.

Too often in this country what we eat and drink is often dictated by our perceptions that something is more acceptable or more sophisticated than something else. We want to be seen by others to have good taste and to understand the finer things. For a long time this meant wine, and specifically French wine and the majority of British people, feeling they lacked sufficient knowledge on the subject, used price as an indicator of quality and sophistication. Then a few Australian’s smashed in the door at “Le Bistro” and proved the complete nonsense of that with big bold flavours in deep gorgeous reds that wouldn’t break the bank. Take another example and look back fifteen years to the lowly reputation of the Spanish classic – Rioja, and then take a look at the supermarket prices of today.

The point is times change and things move on. And this is what is happening in the beer and cider marketplace. The dominance of the big factories, like a medieval castle before gunpowder, can’t be easily or quickly overturned but it can be undermined, chipped away at and laid siege too. In the UK and across Europe, notably in Italy, people are making great craft beer again in ever growing numbers. Our new perceptions are that craft beer it is cool, tasty and sophisticated. Trendy young men and women in designer suits in shiny, busy London bars choose craft beer from around the UK as their wind-down Friday drink of choice whilst chatting about – well who knows what. There’s not a beard or a pullover in site! Although in fairness full beards are very much in fashion so we’ll withdraw that.

The timing is perfect for beer to come out of the shadows in the UK and step toward the front of stage where it belongs. In the Forest of Dean and Wye Valley we are ahead of that curve, we’re in the vanguard and the reason shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone – we have great natural ingredients and we use them simply but superbly in keeping with our unashamedly rural and no nonsense approach, ‘erm, a bit like Provence in fact if you are feeling the need for a sophisticated interlude from yesteryear!

Jolly-Jester

And so, in the spirit of all of this Yvette Farrell from Harts Barn will be on the hobs and larder whilst the ever likeable Derek, master beer sommelier from Hillside, has been drawing beer from the impressive May Hill cellar to bring you an evening of fun and learning where the food is paired to the beer – just as it should be.

 

Menu

Pinnacle (Pale Ale) – Stinking Bishop & pear canapés with May Hill Orchard Chutney

HCL (Craft Lager) – Wye salmon ceviche served on a lettuce cup

Over The Hill (Dark Mild) – Pulled Venison marinated in Over the Hill ale, bramble sirop with thyme & juniper

Legend of Hillside (English IPA) – Wild boar garam masala bites with forest herb flatbread

Jolly Jester (Belgian tripel) – Sticky toffee pudding & Jolly Jester Beer ice cream

Legless Cow (Best Bitter) – Local cheese board with beer crackers

Vegetarian:

Pinnacle (Pale Ale) – Stinking Bishop & pear canapés with May Hill Orchard Chutney

HCL (Craft Lager) – Sweet smoked paprika homemade ricotta cups

Over The Hill (Dark Mild) – Roasted tomato pesto with marinated Portobello mushroom

Legend of Hillside (English IPA) – Paneer, chickpea & spinach garam masala bites with forest herb flatbread

Jolly Jester (Belgian tripel) – Sticky toffee pudding & Jolly Jester beer ice cream

Legless Cow – Local cheese board with beer crackers

 

Friday 25th September 2015 7pm to 10pm at Hillside Brewery, Holly Bush Farm, Ross Road, Longhope GL17 0NG

Go to https://www.facebook.com/hillsidebrewery?fref=ts for details and booking via Eventbrite

The Marches Delicatessen – Nevill Street, Abergavenny.

Tom Lewis, Marches Deli, Abergavenny, cheese,

 

We aren’t experts! Let’s get that cleared up straight away, but, and this is just our opinion, there are several key elements to running a cheese shop! First, one needs a shop and some cheese – self evidently and preferably, it should be very good cheese. Next, one needs a person – but not just any person! A person who truly knows about cheese (not gained from an in-house training course or gleaned via product notes) , but whose passion  about cheese … well … over flows. There is a type of knowledge you only get when you hit the buffers and realise that you don’t know something. This spurs you on to investigate and to research and learn, as well as appreciate and test. This type of enlightenment is what we like to call “bicycle knowledge”. Bicycle knowledge, once obtained, never leaves you, it never grows old or out of date, it’s even immune from the cruel ravages of ages.  Like great cheese itself, this knowledge matures.

Bankers in general, or anyone who “worked in the city”, often get a bad press. Gordon, Fred and the crew have a lot to answer for I’m sure! But that in no way speaks about the men and women, like you and I, whose occupation happened to be in the biggest and best financial centre in the world. However, there comes a time though when people want more.

How do you get “more”? – that’s the tough one.

Not for Tom Lewis, he just followed his dream and passion to one day own a deli. And now he does – The Marches Delicatessen – and it’s a very fine deli indeed, in a Welsh country town that really needs one.

The Marches Delicatessen, Abergavenny.
The Marches Delicatessen window, Abergavenny.

“Having spent 6 years in London I was ready to come back to Wales. I was not really enjoying the job I was doing and lacked the drive to push on. I grew up near here and had been looking at opening my own delicatessen. An opportunity presented itself to move to Abergavenny – so I quit my job, moved back from London and opened The Marches”.

Our latest best friend, Tom Lewis – a very bright eyed and cheerful fella, already has some bicycle knowledge about cheese and seemingly there is nothing going to stop him from acquiring more. He is ever present in the shop and at the weekends his girlfriend and mum occasionally help out.

The obvious question of course….Why a cheese shop/deli?

“I’ve always been interested in it since childhood holidays in France. I really got into it whilst at university in Aberystwyth. There is an amazing delicatessen called Ultracomida, which first opened my eyes to some of the great Welsh produce being made. I knew I wanted to do something focusing on local produce and did not want to restrict it to Wales, so hence why I called it The Marches. I focus on produce from Wales, Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Shropshire”.

Have you ever made cheese?

“Not yet, but there are plans to dabble in making some fresh cheese like ricotta or mozzarella. But having seen how much skill goes into making the cheeses we sell, I fear anything I make would turn out to be an embarrassment by comparison”.

Tom’s favourite cheese (anywhere) – “Mouldy Mabel  is a beautiful creamy blue cheese from Carmarthen & made using Jersey Cows milk or Celtic Promise, a wash rind cheese which although pungent has a that taste is much more a subtle, smooth & buttery”.

Tom on the spot time – Favourite maker and why? “Harry & Sue Ryder of Wye Valley Cheese – not only is their cheese amazing, it is very local and they were the first people I visited when I started to meet the producers. Sitting with Harry and watching him make the cheese was a real privilege”.
Tom Lewis, Marches Deli, Abergavenney, cheese,
Tom Lewis’ The Marches Delicatessen, Abergavenny.

Whilst we were chatting we met Jane, a lovely customer of Tom’s and a regular customer and Abergavenny resident. She popped in intrigued by the “cheese of the week”  billboard outside offering  Rachel (a Somerset goats cheese by Pete Humphries). Jane told us,  “I just love this shop. When I walk in it makes me feel happy. Tom has transformed this place into somewhere you just want to walk into – it’s fantastic that someone would do this for our town. I can’t really say any more than that.” Except, Jane doesn’t like goats cheese, “It’s too strong!” – a woman whose opinion has been tainted by the plethora of goat’s cheese starters!

Tom Lewis, Marches Deli, Abergavnney, cheese,
Very well stocked deli – The Marches Delicatessen, Abergavenny.

Tom says “I get lots of customers who decline even a tasting of anything – goaty. A bit like Jane their palates have been spoilt by mass produced goat’s cheese. It does generally have a tang to it, but some of them are very subtle indeed, not at all what you would expect. It can depend on how you are serving it or what you plan to drink with it. I’m always on hand to advise customers and let them try a little”

Tom stocks lots of great and tantalising deli products, but we really wanted to concentrate on the cheese today. We first met Tom, by luck, back in early December 2014 and he’d been in business for a little over 2 months (Sept 2014). Even then, despite the spartan premises, he had founded something special and had us hooked. For us it was cheese and what he was trying to do with Marches Deli. Well, it took us a few months to return – and in the meantime he seems to have worked wonders on all manner of tasty and different stock in the shop and the cheese counter was bursting with goodness!!

Tom Lewis, Marches Deli, Abergavenney, cheese,
Blue Monk – The Marches Delicatessen, Abergavenny.

Everything looked fab, but we singled out a couple for tasting. The health and safety wallers will have you keep your cheese in the fridge , take it out, not put it down anywhere, but eat it straight from the wrapper whilst wearing gloves. But, we aren’t feeding anyone, we aren’t serving it and we absolve anyone in the council from blame – so, if it’s all the same to you, we adopted the French method of cheese management and put it on the passenger seat for the sunny drive home before leaving it out on the kitchen worktop for a few hours. We lived long enough to write this thankfully.

Wye Valley Mellow

Tom Lewis, Marches Deli, Abergavenney, cheese,
Wye Valley Mellow, The Marches Delicatessen, Abergavenny.

 

The back story to this farmhouse maker is frankly incredible. The cheese lived up to the back story admirably. It has a nice thick crust that conceals a very creamy coloured, crumbly, but smooth tasting cheese which was just a delight. It has a milky cheesiness with a very pleasant slight hint of chewiness. We got the faint smell of exceedingly fresh shellfish, not fishy, just, well fresh! It’s very creamy to taste with a lovely tangy mature after-taste on the back of the palate. We’ll take some!

Crottin Affine – France

Cute rounded individual cheeses, with a nutty soft white crust from the cave-aging process. Beneath that is a yellow waxy layer and inside a white creamy cheese with a wonderful smell of a classic French camembert. This would be perfect with a soft fruity chutney and a glass of ice wine. Is this a good time to tell you that…  it’s actually a Goats cheese – this is the one Jane!