We had never been to NERAX but always meant to go sometime. We went this year to the 14th New England Real Ale Exhibition in a nice room in an old marble building in Davis Square. We ran into Laurel and Mike there and we all stood around and traded beers and stories for a few fantastic hours.
"Real ale" or "cask ale" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cask_ale) is a sobriquet for beer produced by a certain, traditional, manufacturing and distributing process. The key is the beer undergoing fermentation in the vessel from which it is served and then being dispensed without help other than gravity or natural air pressure.
We were there for the opening of the festival and a good number of the firkins they had shipped in were ready for tapping. Others weren't ready yet (the festival lasts 4 days) and we missed a few we had looked forward to. We mostly drank halves (half imperial pints ... did you know that the imperial pint is a more modern unit of measure than the American pint??) and managed to sample a good number of beers.
Here's an annotated list of what we had. These are all among the crème de la crème, so put no significance if I damn by faint praise, I was probably distracted:
- Acorn Brewery (England), Golovka Imperial Stout - very similar to the Imperial Stout I make with a hoppy profile over the dark malts, just like mine
- Dark Star (England), Hophead - a nice session pale ale with some interesting flavors
- Elland Brewery (England), 1872 Porter - a recent contest winner and you can see why, beautifully full and smooth taste
- Fuller's (England), Gales HSB - a dry, classy bitter like they don't make in this country, I love Fuller's beers and wish the ESB had been on! (the Pride was but we didn't get to it)
- St. Austell (Cornwall), Winter Warmer - we've vacationed in Cornwall at Christmas right near the brewery and this was the first one I tried last night ... like going home
- Cairngorm (Scotland), Black Gold - rich and heavy Scots beer, is that possible??
- Fyne Ales (Scotland), Vital Spark - a fizzy bitter with a little taste of roast barley, kind of a Scots chick beer
- Harviestoun (Scotland), Old Engine Oil - my idea of a dark ale, reasonably tart balanced by some nice aftertastes
- Isle of Skye Brewing (Scotland), Black Cuillin - very complex but might have needed some more age for its gravity
- Brecon (Wales), Six - we've also holidayed in Brecon and I was really looking forward to Brecon's award-winning Rambler's Ruin, but it wasn't on; the Six is a lighter, rye beer with some high notes
- Günther Brau (Germany), Märzen - a nice Munich ... not used to a lager from a cask!
- Allagash Brewing (US), Black - wonderfully flavorful like an Bach (ah, Bach) organ romp
- Blue Hills Brewing (US), IPA - fresh hops, good malt, the kind of simple beer I love
- Moat Mountain (US), Moat Square Tail Stout on Oak - a remarkable beer that should be in a museum; an incredible assortment of flavors
- People's Pint (US), Pied pIPA - the hop champion of the day ... you could smell the hops from across the room but the beer was remarkably well-balanced for that