Beer Today’s Darren Norbury with a drop of Double or Nothing DIPA

It’s just days away now — the 2019 Celtic Beer Festival, held in the atmospheric cellars of St Austell Brewery, Cornwall.

The festival runs from 11am until 11pm on Saturday (November 30) and features more than 180 beers and ciders. It raises funds for St Austell’s Charitable Trust.

With music of all styles throughout the day, the event promises to be as much fun as ever. The beers include brews from pretty much every brewery in Cornwall, so you’re sure to find something to suit your palate.

And, as usual, the brewing team have been let loose to create some unique specials. I’ve picked out some highlights to look out for below. I was guided through a tasting with Rob Orton, the brewing and bottling manager.

The choice of small batch brews is as wide as ever, but Rob says: “Whatever the beer, it should be a good example of its style.” I can report that the ones I tasted definitely fitted that description.

I was invited to preview some of the St Austell specials ahead of the event.

Brews to look out for

Amber PandaDouble or NothingHarlequin

Amber Panda (4.3% ABV, cask)
There’s a lovely apricot aroma on this nicely crafted session bitter. It’s hopped with Amarillo, Ekuanot and Loral, dry hopped, too, and for balance there’s Munich, crystal, Maris Otter and cara malts.

Harlequin (4.8% ABV, cask and keg)
Harlequin is a new British hop variety developed by hop merchant Charles Faram. It’s a ‘grandchild’ of the Jester variety — see what they’ve done there with the name. It’s already been named best hop at the Institute of Brewing and Distilling hop awards, and you can see why with this delightful IPA.

Double or Nothing (6.8% ABV, cask)
St Austell don’t make many double IPAs. It’s not generally their thing, although they have a big hitter in the famous Big Job. This one, however, is a dangerously drinkable number, created by Ben White, who has just two years’ experience. Smooth and subtle, it features Simcoe, Azacca, amd Mosaic and has been double dry hopped.

Dunkel Weisse (5.4% ABV, keg)
Let’s make a wild assumption that it may be, well, extremely autumnal on Saturday. This dark wheat beer will perk you up. The addition of cardamom and lemon zest brings a spicy, comforting note to this ‘winter warmer’.

Double Chocolate Stout (5% ABV, cask)
Mark Heaman is turning into quite the dark beer specialist on the St Austell brewing team. He’s had one big hit already this year with the award-winning (Falmouth Beer Festival) small batch brew Moo Juice, a milk stout. He returns here with a smooth, rich stout offering notes of dark chocolate, coffee and vanilla. A super autumnal brew.

Sea Level (2.8% ABV, cask)
Does big flavour necessitate big ABV? Not if you’re judicious with your use of hops, no. Here, brewer Herbie Harford — an experienced home brewer before he joined the St Austell team — has created a session bitter packed with big hop flavour, from loads of dry hopping. Rob says: “What you save on beer duty you can spend on hops!”

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