I usually visit the festival, inside the Brangwyn Hall, on the Thursday night, and 2012 was no different. While all three days sees ample choice, the Thursday ensures you can try every beer with no fear of it having run out (like some popular ones have done in the past).
After entering, you'll need to pay £5 to gain access to the beery haven. In return you're given a Swansea Beer Festival branded glass (to use and then keep) and a programme, useful for choosing the beers you want to sample.
|My glass, filled with Otley's 'Oxymoron'|
The festival itself is inside the main hall, where well over 100 barrels of lovely beer line the perimeter. To keep things simple, no money changes hands when you order a beer; so before you get to taste anything, you'll need tokens. I'd say £10-20 worth of tokens per person is about the right amount if you're planning to be there all night. Each beer costs between £1.30 - £1.70. I purchased £20 at the start and still had two sheets left at the end. You do the maths!
|Each token is worth... that's right: 10p!|
Glass and programme in one hand, tokens in the other, it was time to taste some beer! I noticed some of my favourites were on offer, so dived straight for them. My first glass was Otley's 'Croes-O', which I've tried before in the Queens Hotel in the Marina. It's the perfect opening ale - light and fruity.
My second ale was another I've previously tried (coincidentally at the 2011 Swansea Beer Festival!) - 'Pale Rider' from Kelham Island Brewery. I chose it last time because I love Clint Eastwood films (that's the title of an Eastwood film, for those of you who don't know their westerns!), but this time I chose it because of its fruity taste.
Two beers down and I'd limbered up a bit. I was ready to try something new. I headed back to Otley to sample a glass of dark and tasty 'Oxymoron'; an IPA with a bitter aftertaste. While we're on the subject of Otley, one of my all time favourite ales always tends to feature at the festival and is well worth a try - 'O-Garden'.
I tried many others through the night, but highlights included Dark Star's 'Hophead' and Cloud Nine from Six Bells Brewery. There were some real flavourful beers around, two of which are worth mentioning. Art Brew's 'Spanked Monkey' was flavoured with chili and ginger, and was genuinely very spicy! On the other end of the flavour spectrum I had a glass of 'Raspberry Blonde' by Saltaire - a beautiful, light and fruity beer.
Beer isn't the only thing on sale. If you're a cider man (or woman), there was a good selection in the main hall. You could also purchase t-shirts and bar towels in the area where you buy the tokens. Meanwhile, if you needed solid sustenance, there was a small service area in a separate room which sells pasties, chips and other hot food to soak up some of the beer.
At about 9pm a band took to the stage to play some mellow rock and folk music. I'm not usually a fan of music in drinking establishments ('it's too loud' I usually cry) but this event always chooses a band decent enough to entertain but not steal the show.
The rest of the night was a blur of chatting to old friends, making new ones (including some Chinese students, who had no idea what was happening, but agreed to have a photo!) and having drunken hugs with people I don't really know.
|That's me on the end (not the Chinese guy), looking nice and drunk!|
I've slept most of the hangover off now and it's safe to the say that the Swansea Beer Festival 2012 was, as always, perfect. The next one is actually in April 2013 - the date change is due to the hall being refurbished next summer.
I can't wait!