This past weekend Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer rode the rails up to the Black Country – England’s West Midlands. Our destination was the 18th Stourbridge Beer Festival presented by Stourbridge & Halesowen CAMRA. It was well worth the trip…
On paper this festival was one of the most interesting we’d seen in quite a while. What drew our attention was the beer list featuring close to 100 cask ales with a high percentage of unfamiliar Black Country LocAles (40%) and ales sourced from south Wales (25%). When we arrived for the final day – Saturday – we were not disappointed: the vast majority of casks were still available.
We hope the festival was as much a success for the organizers as it was a pleasure for us to attend. Based on this experience, Stourbridge is a very friendly place: before we had even entered the venue we chatted with some very nice locals out on the street; and the arrival at Stourbridge Town train station via what is arguably Europe’s shortest operational branch line is unique. For anyone interested in public transport the Stourbridge Shuttle service is not to be missed.
However it seems the festival may have paid the price for unseasonably sunny weather. Chatting with volunteers we learned that only during Friday evening did the hall get crowded. At earlier sessions and at no time during our Saturday visit was it crowded. This made it a great festival for us: friendly locals and unrushed volunteers who were happy to spend time chatting about their local beer and brewery scene, while pointing us to the most interesting LocAles. We are afraid though that there was a lot of unsold beer at the end which is literally money down the drain for local CAMRA branches. Even though we left before 5 pm it was made plain by a Facebook post around 9 pm that a lot of beer was left unsold.
Anyway, during the course of the afternoon we were able to confine our tasting to almost entirely LocAle and we sampled 24 different beers of which 14 nips (1/3 pint) were purchased. Our standouts on the day:
Mrs Fueled by Beer
- Blackheath Stout (5.0% ABV) from Fixed Wheel Brewery of Halesowen, West Midlands
- Stallion Best Bitter (4.2% ABV) from Hambleton Ales of Melmerby, North Yorkshire
- Offshore Howler Wheat Beer (4.0% ABV) from Surfing Monkey Brewery of Cardiff, Wales
- Peaches Pale Ale (4.0% ABV) from Angel Ales of Halesowen, West Midlands
Mr Fueled by Beer
- BOB64 Stout (6.5% ABV) from Angel Ales of Halesowen, West Midlands
- Ogham Oak Belgian Style Tripel (8.5% ABV) from Celt Experience of Caerphilly, Wales
- King Korvak’s Saga Porter (5.4% ABV) from Fownes Brewing Co of Sedgley, West Midlands
- Boris Citrov Best Bitter (4.7% ABV) from Sadler’s Ales of Lye, West Midlands
And here are some photos from our visit – click an image to view the gallery: