Beer Kit: Dark Star Festival Ale All Grain Kit from @BrewUK – Tasting notes

20141006_205449Until I’ve taken a picture of the finished product, you’ll have to make do with a picture of it being kegged

Well.  Hasn’t it been a long time since I made this  (23rd September, in fact) and hasn’t it been a long time since I promised the tasting notes..?

So here they are:

From the keg, the Festival Ale pours a really good-looking dark-brown colour with an awful lot of head (I’ve just bought a new keg tap from Greg at BrewUK and I’m still experimenting with keg pressure to get it to pour nicely.)

Once the head has settled down to an acceptable level, the aroma is very fruity indeed (and that’s “fruity” in a good way) I suspect that this has a lot to do with the temperature during fermentation – the last gasp of summer forced it up to the low 20’s Centigrade, whereas I would have much preferred 19C or lower.

The body is first-class and the taste is all lovely and malty.  The yeast notes come in after the malt and help to round out out the taste very nicely; and right at the very end, and continuing into the after-taste, a very smooth bitterness splices itself in and helps to encourage further consumption.

All in all this is a very good kit indeed…and if you want to make it the best you possibly can, splurge on the fancy liquid yeast option (WYeast 1098 or White Labs 005) and -unlike me- try to keep the fermentation temperature under control!

PS: I’d also like to confirm that the Braumeister system makes these kits a breeze and produces a very nice beer indeed…

A beachside delight: Dark Star – American Pale Ale

apa_blackThe family and I managed to get away for a couple of days, recently.  We went to join friends (Dave, Caroline and young George) in their house-by-the-sea in West Wittering – and a lovely time was had by all.

Great weather and very warm temperatures meant that by the time the kids were crashed out of an evening, Dave and I were desperately thirsty – and Lucy the dog needed walking along the beach…to the pub.

We went to The Shore ( for our refreshments and I’m glad that we did.  The minute I walked in I spotted the Dark Star hand-pumps: Hop Head and their American Pale Ale.

But the Hop Head was off (there’s a brief review here:, so it would just have to be the APA, which -believe me- was absolutely no hardship at all…

Our pints arrived and were suitably golden coloured – matching the halcyon feel of those particular summer evenings in The Witterings.

The aroma of the APA was solidly malty with a lively hoppiness about it.

A lovely sumptuousness in the mouth revealed a really tasty bitterness, all underscored by a fresh, lively Centennial and Cascade hop riot.

God, it was excellent.  The Chico yeast strain (I presume?) meant that this APA really tasted like an APA – without any complex yeasty esters jumbling it all up.

Dave pronounced Dark Star APA as one of his new favourite beers (so much so that when all three of them left on the Friday, they swung past The Shore again for lunch – meaning that Caroline had to drive home, after Dave made a bit too free with the APA…)

As beer’s go I couldn’t have been happier.  Dave is interested in trying to brew up a clone for a party they’re having sometime in September…it’ll be a 45 Litre batch, too.  Lordy!

I’ll get to work on a recipe.  In the meantime, try to track down some Darkstar APA, you won’t regret it…

Great beers at the Hook Norton Beer Festival

20140719_144946Humour is most definitely alive and well in the land of the beer festival…

This was my first time at this event, and on the whole I was impressed:

Good things:
  • 100+ beers and ciders on cask
  • Fast attentive bar service
  • £1.50 a half, which is very good value
  • Good tasting notes
  • Camping available if you wanted to
  • Live music
  • Good selection of non-alcoholic options and foods to keep drivers and kids topped up
Not so good things:
  • Billed as being family friendly, but there wasn’t much for kids to do – apart from a horse and cart ride around the car park field
  • Far too many people crammed into too small-a-space, especially when groups of folks turn up with their gazebos, chairs and the like

When you organize this event next time, please try to make a bigger area for festival-goers to congregate – give some room for people to spread out a bit and make sure the stage with the music is somewhere where everyone can see it.

My kids only managed to last about an hour and half before they became over-whelmed by the sheer amount of people compressed into such a small space – especially when we all had to pile in the tent to escape the thunderstorm.

It was difficult to navigate the site without tripping over gazebo guy ropes, dog leads, folding chairs and lord knows what else.

And please: next year have a free bouncy castle…most people I saw leaving early were going because their kids were bored or kicking off about something or other (mine included).  Beer festivals are normally a great family day out and mine usually get wildly over-excited at the idea of going to one (Arthur couldn’t sleep the night before the Hooky one, as he normally gets cake, crisps and pop all afternoon, plus unlimited bouncy castle time with his mates…imagine his disappointment when there was no castle at all)

Parents with happy children will stay a lot longer and spend so much more on food and drink…

Despite the above, the festival was well organized and there was a MAGNIFICENT beer list: with really great tasting notes that helped me choose the four beers that I sampled:


Dark Star – Hop Head:

Oh god, this was so good. Tons of hops, maybe Simcoe – but not at all catty. Pretty much excellent.  I love this beer to death.


Hyde’s – Anvil Sharp Motueka:

A beer I just had to try because I’ve been curious about this particular New Zealand hop. The beer turned out to be almost fresh cigar-like, thick malt and caramel, some graininess and a good non-citrussy hop hit. (I can’t actually find this beer anywhere on this site?)


Hopshackle – Hopnosis:

Lightly citrussy and ethereal. A tasty light maltiness and an excellent bitterness, Good pervasive and lasting after-taste


Oakham Ales – Scarlet Macaw:

On cask this is just like the bottle ( but even lovelier. All-round-excellent. Hoppy, bitey, makes you all screechy – just like a Macaw (that’s copied verbatim from my festival notes and was the last drink of the day…could you guess?)


Will definitely be going back to Hooky next year as long as there’s more opportunity to keep the kids amused while I sample beer…  :o)   I’m also happy to report that ALL of the money raised at the festival goes to charity.  So good on them.

Dark Star: American Pale Ale

dark star apa

Only a short post, as this pint was enjoyed on a work night out at the St. Aldates Tavern (

A good looking golden-coloured pint, with some hoppiness on the nose – hung upon a lovely background of malt, a very nicely balanced aroma profile.

From the taste, an excellent attacking hop bitterness with good malt balance.

On the aftertaste, a pervasive bitterness that brings on a rather amusing tongue tingle

This is brewed in the true spirit of the American Pale Ale, but is still not mental enough: the bitterness was great – well done Dark Star – I just think the aroma hopping needs to be pushed to stratospheric levels to really get the juices flowing.!