Cherry Tree Beer Festival

Look at the skyline for a hint of what is to come!
I have been making an annual visit to the Cherry Tree for more years than I can easily remember. Not for the beer festival, but with my morris dance side. Every time I have been impressed by warm welcome, and the range and quality of the beer. Every time I have thought that I should come more often, but it is a half hour drive with no public transport options - the joys of rural living! 

When I saw the beer festival advertised I was keen to go along; even more so when the beer list was announced a couple of weeks later. Happily some good friends living close to Woodbridge were able to join me and my wife so we decided to go. 

Altogether there were 23 cask beers available on the bar, or the stillage in the outside lock up. Beer ticker that I am, I was thrilled to see that only four of them were ones that I had drunk before. With sixteen breweries from outside of Suffolk being represented I can't mention them all. Many of them, I must admit, I hadn't heard of before, but I did recognise Mad Squirrel and Signature Brew so I was particularly looking forward to trying their beers.

Before the rain - you can tell by the light and the space in the festival bar.

Even more impressive than the range of breweries was the range of beer styles. Given the popularity of IPA these days, it wasn't surprising to see nine hoppy pales on the beer list. However, these were joined by eight traditional English and Scottish ales ranging from amber, through chestnut, to ruby brown; then there was a mild, a porter, a stout, and even a grisette and a weizen. It was a tough challenge, but I did manage to taste them all, helped by the fact that beers were available in thirds, halves or pints.

In an attempt to be a good beer blogger I had taken my notebook and pen, but after my first set of three thirds I gave up on any thoughts of note taking. Partly that was because this was the evening that the drought of '18 broke, with thunder storms and a deluge of rain sweeping across Suffolk just after 8 o'clock. The live music in the beer garden came to an abrupt halt, as the beer festival crowd ran for cover in the lock up or the pub itself. It was very much standing room only, so the notebook was stuffed in a pocket, and the festival beer list was folded up only to be pulled out now and again to choose the next beer.

Even without the rain though, I am not at all sure that I would have kept up with making any tasting notes. Although my family and friends are sympathetic to my beer obsession, they don't share it. Conversation ranged over all manner of topics. This was very much one of those times when beer facilitated our enjoyment of the evening without being the focus. Beer came to the fore at times; notably during a quiet moment at the festival bar when I got to chatting with a customer and one of the staff (I'm sorry I didn't catch your name) about beer festivals, the prevalence of hoppy pales, Ghost Ship alcohol free, and even this blog. 

Jam jars - a festival first? Taking this photo prompted the beer geeky chat mentioned above.

Now I love to obsess over beer with other enthusiasts, as I did at the Norwich Amateur Brewers Festival (read about it here). In the absence of other beer geeks though, I have to admit that I have more fun if I can tone down my beer geekiness and enjoy just having a drink. Here's hoping that I can remember that in future.

Having said that, I was making some mental notes, and some of them have even survived the hangover so I can tell you about a couple of standout beers. Fi (my wife) made Signature Brew's Roadie her session beer of the evening. If I hadn't been on a beer ticking mission, then I might well have done the same. Citrus and tropical fruits are to the fore in this beer, which has a crisp bitter finish and is very drinkable. At the end of the evening though, the beer I went back to was the Dark Rum Porter from Black Edge. I just fancied something a bit more dark to finish with and this was perfect with its coffee, chocolate and liquorice bitterness balanced by the body and sweetness from a solid malty backbone.

At the end of a cracking evening, as we sheltered from the last of the rain under a sodden beer garden umbrella, drunkenly talking to bunch of strangers about tattoos and international travels past and planned, I resolved not to leave it another year before coming back to the Cherry Tree.


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