The Station Hotel: 13th Beer Festival

Pub beer festivals - in the past I have been bitterly disappointed by some, and pleasantly surprised by others. Which way would I feel after visiting the 13th Station Hotel Beer Festival?

I have mixed feelings about The Station in Framlingham, which is a pub that I have visited several times over the last few years. On the one hand I rather like Gannet, the Earl Soham Brewery's mild ale, there is often an interesting guest ale to be had, and the style is pleasantly and unaffectedly rustic; most importantly the beer is generally well kept. On the other hand, it is very much a gastro pub. Many of the tables are adorned with reserved signs, especially at the weekend. I understand the economics, but, as a drinker, it doesn't feel terribly comfortable.

Diners - not here for the beer festival!
In the week running up to the festival I had tried to find out what beer would be available. I suppose I could have tried harder, after all the pub does have a phone, but checking the website and Facebook page, and using Facebook Messenger were all to no avail. So I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were 16 beers available. East Anglia was well represented, with beers from Crouch Vale in Essex, Mauldons in Suffolk, and Fat Cat in Norfolk. Coming from further afield were beers from Redemption in London, Iron Pier in Kent, Tring in Hertfordshire, Blue Bee in Sheffield, and Thornbridge in Derbyshire. 

Stillage and cask jackets - definitely a beer festival.
It was Thornbridge that made my eyes light up; I am a fan of their bottled beers, but I very rarely get the chance to drink them on cask. Having said that, several of the breweries represented are award winners so my first impression was positive.

A closer look at the beer list though showed that there wasn't as much choice as we might have hoped for. Out of the sixteen beers on offer there was one stout (Thornbridge McConnel's), and one amber (Hopspur by Redemption). The other fourteen were all pale or golden hoppy ales. What's more twelve out of those fourteen featured American hops! Now, I love hoppy, piney, citrus pale ales, but I don't need twelve of them to choose between.

Beers with a view
One of the challenges for the pub beer festival is keeping the beer cool enough, especially this year with our most un-British summer heatwave. Maybe this had had an impact, although the beer did seem to be pleasantly cool. However, the McConnel's did seem rather light bodied and the flavour, although hinting at vanilla, didn't show the raspberry that was promised on the tasting notes. I am fairly certain that this beer was not showing its true colours, and the same may well have been the case for the other beers I tried as well. They were all OK, but none of them really stood out.

Of course, another beer festival issue is the fact that all the beer is served on gravity. Now, I don't deny that this affects the way that the beer presents itself, but it is perfectly possible to produce a good head on gravity dispensed beer if you know what you are doing. The photo above speaks for itself on that score.

Happy beer festival crowd
On the whole I was slightly disappointed, but I have to accept that I am partly to blame for that myself. I had gone for the beer, which was ok, but not spectacular. Looking around, it was clear that there were plenty of people having a great time. The difference being that for them the festival was an excuse to come together, rather than being their main focus of the evening. Have I learned my lesson? Well, with another pub beer festival coming up this weekend I will soon find out.


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