Yesterday we went to the first Vegan Beer Festival in Sheffield which was organised by Sean a.k.a. Fat Gay Vegan who is a regular contributor to the Vegan Life magazine. It was held in the trendy Yellow Arch Studios near Kelham Island and we had the bonus of locating the Thali Cafe on our way there and plan to visit that place soon too.
The weather was brightening and the sun came out. There were four food vendors in the courtyard and plenty of seating. An indoor area was reserved for the beer with three breweries and a local pub providing the beers. and what a great selection there was too!
We grabbed a table which became our home over the coming hours whilst occasionally venturing out into the sun, or watching the charity kareoke taking place. I got up and did a fair cover of the Rolling Stone's classic, Paint it Black. No, wait, that was someone else. I have never done kareoke and this was not the time to start.
The four food vendors did good business. We tried something from each. I am probably the wrong demographic for these businesses as the food was more American diner/ fast food alternative takeaways, however V-Rev from Manchester were really particularly friendly and Sue liked their brisket in a bun and had a good laugh with the main guy there who had great people skills.
I tried "crispy eg and bacon on a pretzel bun" produced by Butcherless. It was interesting and disconcertingly like the real thing, certainly closer to the real thing than many imitators i have tried. It was all sweet and salty, smoky and umami with the bacon made from mheat. The eg was incredibly realistic with an oozing yolk that utilised indian black salt to recreate the sulferous odour.
Did I enjoy it? Yes. Would I have it again? Yes, as an occasional take away. Would I cook with it? Probably not. It did blow away some of my preconceptions and as they say on their website, their product is not a fake meat, just simply vegan, grown not born. There is something artisanal about this approach which intrigues me. It's not quorn.
Somebody later tweeted Sean to say this had been one of the most welcoming and inclusive festivals they had been too and I heartily agree. It was relaxed, pleasant, no anti-social behaviour. Very friendly.
The beers were sensational. I had one bad beer all day, an experimental Weird Beard creation "Roots, bloody roots" which was a take on root beer and should have been all licorice and sarsaparilla but was very medicinal. Sue tasted it and screwed her face up "horrible, tastes like "germolene". And it did, every mouthful from then on was like drinking an anti-septic. Luckily there was only a half pint to drink and it was a weaker beer. I did think about feeding it to the nearby bay leaf plant, but my conscience would not have been clear. But that's part of the fun of trying something new, I once saw a pint of parma violet stout in a pub and asked the bartender what it was like. "Disgusting" she said. But I tried and enjoyed a half! Weird Beard makes some great beer but this was a miss for me.
The wonder of beer festivals is that you can get to sample an array of beers and chat to the people who are so passionate about brewing them. The commerative glass, well, it was more a frosted plastic design but lovely - is marked with half and third pint measures so you can sample a lot of beers over an afternoon without falling over. I started with a Bad Seed wheat beer, all raspberry, rose petal and hibiscus. Later I tried their strong Glass Case of Emotion - an Imperial stout all almonds and cherries. Chorlton Brewing Company had an array of sour beers all great but I liked the orange/ cherry sour brown ale whilst Sue liked the hemp pale ale (ah, the benefits of being a couple, you sample twice the beer!)
The Welsh Heavy Industry Brewing had a gold medal winning IPA called 77, which did not disappoint and it was a tie between this and the Farmaggedon Gorse IPA which adds a heady aroma they describe as almost a pina colada of pineapple and coconut but was like nothing I had tried before, as to my favourite of the day. The Farmaggedon just edged it.
Before leaving I took a few quick candid shots with my Nikon D40 and a 35mm prime lens. Sue and I noted that Black is still the new Black; Vegan Doc Martens are plentiful and as is bright colourful hair... and people are getting younger.
I spoke with Sean before we left and he was looking more relaxed. He'd been really worrying about the weather but the sun prevailed and this event was a success and will surely be back in the new year.