An Evening Up Ashley Down

Bristol Beer Week Meets Ashley Down

Bristol Beer Week Meets Ashley Down

On Friday (20 September) I visited Ashley Down Brewery in Bristol. Vince, owner of Ashley Down, was hosting an open evening that would double as a fundraising event for Bristol Beer Week. I’ve followed the evolution of Bristol Beer Week since its inception and have spent drinking time with both of its main men, Lee ‘Hoptopia’ Williams and Stephen ‘Blue Giant Beer’ Powell, so I was keen to attend the event and offer some modicum of support. And, of course, I’m always keen to drink beer and especially so when that beer happens to be in Bristol.

A little bit of prior research revealed that the least stressful way to the brewery was a train from Swindon to Temple Meads than a further train up to Montpelier followed by a straightforward 15 minute walk. The only downside was a 40 minute wait at Temple Meads. Yes, there’s a bar at the station but it doesn’t sell particularly good beer. But good beer was waiting just a couple of miles north.

I arrived a minute or so before 6.30pm and after a brief chat with Lee ordered my first beer of the evening: a pint of Ashley Down Vanguard – a dark mild that clocks in at 3.8% ABV. I’ve long been sceptical of mild, which is probably mostly thanks to CAMRA’s Mild in May malarkey and the subsequent sarcasm that ‘craft’ brewers chuck its way. But I must confess that a couple of the beers that have really surprised me this year have been milds and Vanguard has now been added to that growing list. Next up was another Ashley Down offering: Bitter (3.8%) – a solid old school bitter that builds impressively with every mouthful and looking back I’d say it’s a beer that is probably best understood and appreciated after you’ve had two or three in succession. It was around the end of my pint of Bitter that Stephen turned up and presented me with my specially made fatboy-size Bristol Beer Week t-shirt. Stephen’s arrival also heralded a switch to a different brewery and in reasonably swift succession I had to 2 beers from Wiper & True. First up was their In The Pines (an amber ale at 5.3%) which was then followed by a pint of Australia (a 5.7% pale). Both were excellent and as far as my taste buds were concerned the best two of the evening. Other beers I tried were For Whom The Bell (4.5%) by Towles (pronounced Tolls), which has been created for Bristol Beer Week and Thrill of Hope IPA (5.1%) by New Bristol – both are extremely well made beers and I look forward to trying further beers from those breweries.

The excellent beer was complimented by an equally excellent turn-out. Over the course of the evening I’d estimate that roughly one hundred people turned up to drink beer and make merry. I don’t know how many pints were sank but everybody there had as many as me (ten including the two I took away) that would equate to more than a thousand… but not everybody sinks beer at the stupid speed I do so I’d imagine the actual figure would’ve been significantly lower but still mightily impressive.

Sadly I had to leave shortly after 9pm to make sure I caught the last train to Swindon. I’ve no idea how much longer the festivities trundled on for but I certainly would’ve happily stayed for many more hours. All in all it was a brilliant evening: I drank great beer and chatted to great brewers and pub owners and went home buzzing about the forthcoming Bristol Beer Week. Friday’s visit to Ashley Down was a brilliant BBW primer and I’m more than certain that the main event will be sublime.

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Bristol Beer Week runs from Thursday 3 October to Wednesday 9 October


~ by landells on September 22, 2013.

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