Just a quick round-up of the eight beers I tried, across three of Wetherspoon's pubs in Leeds city centre yesterday. I was of course hoping to drop on one of the holy grails of their festival - a beer by one of the foreign guest brewers that Wetherspoon flies in for the festival. As luck would have it, the 'Spoons at Leeds railway station had Zululand Zulu Blonde (4.5%abv) on, so this was my first tick (I've not taken up ticking, it's just a figure of speech). It was a perfectly decent pale golden ale, faintly floral, with a gentle bitterness, but nothing that would make me go back for another. To be honest, it was thrown into the shade a bit by my next beer, Elland Eden (4.2%abv), which demonstrated how far the pale golden ale category had come, all brightly fruity hops and creamy malt. Yes, I know that's not actually in the festival, but it had a festival pumpclip on it. Oh well, a happy accident.
Brains Honest Ale (4.5%abv) was solid, if unexciting, and frankly paled into comparison next to the creamy, spicy delights of Val-Dieu Abbaye Blonde (5.5%abv), a huge mouthfilling blonde beer, sweet and slightly worty, with a luscious, nourishing quality - beer as a foodstuff, no less. Budelse Capucijn (6%abv) seemed disgustingly buttery in comparison, but that's the thing about comparitive tasting - your palate needs a few sips to adjust. What seemed buttery to the point of gag-inducing was revealed to be a rich, spicy dubbel, with gingerbread notes and a spicy hop finish. Very good.
Sharp's Gentle Jane (4.8%abv) is unusual, having a slightly sherried edge (I thought fino or nutty dry oloroso), alongside the trademark Sharp's character. I think the brew is innoculated with a strain of peddiococcus bacteria, which would account for the atypical flavour set. I thought it was distinctive, different and enjoyable. By comparison, Banks's Morrell's Oxford Blue (4%abv) had a lot going for it, but was a bit too restrained on the hop front to make enough impact. Wadworth's Farmers Glory (4.7%abv) was sweetly nutty, with a surprisingly dry hop finish.
Overall, the beers were in great condition, and the three 'Spoons that I visited were all perfectly decent places to drink. Maybe it would have been nice to see a few more beers amped up a bit for the festival - the Morrell's beer in particular could have been great if it had a bit more poke, looking on paper to be a C-hop riot (Cascade, Centennial, Citra, Columbus), but just missing out in the glass. But generally, my experience of the Spoonsfest is that it's a lot of good beer, in good condition, at a great price. You can't knock that.