Portsmouth Beer Festival at Victorious

Victorious Festival made its debut on Southsea Seafront last weekend, and the move from Portsmouth Historic Dockyard proved to be quite a masterstroke. The expanse of grass that usually makes up part of Southsea Common was transformed, making it feel like you weren’t really in the city at all, with 3 proper stages, multiple food stands (see Southsea Food Social for more on that), markets, lots for the kids and a load of other activities on offer for just £20.  In addition, the Seaside Stage near the Bandstand must have one of the best settings of any UK festival. As a lifelong resident of Portsmouth, it’s fantastic the Victorious team have finally pulled off the festival the Seafront has been crying out for (and I got to see 2manyDJs perform in my home town!).

Victorious is also home to a Real Ale Festival, run by the people behind the Portsmouth Beer Festival (which relaunched earlier this year at Portsmouth Guildhall). The real ale festival had proved such a success at Victorious 2013 that they sold out of stock on both days – this time however there was plenty! Here are a few of my favourites from the weekend.

Nova (Bristol Beer Factory, 3.8%)

This was my go-to beer for the weekend, a full flavoured session ale, which is available on cask or in bottles from the fantastic Bristol Beer Factory all year round. The use of a light malt base allows the hops to really shine through, meaning you get bag loads of taste for a lightish ale. If you ever make a trip to Bristol, a stop at Bristol Beer Factory’s Grain Barge is a must.

Moondance (Triple FFF, 4.2%)

This was my last beer of the weekend, and I have to thank Sam, Landlord of Southsea’s King Street Tavern for pointing it out to me when I ran into him in the Ale Tent. A multi award winning beer from Alton’s Triple FFF Brewery, this hazy golden ale has grassy hop flavours in abundance from the American Cascade Hops they use. Wish I discovered it earlier – I will certainly be keeping my eye out for it in future.

New World Pale Ale (Marstons, 3.8%)

One of the interesting things about the Ale Festival was that only the name of the ale was listed on the front of the barrel, not the brewery – so this cheeky little number I later discovered was from Marston’s, one of the bigger breweries. With no disrespect to them (Ringwood Brewery, which is Marston’s owned, make some decent beers, with Boon Doggle being the pick of the bunch), I may have skipped past this one had I known. This is purely because I tend focus on finding the weird and the wonderful little breweries at beer & ale festivals.

However, I was glad I gave it a go. Presumably created to get a slice of all the craft beer action going on at the moment, the team at Marston’s have used Australian hops to create a really tasty little number, with strong zesty notes come shining through from start to finish, and taught me valuable lesson to give all ales a chance at ale festivals, regardless of provenance. Recommended.

I also got stuck into some ciders, with Shepton Cider’s Somerset Snuffler (4.8%) being my pick of the bunch.

Location wise, the ale tent was in a great position on the site. A last minute change had to be made as the Pyramids complex (where the ale festival was due to be held) was declared out of bounds because of overrunning building work. As a result, it was moved to a marquee nearer the centre of the site.

Interestingly, I think this worked out really well – if it had been in the Pyramids, which is on the fringe of the site, it would have felt quite cut-off from the rest of the goings on. The token system that operated in this area only meant it was a very handy place to grab a pint when you were heading from A to B, and also made a great meeting point.

Lest someone (that’s me) who has no experience in running a festival stick their oar in, but fingers crossed they’ll find another use for the Pyramids for 2015 and the Ale Fest will stay in the same place. Whatever happens – I can’t ruddy well wait for the next instalment.

PS – If I have piqued your interest in Victorious Festival for next year, you can get your Early Bird tickets for just £18 here.