A lot of people, me included were hugely disappointed to find out the Cambridge Beer Festival was cancelled for the second year in a row. That’s why when the opportunity came up for The Portland to host our own Beer Festival, I wanted to present as authentic an experience as possible for lovers of the summer event.

I got in touch with all our regular local brewers, as well as some new faces, and came up with a diverse range of real ales. I wanted to produce a menu chock full of beers that regular ale drinkers and CAMRA locals might not recognise. I feel that goal has been achieved and I’d like to share our list of beers with you in this edition of the blog.

On opening night I hosted a Meet the Brewer/Blind Tasting event where our customers and CAMRA members could sample some of our range, as well as meet some of the people responsible for brewing them. CAMRA streamed the event live and is still available to view on our social media. David from Rocket Ales and Chris from Papworth Brewery did a great job talking about their brewing processes and how they name their beers.

Having been shut for nearly five months, it’s wonderful to finally be open again and to have seen so many real ale drinkers on the Festival’s opening day. Without further ado, here is our Beer Festival range:

Trinovantes Gold from Colchester Brewery, 4.3%
A fruity, golden hoppy beer from our friends in Colchester. This was the first beer sampled in our Blind Tasting event and was well received. A great light beer and a tremendous way to start a session.

Apollo 11 from Rocket Ales, 3.9%
Apollo hops give this pale ale it’s bitterness, aroma and flavour. This was the second beer sampled in our Blind Tasting session and was one of the attendees’ favourites. David the brewer was present to talk about why the rocket theme was chosen for his brewery.

Sly Wolf from Wolf Brewery, 4.4%
Although we have had this beer on our pumps numerous times, I couldn’t resist getting a barrel in for our festival. This lime-infused pale ale not only has a fruity aroma but a wonderful biscuity finish.

You’re on Mute from Greene King, 4.2%
Greene King often gets a bad rap from ale drinkers and I think that is totally unfair. This citrusy amber ale is one of my surprise highlights of the entire festival range.

Lemon and Ginger from Humpty Dumpty Brewery, 4%
“Weird and wonderful” but still traditional enough to appeal to everyone’s tastebuds. Pale amber in colour with citrus and spicy aromas. Perfect on a hot Summer’s day (I’m still hopeful).

Growling Dog Tropical IPA from Nethergate, 7.5%
Deceptive in strength, this juicy brew is wonderfully balanced with backbone bitterness. “Naturally hazy” to lock in the punchy flavours.

Mid-Week Bender from Nene Valley Brewery, 7.4%
Another strong, hazy beer which has divided opinions so far. It has been described as “one for the youths” as it isn’t your traditional real ale. The candied orange flavour with the strong alcohol taste really appealed to the audience in our blind tasting event.

1555 from Bishop Nick Brewery, 4.3%
Much unlike the Mid-Week Bender, this Best Bitter is your typical, traditional real ale. Amber in colour and full-bodied, with a sweet nutty taste. If you’re only just getting in to the real ale experience, this beer would be a great jumping-off point.

Swordfish from Wadworth, 5%
This Pusser’s rum-infused ale has a rich smoothness with caramel overtones. Perfect for those rainy May evenings we’ve become used to.

Andromeda from Milton Brewery, 4.2%
When I was having trouble sourcing red ales (the trend at the moment is pale, golden or jet black, not much middle ground), Milton helpfully agreed to resurrect Andromeda for us, for which we (and our customers) are truly grateful. This mild-red English ale has the perfect balance of malt and hops, with a satisfying bitterness that lingers just long enough.

(The beer formally known as) Red Kite from Papworth Brewery, 4.5%
A full-bodied ruby IPA that delighted palates at our blind tasting session. Chris, Papworth’s head brewer had a tremendous story about how the name of the beer came to be. You’ll have to log on to our Facebook page to hear the story in full.

Oscar Wilde from Mighty Oak Brewery, 3.7%
Dark milds seem to be coming back into fashion in the 2020s, though I’m sure CAMRA members would tell you that they were never unfashionable. This multi-award winning mild is suitably nutty and mellow.

Ruby Mild from Rudgate Brewery, 4.4%
As requested, a second mild for the range. Rudgate’s offering is a little bit smoky, with a rich velvety finish. A mild-lover’s mild.

Old Man and the Sea from Mighty Oak Brewery, 4.1%
Our second offering from Mighty Oak was the fifth beer sampled in our tasting session. It’s a light, creamy stout which is very quaffable indeed. The 4.1% strength and subtle but adequate flavours make this a beer that can be consumed exclusively over the course of a session.

Obsidian Order from Oakham Ales, 6.2%
This was the final beer sampled in our blind tasting event. This is a beer that a lot of customers were excited to sample. The term “Black IPA” was described as an oxymoron in our tasting session, nevertheless the coffee and toffee aromas are beautifully enhanced by Oakham’s trademark citrusy hoppiness.

Umbel Magna from Nethergate, 5%
The final beer in our range will be no stranger to regular ale drinkers, especially lovers of dark beer. Umbel Magna is a coriander porter, which is very much a throwback to old school porters. Herb-alicious and suitably spicy.

No Beer Festival would be complete without a few ciders. Here are our cider offerings:

  • Cockeyed Cider’s Mad Jack, a traditional dry cider at 5%.
  • Snailsbank’s Fruit Bat, 4%, which I can only describe as alcoholic Ribena.
  • Raspberry Ripple, 4%, also from Snailsbank. Very popular with our regulars, this cider blends raspberry and vanilla to produce a very sweet beverage.
  • Broadoak’s Pear & Chilli, 4%. This perry packs a major kick; you’ve been warned.

In order to recreate the authentic Cambridge Beer Festival experience, we’re doing cheese platters! We’re serving them in the classic style: choose your three cheeses and we’ll serve them with bread and chutney. Only £6 and we can do them to take away if needed. Swing by and check out the board to see what cheeses we have.

There you have it ladies and gents. 18 real ales with two great back-up barrels ready for when the beers inevitably start to run out. With something for every beer-drinker’s palate, I am very proud of the range I have put together for your consumption. The Portland Beer Festival runs through Bank Holiday Monday, or until we run out of beer! 20p from each pint sold will be donated to our chosen charity, Cambridge Food Bank. We are also selling this year’s CAMRA Cambridge Beer Festival glass for £3 each, of which £2 goes to Cambridge Food Bank. As ever you can follow us @ThePortlandArms on Twitter and Instagram, or hit us up on Facebook.