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Towcester Food & Drink Festival

The weekend of the 7th/8th June saw the inaugural Towcester Food and Drink festival which was held at Towcester Racecourse. This was the first time I’ve been to the venue and the sunshine was out in force after the mid morning thunder storms. This event was extra special because one of our family members had his homemade cider on sale after receiving the seal of approval from the organiser of the event.

Situated amongst the iconic Racecourse there were plenty of Food Tents showing off a fine selection of locally produced produce including cheeses, cakes, pickles and spices. There were cooking demonstrations and live music creating a varied number of things to see and experience.
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At the Champagne Bar Andy had his Cider on sale. His dry cider was called “Two Faced” which came in at a tasty 6.5% ABV. This was a truly awesome achievement, one that we are all extremely proud of. On the Saturday Andy sold just over half of his bottles and the remainder were cleared out by the large crowds on Sunday. Up against some well known and established local Ciders, Andy held his own and looked very much at home next to them. Selling at £3.50 a bottle I asked a couple of people who purchased Two Faced what they thought of his cider.

“This is really nice, it tastes fresh and I’ll certainly be buying another bottle today”

“I do like dry cider and this one ticks the right boxes”

One guy joked when I asked him how he found the cider, he replied by saying in the bar through that door. He must have thought I was trying to sell him life insurance! A very funny line if ever I heard one.

The evening saw us take part in the Towcester Food Festivals “Real Ale Trail” the event allowed customers to purchase a glass tankard and visit five local pubs/restaurants to try out new ales. These were provided by Crispin who had organised the festival over the weekend. For £7.50 we were set to have 5 x free quarter pints followed by another half at the Towcester Mill Brewery, our new tap house.

We had some great tasters of Golden Ales and some Darker Ales. Sadly one venue didn’t buy into the spirit of this event. The Plough is a pub we have not visited before and it’s safe to say the way they made us feel as we entered the venue was not pleasant. They told us that they had sold out of the Ale and were not prepared to give us an alternative. Apparently according to the rather bullish lady who greeted us “they weren’t big enough to give us another option” the near packed front bar was a very poor alibi to her claim.

Needless to say I’d like to thank the barman at The Brave Old Oak who had ran out of Pitstop (Silverstone Brewery) who gave us a couple of other options, thank you. The numbers taking part suggested that there was a good take up on the offer to sample local Real Ales, so that was a positive. I would also like to thank The Dolphin Cafe who made us feel extremely welcome in comfortable surroundings. The evening concluded at our new local tap house, the Towcester Mill.

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As we arrived at a packed Towcester Mill we were able to sit under the moonlight amongst the peaceful fields the Mill is set within. The odd bat flickered across the moons beams in a lovely tranquil atmosphere. This was certainly the best place to conclude this night and we enjoyed the last hour in the bar as the temperature started to drop.

This is our new favourite pub and one place we will certainly be enjoying our weekend evenings in. I would like to thank Crispin for an amazing food festival which has put Towcester on the map. I would also like to congratulate Andy on his successful debut launching Two Faced. It has been a pretty decent experience, The Plough aside!

DarcyB

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Towcester Autumn Beer Festival

This weekend saw Towcester host it’s very first Autumn Beer Festival. The event which ran across three days was held at The Pickled Pig on the High Street. Following on from the successes of the more established Summer Beer Festival and Sausage & Cider Festival held at Towcestrians Rugby Club, Whittlebury Brewery hosted and showcased a couple of their offerings to the residents of Towcester in this unique event. The Pickled Pig proved to be a suitable choice of venue and with a buzzing crowd and live music it complimented the selection of 16 Real Ales and 12 Ciders on offer.

John Evans of Whittlebury Brewery was on hand to serve the liquid treats available whilst happily sharing information which made the tasting even more enjoyable. Two of the Real Ales “Amarillo and Oasis” are brewed by John and it’s clear from our conversation he believes and shares my enthusiasm for Real Ale, “Real Ale is far more complex than Wines. You can achieve far more variations with Ale, this is because you can alter the way the hops are used to create a completely diverse taste. Wine can be tasted by swilling it around your mouth, Ale needs to be swallowed”.

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If there is one frustration of mine, it is the fact that you struggle to find locally produced Real Ales on tap in the local pubs. Towcester certainly has the pubs in place that would surely benefit from this, however it’s a common fact to find London Pride on tap and not Amarillo. I spoke with John and he has promised that this situation will change and that the next year promises to be exciting for lovers of Local Real Ales. In the past it has been known for a guest ale to appear, however by the time people are aware of this and the time that’s passed it’s off no sooner than when it first appeared. This is going to change and John will try all he can to make this happen. Another local supporter and event organizer of Local Real Ales and Ciders Festivals is Crispin Slee. Crispin organizes the Beer Festivals and created the popular Sausage & Cider Festival concept in Towcester. He was there on the Friday night we attended. Crispin who is better known as The Festival Man has seen peoples love for Local Real Ales and Ciders create a demand for these events.

There were other Real Ales available from breweries close by such as Nobby’s Brewery in Guilsborough, Northampton to as afar as Tring Brewery in Hertfordshire. It was safe to say that this carefully chosen selection gave a nice range of tastes and styles for any Real Ale fan.

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Whittlebury Brewery was founded in April 2010 and they happily sell their Ales to the Public, which is fantastic news. You can check out their website at http://www.whittleburybrewery.com
Here you can see the selections available as well as some fantastic seasonal gift sets. If you’d like to contact John Evans, then his details are on this page.

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Finally no Beer Festival is quite complete without having a go yourself as John kindly let me pour some of his Ales. The pricing was extremely fair for this event and £15 would buy you a Token that covered 10 half pints at £1.50 each. I think The Pickled Pig was a shrewd choice in venue and the space they have upstairs allowed this to run independently alongside their bar downstairs. The three day event is a nice concept and I think bringing this into Towcester Town Centre made it easier to access whilst attracting passing trade.

So what next? Well Towcester will be holding a Winter Beer Festival at Towcester Racecourse over the weekend of Friday 30th November – Saturday 1st December. There will be 30 Real Ales and 10 Ciders available alongside a Christmas Market and National Hunt Horse Racing Card on the Saturday. Entry to the event is free so please take this opportunity to attend and see in the Festive Season in some style.

If you’d like to keep up to date with the local Real Ale and Cider Festivals you can follow the Festival Man on Twitter @thefestivalman and for those who’d like to read my reviews on Ales I’ve been trying then please follow me on the Application called Untappd username: markyjb

DarcyB