Thanks to beer blogger Maeib for telling me what I am. I've been doing this blogging lark for over two years now, but it's just this month that I find I am a "scooper": one who samples beer widely and takes note of all. In Hilden on Saturday I felt my scoopness acutely. As far as I could see, I was the only one of my kind present. You could say it was me and my notebook that made it a proper beer festival. But you wouldn't.
Having finished with the Hilden brews, I turned first to Moorhouse's brewery in Lancashire. The pump clip of its Black Cat dazzles with bling from the Brewing Industry International Awards and CAMRA's Champion Beer of Britain. I was disappointed, however, and found the black ale rather bland. Their Premier Bitter isn't much better, being quite thin and the least bitter bitter I've ever encountered. I was similarly unimpressed with two beers from Sheffield's Abbeydale brewery: Moonshine, a dull and slightly musty pale ale, and Matins, a vaguely hopped even-paler blonde cousin. At the far end of the festival bar, ignored by everyone, was Damson Porter by Burton Bridge. The base here is a very light porter, touched on by some sour damson fruitiness. Flavourwise it could have done with a bit more of everything.
A total contrast was Flat Cap, from Bolton's Bank Top brewery. This is a light ale sporting a superb zesty hoppiness. E&S Elland in West Yorkshire are similarly unafraid of the hop plant, providing Bargee, a light, smooth but marvellously tasty bitter, and Beyond the Pale, a deceptively pale ale with a powerful dry hops flavour. Titanic Brewery in Stoke-on-Trent make Anchor, a weighty yet quaffable orange ale, with an excellent hop-malt balance. Triple Screw was their other brew, a foamy red-orange ale: smooth, caramelly and satisfyingly heavy.
My finds of the festival, however, came from Manchester's 3 Rivers brewery. Their Manchester IPA is mega-hoppy, full-tasting, aromatic and warming: ticking all the IPA boxes. They also supplied Old Disreputable, a beautiful sweet black ale, reminding me of the Speight's Old Dark I found in New Zealand and which I miss every now and then.
At this point the railway timetable forbade any further tasting, and I failed to achieve the full scoop. I can't overstate how much I enjoyed this sort of drinking and am already making plans for the CAMRA Belfast festival in November. I might even get a new notebook, special like.