Snow. It makes perfect sense for the UK of all places to be enveloped in sumptuously alarming March warmth one moment then receive a dusting of snow and plummeting near-freezing temperatures the next. Peering above my laptop towards the window now, snow is as much a distant memory as March 25th, a day of festive inebriation down on Felixstowe’s shoreline where for two days you could sample a carefully curated yet no less veritable who’s-who of the local-ish brewery scene – a weekend personally cut short because, well, I have to get paid somehow. Had you told me snow was on the way the following weekend I would have been forced into a premature spittake before inchorently agreeing with you (this is British weather we’re talking about; even in a warming world with increasingly frantic weather patterns some things will always remain consistent).
The day after my insignificant corner of the world received its thankfully brief blizzard or three we are currently sitting at 8°C and the sky is a perfect shade of blue; inside the tumbler to my left is never bereft of bourbon while as the motorfuzzin’ rock’n’roll courtesy of Dutch crew Cosmic Debris‘ eponymous debut record comes to a rumbling close (the perfect soundtrack for those long roadtrips where between point A to point B lies only wilderness). Changing up to the latest record from Germany’s psych rock behemoths Samavayo, dubbed Payan, you may be wondering why, in this lengthy tome of adventures in alcohol, I am bothering to tell you all this. Simply put, music and alcohol is a match made in heaven and I have plans for this very site weaving the two together, so go ahead and call this a first draft in this unholy endeavour!
Feed My Soul, We Got A Way To Go
The first run after kicking ‘rona squarely in the balls was no picnic. Sure, the worst had been out of my system for some time by that point but it had left me squabbling with an irritable cough more stubborn than a toddler on the cusp of a temper tantrum (a week later I am still in heated negotiations with the wretched brat). The second run had been easier and the third was a breeze albeit cut short: the morning was dying and if I wanted to get down Felixstowe for a decent beer excursion my planned 5k would have to be cut short, taking a descent down my nemesis – Valley Road – instead of the predetermined Henley Road x Anglesea Road finish. This time last year yours truly was used to running 11k every other day so the completed 3.8k seems lacklustre at best. Small victories though – a run is a run and I am currently in the process of starting over.
To reward myself (well, more to compromise with my own expectations) a pre-Felixstowe whetting-of-the-whistle was in order and, with the Mrs elsewhere, I am free to crank up the speakers for my drinking playlist (an in-progress Spotify playlist you can find here) to a suitable volume – featuring an eclectic mix including Valley of the Sun, Black Sabbath, Darkthrone, Deep Purple, and Electric Citizen among others. With the tunes flowing I crack open the first beer of the day: Vault City Brewing‘s prickly sunburst collaboration with North Brewing, the Triple Fruited TIPA. Evoking the blue skies and cactus flowers half way across the world, this gorgeous fruit sour overflows with guava, almost laying waste to your tastebuds before the subtle tones of passionfruit and pineapple glide over to keep the flow smooth and heavenly. In contrast my near-immediate follow-up, Cherry Talons from Wander Beyond Brewing is as formidable as its red is dark! A one-two punch of heavy cherry followed by its lingering sourness, this is one potent potion best savoured, allowing every morsel of its 10% abv to override your system long after your final sip, each one of its talons quenching your thirst with the same piercing ferocity as its indomitable zing.
My Idle Hands Have Got The Better Of Me
With a tangy prep in my step and the continued playlist pumping through my ears I hit the pavement destined for the usually humdrum seaside town of Felixstowe, a North Sea enclave boasting one of Europe’s busiest ports. Friday marks the beginning of the two-day inaugural Beach Street Beer Fest, a semi open-air event located behind the Beach Street collective of eateries just a thirty minute walk from the train station. Repping Riding Easy Records on my shirt, leather kutte on my back, and doning near-opaque sunglasses, I quite clearly do my best to stick out like a sore thumb! With coffee in hand I spend my train half-hour train journey taking to Instagram like some wannabe-Gen Z’er with news of my Lunavieja review (which you can read here) and reviewing the previous beers of the day, marking The Motorfuzzin’ Ibex’s first foray on this level of social media. If I come across as either ostentatious or self-important then so be it, I’m in my 30s and don’t give a fuck! And by the time I dock into port it is the quintessentially entrancing closer of Devil Electric‘s self-titled debut that slides in and out of my ears; ‘Hypnotica’ embraces with its scintilating bluesy groove and powerfully captivating vocals just as the sun graces my eyes.
Navigating down a surprisingly empty high street (it’s gone past half four in the preevening at this point) the sea air hits also surprisingly unexpectedly, its fresh aroma a sniff for sore noses. As I notice my first tanker of the day the first solo on Howling Giant‘s epic ‘Masamune’ rips through my mind, blazing an already overstimulated into a transcendental euphoria. This is hands down my favourite piece of music and as close to a religious experience as I’m ever going to get! It’s staggering 20-minute runtime takes me all the way to my destination which, like the hight street, seems empty, too empty. I pay for my ticket, receive my glass, and make my way down to the gigantic gazebo where, for the next four hours, intoxicating beverages will triumph over the day.
I make my way almost immediately to Ixworth’s Artefact Brewing‘s stand, striking up conversation with its staff over their beers, most notably their award-winning Kveik Black IPA, a 6.5% dark beer which resonates incredibly well with this boozehound. A crisp and confident brew unrelectant in making its presence in your mouth known, this is thoroughly deserving of its bronze SIPA award as well as its local gold award. Perfect for a summery evening however the Amber Haze IPA bathes in its nectar glow, luring you in with its crisp lightness as its 6.7% abv works its magic on you.
With the evening drawing ever closer towards night, the prospect of drinking further on an empty stomach fills me with a foreboding dread I know all too well; before I make my way over to Ipswich’s very own Briarbank Brewing Company I put in an order of beef pho over at The Viet Street Food Co – who knew today would be the day I finally burst my pho cherry! With dinner being prepared it is time for some local NEIPA action with the coconut vibrancy of Suffolk Haze, a mouthwatering concoction as juicy as it is pastel appearance captures the glow of the disappearing sun. Bursting with flavour, its refreshing smoothness performs miracles on the palate before its low 5.0% abv unexpectantly hits you not unlike those revalatory epiphanies you would get during a day like today. But this experience does little to prepare you for the monumental glory which is their SIBA award-winning Mocha Porter, a 4.5% slice of indulgent coffee heaven, a love potion if ever there was one, a portal to a dimension where chocolate glides through those bold explosions like an eagle’s wingspan through a luscious desert sky. Just feast your eyes on that colour man! I wish you all had smell-o-vision, for the aroma emanating from this glass is what dreams are made of!
As Sure As The River Flows Our Spirit Crosses The Divide
Whether or not a Mocha Porter pairs well with a beef pho, tonight’s dinner goes down a treat, a stocky, tender treat. To my astonishment however it is dark, almost as dark as my recently finished voyage to porter heaven, and the temperature has plummeted – the upside to being on the seafront – and my kutte-wearing bod feels this descent like the goosebumps which run rampant every time the previously aforementioned Howling Giant track plays. The solution? More beer! Thankfully my return to the gazebo is met with more of a crowd, by which we all know this means I can bask in human radiation right? No.
I make a beeline straight to Ampersand Brew Co out of Diss whom I notice brew a Maibock, a Bavarian malty lager perfect for this time of year. Before I do however my eyes spy their Line of Sight NEIPA, based largely on their pale ale On the Wing only hoppier and with a higher ABV; sitting at 6.0% those huge citrus flavours run circuits around the palate, despite being subtle on the nose, overpowering every imaginable sensation in the process. Its crisp, sharp presence refuses to vacate long after each sip – I am thankful I am only drinking thirds tonight – so no matter how vibrant and deep those colours please the eye be warned this is but a ploy to lure you into its hive. The Maibock on the other hand, know here as Out of the Woods, is quite the opposite. It looks like a lager, smells like a lager ought to, but if you are unfamiliar with this style the magic lies in the taste, and this mellow number lives right up to its name. There is a flirty, 7.0% daliance between spicy orange and cedar that warms the soul on this cold night and, simply put, glows on the inside.
Now I have found my inner glow it needs to quench its need for warming summer mornings, and what better way to feed the soul than with a sour gose! For my only stop at Leigh-on-Sea Brewery‘s stand I seize the moment to try their delightfully named Brewberry Summer Fruited Gose, an impeccable offering of berries as refreshing as it is a feast for the eyes. You may choose to believe those early mornings on the cusp of high noon are best spent picking for ma’s summery pies but you’d be wrong: beers such as this are the only reasonable choice! The blackcurrant teases the nose and, upon first sip, its harmonious blend with berries of blue, rasp, and straw serve as an inviting reinvogoration. Cool and refreshing, I almost forget the night is in full swing all around me, and that in my periphery, Dave McPherson is set to take us all back 15 years…
InMe arrived in my life near the beginning of my always exhilirating musical journey. Though I had long moved on from my cringe-fringe and imitation Converse All Stars phase of Hawthorne Heights, The Early November, and My Chemical Romance for slower, heavier climes, bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Straylight Run, and Dashboard Confessional continued to hold a soft spot in my life, and InMe kinda fit right in*. Myspace was still a thing and I used and abused the platform purely for musical discoveries and, ahem, deeply poignant poeticism. 2007’s Daydream Anonymous was about to come out and I was hooked – I had also not long begun my first year of sixth form doing artsy subjects and those lyrics helped out a bunch! Since then I have never gotten to see Dave McPherson perform in the group and had always missed out on his earlier solo peformances, so my sticking around for his set is, of course, no accident. Getting to hear the likes of ‘I Will Honour You’, ‘Underdose’, and ‘Turbulence’ filled my teenage self of glee. But now’s the time to fill up on beer, and this isn’t exactly what you came for!
*[Disclaimer: sometimes I admit I still go back to all these bands once in a blue moon]
As Mcpherson takes to the stage I head on over to Kings Lynn’s Duration West Acre Brewing for here there is plenty to sample but I am hung up on their Catching The Big Fish, a West Coast IPA made in collaboration with Bristol’s Left Handed Giant Brewery, and one which comes too late in the night. Lost in the throes of a nostalgia trio this beer gets the better of me: piney in aroma there is plenty of overbite as the bitter crisp bursts upon impact, a wake-up call telling me I am in fact in the here and now. Tangy with a plentiful abundance of peach (?), it is a beer best savoured, and gets better with every sip.
But as flavourful as this is, it does nothing – I emphasise, nothing – to prepare me for my final beer of the evening. Sitting right next to Duration is Sudbury’s Little Earth Project, and at there table sits their Blackcurrant & Blackberry Sour, and call this deceptively beverage anything other than divine would be a serious injustice. Cider-esque in appearance and in aroma, the blackberries strike a hammer blow to the tastebuds while the silkniness plays mindgames with the brain. At times it feels too sickly sweet but holy Mother Earth does this work in its favour! Gliding down my throat like molten gold I even sing along to McPherson’s rendition of Death Cab For Cutie‘s ‘I Will Follow You Into the Dark’ probably to the bemusement of those right next to me. And just like that, after complimenting the brewers at the table, I too slip away into the dark, bound along the dark coastal road back to the station in town, followed by the radiant memories of a beer which, to this day, has stuck with me.