Isle of Wight - Cowes Week
Isle of Wight - Cowes Week


COWES - The Home of World Yachting


Beer-Searcher's Scott Lloyd travels south to report on:


The Aberdeen Asset Management COWES WEEK... 2nd -9th August 2014 To find a heady mix of Beer, Boats and Bottle-screws....

Cowes Week carries a huge responsibility, especially for the organiser and sponsors.  There is however, fun to be had, breweries to visit and beers to be sampled.  We bid farewell to Glasgow and head south, where the delights of Southampton, Portsmouth, New Forest and Lymington provide a rich vein of contrasting ales, brewed by the likes of Ringwood, Vibrant Forest, Oakleaf, Dancing Man and of course, Goddards, Yates and Island Ales on the Wight herself.


Nothing comes close to organising 800-1000 boats in up to forty different handicap, one-design and multihull classes, that race every day for eight days - and 8,000 thirsty competitors! 


Beer-Searcher wishes all competitors the best of luck and the best of weather... It was Don Bamford who once said "Only two sailors in my experience, never ran aground.  One never left port and the other was an atrocious liar."

Saturday 9th AUGUST - COWES [Day 8] - The Home of World Yachting. 

COWES WEATHER-WATCH: Wind - West to South-West 10-22 kts, Bright sunshine.

Dancing Man Brewery

Dancing Man Brewery

What a week it has been both on and off the Island.  Cowes week has certainly been a showcase for World Yachting.  The weather has provided challenging yet competitive conditions for all classes.  Onshore, there has been entertainment both on the ground and in the air.  Friday (Day 7) saw another quiet day as racing was abandoned for all classes.  It became clear that there was no chance of a consistent wind developing in time for racing to take place.


Whilst tempted to return to my haunts at Yarmouth Castle with a four-pint take-out of Cydonia, the Martian Red, from the Vibrant Forest Brewery;  surely it would now make sense to rejoin Red Funnel - Jet-ski back to Terminal 2 Southampton, which conveniently sits almost next to the International Sailing Federation building.  A short stagger or indeed a jig would take you to the Platform Tavern Pub on the Town Quay, the home of The Dancing Man Brewery.


Probably the most distinctive name I have come across, since reporting on UK Breweries.  The Dancing Man Brewery was born in 2012 in the disused kitchen of The Platform Tavern Pub, in Southampton.  A well honed concept by the team was to replace corporate brewery's sometimes bland and unimaginative ales with something altogether more vibrant.  With bags of Hops, malt and enthusiasm, essential hard work and some crazy ideas, the mix provided new creations that would outsell other beers.  Before long, the team of Aidan and Stewart needed another member to help keep up demand, thus Freddie became the third 'dancing-man'.


I will try and be brief, but this place is loaded with history!  The Platform Tavern and Brewery dates back to 1873, built against the old town wall around 1350. The name derived from a gun platform on the Quay itself.  Ale was brewed on-site for the consumption of dockers and seaman, many lodging within the building.  One such guest was an ill fated victim of the Titanic, pulled from the sea some four weeks after she went down.  His room having a direct view of Titanic's Dock - Berth 44, of Ocean Dock!


From The Platform Tavern, taken over by Stewart in 1997 - this mighty one barrel brewhouse is expanding yet had to commence operations with a fermenting capacity of three barrels, thus most beers are sold in the Platform Tavern. The Brewery can release other beers to other pubs and indeed festivals around the country.  But not just festivals!


In February 2013, The infamous Citra hopped IPA, Pole-Axed 6.7% - took a 10,000 mile journey to Antartica, First brewed for the National Oceanographic Centre (NOC), expedition to the North Pole as part of the Lake Ellsworth project.  This fruity, hoppy sensation was designed not to freeze at extremely low temperatures! (Please no jokes about antifreeze! Ed.)  Pole-Axed also gained a credible 3rd Place at Winchester CAMRA Beer Festival of the same year,


Other regulars include: Fiddlers Jig 4.8%; a hoppy brown with chocolate notes. DNA 4.7%; a dark nomadic ale.  Big Casino 5%; an IPA with big juicy hops.  Last Waltz 5.3%; India Black Ale, - rich smokey palate.  Pilgrims Pale Ale 3,9%; Golden ale, Galaxy hops.  Best Bitter 4.1%; Pale Ale Session beer, orangy notes.  Cloud Cuckoo 4.5%; Spring available wheat beer.  Many have won awards including Sea City Gold 5% and Smoke Rye 'Sin 5% collecting a 1st and 3rd at Southampton CAMRA Beer festival in June this year. I haven't even mentioned the Snake Oil Porter 4.5%.


The Porter may well return in new premises.  It is hoped that the old Wool House in Southampton will become the breweries new home.  Built in 1415, to store wool, plans for this historic building include a 10 BBL brewery; tap style bar, restaurant; locally sourced food and live music.  This will allow an extension to current brewing operations. In the Platform Tavern, nothing changes: 'more short bottle runs, test brews and weird and wonderful one-offs'! We wish them the very best of luck.

Sea City Gold

Back on the Island, and on the final day of a Solent bursting with Spinnakers and sunshine, there are perfect conditions for racing at Aberdeen Asset's Mamagement Cowes week.  All classes started on schedule including the Victory Class in its 80th year!  It is of course prize giving day on Saturday at the Cowes Yacht Haven and celebrations will continue late into the night.


Next year's Cowes week runs from August 8-15, a slightly later date than usual in order to avoid strong spring tides.  Hopefully, before the tide goes out, a glass of Dancing Man's - hoppy, aroma driven Sea City Gold can be sourced.  Not just as a tribute to Southampton's International port status, but also as a reminder of the Solents maritime heritage and its wonderful sailing community.... 'time to plumb the depths'!

Thursday 7th AUGUST - COWES [Day 6] - The Home of World Yachting. 

Cowes Weather Watch:  Wind - Very light and varied am - off-shore, stronger pm, Bright sunshine.

Vibrant Forest Brewery

Vibrant Forest - Beer Searcher

Ladies Day, which celebrates women in sailing, was introduced to Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week in 2006. Now in its eighth year, the event helps raise the profile of women in sailing. This year's trophy was won by Dee Caffari who has raced at Cowes for the last 15 years. Thursday also featured Nicola Henderson (21) from Guildford who is currently leading the Young Skipper's Trophy at Cowes. Having only sailed from from the age of 17, she did the Day Skipper course, tackled racing head-on and crossed the Atlantic!


The morning of day six had consisted of coffee and sunbathing in the light airs, along with the inevitable postponements. The Artemis Challenge race around the Isle of Wight did get underway at 10:00Hrs. This 50 mile charity celebrity dash included Simon and Yasmin Le Bon and Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall in Ocean racers and multihulls.


Scott dashed off to the western Solent, to Yarmouth Castle, where the winds were picking up, probably missing the 1940's Boeing Stearman biplane, Spirit of Artemis that would fly past the start line. Here, other large boat classes were finding wind. What a splendid location for a picnic. The Castle overlooks a rather treacherous stretch of sea, a coastal defence completed in 1547.


Raise a powerful pair of binoculars to the eyes and to the west is Hurst Castle, further north west and the western approaches of Lymington come into focus. Beyond, is New Lease Copse and the very edge of the New Forest National Park and Gordleton Industrial Estate, the home of Vibrant Forest micro brewery. A brewery that cannot fail to excite. Their multi-coloured website conveys just the vibrancy that can be expected from their beers.


Go back to 2011 and located on the edge of Totton New Hampshire, Vibrant Forest opened their doors, having passionately crafted ales on a non-commercial basis for many years prior. Their mission; to produce 'distinctive flavoursome ales'. But, like all successful brewers, plant, equipment and expansion inevitably arrives at times both planned and unplanned. Yet, like their high quality ingredients, Vibrant Forest were not to compromise on 'steels', casks or bottles. Even the labelling at their current location is exemplary and hugely inspirational.


A small bar and shop complement this busy microbrewery. When visiting the brewery, there is encouragement to meet the brewer, to taste some malt become immersed in hops, well, the nose perhaps! Beer can also be purchased and sampled or taken home to be enjoyed later. Probably best to ring the Brewery in advance to find out what's available in bottle or cask on any particular day.


For example, on draught might be Nova Foresta, Farmhouse Ale, Metropolis and the infamous Black Oktober. There may only be one bottle left of the limited edition Black Oktobre! Vibrant Forest have also had success at various festivals, where Beer of the Year, and Beer of the festival have seen awards in 2012 and 2013 and runners up in their first year of brewing in Hampshire.

Cydonia - Vibrant Brewery

So, if you go down to the woods today, will you be in for a surprise? Well, you might encounter Flying Saucer 4.3%; a citrusy orange explosion with a lingering bitterness; Noba Foresta 3.8%; an amber bitter with spice and 'hoppiness'; Black Forest 4.9%; not a gateaux, but a coffee and chocolate porter! Wheatwave 4.8%; yes, banana, cloves and a Bavarian yeast; Farmhouse Ale 5%; Belgium in style, peppery, earthy, fruity notes. Metropolis 6.0%; Big flavoured bitter with an urban presence. RadicAle ABV varies! A bold move! Knows no boundaries ... perhaps! Vibrant Pale Ales 5.0%; Golden Ales designed to banish blandness - 8 different ales, 8 different hops. Cydonia 4.7%; the Martian Red with intense citrus and malty sweetness.


I am lost for words, unlike the brewers at Vibrant Forest who will remind that 4 pint take outs, and 10 and 20 litre bag in a box is available from most draughts. "Beam me up, Scotty"... Who?

Tuesday 5th AUGUST - COWES [Day 4] - The Home of World Yachting. 

COWES WEATHER-WATCH: Wind - South-South West 5-15Kts, Sunshine & Cloud.

Island Brewery

Island Brewery - Beer Searcher

Despite the presence of Royalty, the Royal Navy and even Beer-Searcher's Scott Lloyd, nothing could prevent Tuesday's light morning winds from race postponements and general recalls.  All four start lines were affected, but, as on previous days eventually almost everyone got underway, making for some good tactical racing.  Gusts of up to 15 kts made this possible after lunch.  All competitors prepared for the one minute silence at 10:00Hrs in the morning.  A poignant moment, as a reminder of all those who served in defence of the nation.  The Royal Navy Patrol Vessel HMS Mersey sailed past the Royal Yacht Squadron before racing got underway.


Nick Fletcher, Captain of the Royal Navy Rtd and his five-strong Royal Navy Crew aboard his Hallberg Rass 31 - Widgeon, said that the team were particularly looking forward to Tuesday's activities at Cowes.  Specifically to mark the 100 year anniversary of the first shot from sea that was fired from the gun of HMS Lance in the North Sea.  Fletcher said:"It is fantastic to see HMS Mersey moored off Cowes because it takes us back to the days when there was a miltary guard ship at the end of the line.."


The cool airs following a weak low pressure system that moved across the Solent in the morning, did not bring rain, but it did bring HRH Princess Royal and her husband, Vice Admiral Sir Timothy Laurence out among the competitors for one of the regatta's most prestigious trophies, the Britannnia Cup.  Racing against each other on UKSA's Farr 65s, they were in the 'big-boat' IRC Class 0. Needless to say, the Princess Royal took the honours and helmed confidently across the finishing line.


Racing down the A3020 from West Cowes, and tacking to ensure a tight turn to Forest Road, would lead you to Dinglers Farm on the Yarmouth Road - a place called Shalfleet and Island Ales.  It is the shallow stream that gives this West Wight village the name Shalfleet.  There would have been a time when Island Ales would have used Shalfleet Mill, waterwheel driven, and producing flour right up until the 1920s.


Tom Mainshull's ambition to start a brewery was to come much later. The timing was important, as the drinks wholesale and distribution business had to maintain existing high standards and a meticulous and experienced brewer, the likes of Chris Coleman, was needed on board.  Purchasing new equipment from Johnson Engineering in Bolton, Lancs would also ensure the production of high quality ales with equipment that had been tried and tested by the Johnson team over quite some time.


The investment continued.  Rather than buying second hand casks, it was decided to ensure that a quality product, identifiable as Island's, would reach the best pubs, clubs and outlets on the Island, thus all casks are colour coded with Island Breweries colour banding of blue, white and Yellow.


CAMRA and SIBA membership ensures that Tom is in tune with national standards, and continues to produce top quality real ale, with quality ingredients. The brewer not only employs his son Ashley as Assistant Brewer, but considers employing Island people to be his first consideration. Local charities also benefit as 10p is donated to the Earl Mountbatten Hospice for every single pint of their Earls R.D.A.

Yachtsman's Ale

There are of course other ales in the Island casks. While we might be a tad early for Wight Christmas 4.4%, we should consider, Earls RDA 5%, a rich dark ale; Nipper Bitter 3.8%, light and refreshing with a morish afterbite; White Gold 4.0% Golden brown - well crafted, Yachtsman's Ale 4.2% a rich brown beer; Wight Knight 4.5% a strong English ale; Venom 4.8% of dark deceptive character....not unlike Scott!  Three of the cask ales, Wight Gold, Yachtsmen's Ale and Wight Knight are available in bottles and a nice gift pack.


Island's Ales and other well known brands are not only distributed on the Wight, but all along the South Coast from Poole in the West to Bognor in the East, as befits a coveted NDD member.


I will head to The Coast Bar in the High St, Cowes. - A Sunday Times 30 best Restaurant to have brunch award winner - where, I might just find a pint of Yachtsmen's Ale - and take the plunge into that rich brown beer with roasted malts and balanced hops that brings such a complexity of aromas to the nose.  Wednesday promises to be the windiest day so far at Aberdeen Asset Management Cowes Week, with gusts potentially reaching 24 kts behind a weather front that will cross the Solent area in the morning,

Monday 4th AUGUST - COWES [Day 3] - The Home of World Yachting.

COWES WEATHER-WATCH: Wind - South-Westerly 8-10 Kts Gusts to 18kts, Bright Sunshine.

Yates' Brewery

Yates Brewery - Beer Searcher

One of the best locations to watch the starts ashore each morning is undoubtedly the area between the Castle of the Royal Yacht Squadron and the cannons - as long as you take your ear-muffs! Here you can get right on the line and see who got the best start and which boats wee over the line.  You can also hear the race officers giving their countdowns and calling the starts from the Royal Yacht Squadron battlements.  In the afternoon, head along the green towards Egypt Point to watch the Cowes Week fleet as they finish.


Beer-Searcher is heading towards Newport, and Long Lane to Robin Hill, where the stunning countryside of rolling downlands is a designated area of outstanding beauty. Here, traditional English Woodland and open countryside provides habitats for the Red Squirrel and just beyond in the village of Newchurch, the Islands leading drinks company and distributor.  Blink, and you might miss it! It is of course Yates Brewery; not just distributors of many named brands, but brewers in their own right.

Dark Side - Yates Brewery
The story begins in 1998. Ushers closed down their Isle of Wight brewery in that year. David Yates, a very keen and experienced brewer, was determined to get back into brewing.  As a former brewer of Burt's beers in Ventnor, the plan was to rekindle the Burt's name, firstly in the Dodner Brewery and then in the Sandown brewery and Stillroom (now the Old Comical).
When Ushers bought up the Hartridge Estate, this put pressure on the Burt's locally produced beers, which failed to recover.  In 2000 David then opened his own five barrel plant at the Inn at St Lawrence.  With brewing up and running, their regular outlets grew to over thirty, Bottling started in 2003 and in 2004 the brewery won Bronze in the Champion Beer of Britain competition with Yates' Special Draught.  In 2009 the brewery moved to Newchurch and upgraded to a 10 barrel plant.  The Brewery effectively divided into a brew floor; grain loft; refrigeration room; labeling room, lab and office.  It is a canny operation that saves money by not milling on the premises, instead, receiving the grain pre-crushed. Most of the draught beers are available in bottle form, with seasonal beers never far of the agenda. Several of the beers, including the infamous 'Yule be Sorry' have won IOW CAMRA awards since 2002.
Look out for Yates Sunfire 4.3%;  Yates Holy Joe 4.9%; Yates Special Draught 5.5%;  Yates Yule be Sorry 7.2%;  Yates Undercliff Experience 4.1%;  Yates Darkside of the Wight; 5.0%  Yates Golden Bitter 4.0%.  The Brewery has beer in over 70 outlets on the Island including the Royal Solent Yacht Club, where Scott, complete with Squadron Tie must take station.  But first, the devil in me must travel to the 'dark-side'. This ruby ale at 5.0% has a bitterness that contradicts the orange nuance with a roast malted chocolate taste that fails to suppress those citrusy notes - a clever balancing act through to the finish.
There will be more balancing acts tomorrow (Tuesday) on gunwales and trapeze....Racing is scheduled to commence at 10:25am. The weather is predicted to stay bright, with a light to moderate south to southwest breeze - 6-12 kts at best! 'Best cut and Run..'

Sunday 3rd AUGUST - COWES [Day 2] - The Home of World Yachting.

COWES WEATHER-WATCH: Wind - South-Westerly 13-17 Kts Gusts to 20kts, Bright Sunshine.

Goddards Brewery

Goddards Brewery

So many happy smiling faces, perhaps everyone in Cowes is a sailor or mariner! A gusty day, to fill the ever colourful spinakers and countless sails; to tinker with mastheads that play their percussive ensemble with dancing shrouds and jolly pennants, pennants that revealed it was family day, a day for amateurs and families alike to challenge for prizes both onshore and offshore. It was Andrew McIrvine, among the more experienced, who best summed up the day with the 10-strong First 40 Class, racing within IRC Class 2. Having taken their first class win of the week, Andrew commented: "It was perfect Champagne sailing today on a good course with long beats against the tide and fast runs with the tide. There were also some key tactical decisions to be made that worked well for us. Generally, the team sailed well and worked hard on the long beat, short tacking up the mainland shore which paid dividends."

Goddards Brewery - Beer Searcher


Other dividends could also be had inland. Once leaving Hover-Travel at Ryde, after barely 15 minutes on Solent waters, I might encourage you to take the A3055 to Sandown, for, after barely 4 kilometers on your left will be the home of the snoozing man! Nothing could contrast more with the bustle of Cowes than this agricultural heritage, an emblem that signifies the home of The Goddards Brewery, This is a brewery that has been raised with love and determination from the gutsy husband and wife team - Anthony and Alix Goddard. Their journey was indeed speculative, having lost a former business, they resurrected the then derelict Barnsley Farm in 1991 to fulfill a desire to brew and to once more build a sustainable business, Aided and abetted by Jonathan Stancill, formerly a head brewer with Burt's, the team began with a 15 barrel brew-length plant, installed in one of the barns on the farm. The first brew was successfully racked-off in the Spring of 1993.

Duck Folly - Goddards Brewery

By the middle of 2013 Anthony's son-in-law, Patrick Birley took over the brewery, following a lengthy career in the City, almost half of which was spent in South Africa. Patrick speaks of a steep learning curve, which is so often the case in the brewing business, yet it is often external influences and non brewing skills that can enhance what is certainly a traditional affair, something Beer-Searcher comes across almost every day. Goddards is the oldest working brewery on the Island and continues to innovate. In the words of the founder himself..'life is not a rehearsal' and we want to make sure we have plenty of fun! So, with their 20 barrel brew-length plant, what fun have they been having?


There is Wight Squirrel - a golden 4.3% Brewed with crystal malts and hopped with Bodicea. Inspiration 5.0% Zingy Citrusy and very hoppy. Ale of Wight - a blonde fragrant ale with Cascade, First Gold and Challenger Hops. Duck's Folly - a dark amber 5.2%. Hopped with Goldings and Fuggles. Scrumdiggity - a Golden 4.0%, brewed with Challenger, East Kent Goldings and Fuggles hops and Fuggle-Dee-Dum - a red Premium Ale with roasted Malts and English Fuggles - a smoky complex brew.


Scott would naturally be drawn to Duck's Folly, anagram's apart. Cleverly conceived as malt-rich, yet light, not excessively sweet, yet aromatic- well balanced hops with an understated fruitiness that leaves a clean palate...Duck's... synonymous with water! Well, it is High Tide at 5.24 Hrs today. The sun may not have quite set over the Yardarm, but it is close to setting over the Brewhouse at Barnsley Farm where it has continued to set since the 18th century.


To find out more about the 'snoozing-man', click on The 'snoozing-man' may well awake on Tuesday as the centenary of the first shot at sea in World War One will be marked with a sail past by Royal Navy patrol vessel HMS Mersey. Whether she will sound-off her DS 308 30 MM Gun can only be speculation! What is certain is that a single cannon will be fired by the Royal Yacht Squadron at 10:00Hts BST, ahead of a one minute silence.

Saturday 2nd AUGUST - COWES [Day 1] - The Home of World Yachting

COWES WEATHER-WATCH: Wind - South-Westerly 16-22 Kts, Bright Sunshine.

Downton Brewery

People have lived in Downton for over 7,000 years! Indeed, there is evide nce of Iron Age, Roman, Saxon and Norman settlements.  There have been tanning works, auto works, Mills. The Mills would have taken advantage of the River Avon that straddles this ancient village, some 6 miles south of Salisbury.  There is also a brewery, an award winning brewery, always a magnet for Beer-Searcher!


The weather seemed to be set fair over the Solent. Something tells me that the light winds in the morning may not do justice to the first of the Cowes week races. They will certainly present a challenge, as will taking a peep at Downton Brewery, before taking the sleek Red Jet Hi-Speed Ferry from Southampton to West Cowes a little later when things freshen up, and a predicted weather front makes for more turbulence in the afternoon session.


Downton Brewery is a microbrewery that manages a 20 barrel brew-plant with a potential capacity to brew up to 60 barrels a week. It is a brewery that likes to experiment with new and varied raw materials. Along with different beer styles and many award winning bitters, this small brew-plant is capable of producing quality high gravity and spiced ales, considered unusual in a relatively small plant.


Their thirst for adventure has seen the introduction of hops from over nine different countries, with brewing skills reflecting varied fermentation's, and additions of fruits, herbs, spices, honey, spirit and liqueurs.  Trading for just over a decade, this family business has produced six known regulars and up to seventeen specials,


Regulars such as: Quadhop 3.9%; Elderquad 4.0%; Honey Blonde 4.3%; Dark Delight 6.0%; Chimera IPA 6.8% and New Forest Ale 3.8%.


Currently, Downton are recommending Ornamental 4.1%. This is a summer special, loaded with flavour, a comfortable session beer strength of 4.1% that offers a coconut and citrus balance from Japanese Sorachi Ace and Citra hops. Expect a long dry finish.  The usual carry-outs and bottled beers can be accessed from their brewery shop.


Something dangerous! Well, perhaps just one of the Award winning Chimera's at 6.8%! A classic IPA brewed with an increased hop rate, giving the aroma you would expect and that essential bitterness. Downton's casks and bottles will feature at the Great British Beer Festival 12th-16th August, Olympia - Don't miss it! Now, I mustn't miss the afternoon races at Cowes!


A gusty and pleasant warm southwesterly has prevailed, with the wind against the tide, creating lively downwind sailing. There had been some rain, but that had cleared.


The 15 strong Etchells had a close race, with the first ten boats crossing the line in just five minutes. Congrats to Shaiun and Emily in Exabyte V.  Ten minutes later and some of the Daring Fleet dared to take an off-shore wind with Giles Peckham taking honours in a clear 4 minute win after a three hour race. Offshore winds continued to find winners for Jon Powell's Betty, Doolally in the J/80 Class, yet an inshore breeze saw Gavia Wilkinson-Cox's, Jerboa take the Dragon fleet win from Eric Williams, who has been competing since 1959!

The big yachts in IRC Class 0 and IRC Class 2 had a lively race with some 15 legs over a 35 mile course. Tomorrow will be a similar day, with perhaps a slight slackening in the wind....40 classes on display tomorrow!

Time to head leeward to The Anchor Inn, a well known hostelry in Cowes, where it just may be possible to track down a Downton's Chimera IPA for a further sounding!