I missed the Great British Beer Festival this year. I was not the only one. During my stay in Dumfries and Galloway we stumbled across the Sulwath Brewery in Castle Douglas. They had not been invited. Obviously Olympia is limited in space, nevertheless it seems a touch remarkable that they can judge the Champion Beer Of Britain, without having tasted all of the beers.

We did the tour of course, you have to if you stumble across a small brewery. Brewery tours in the UK, if they are small, are generally thinly veiled assaults on the brewing industry as a whole, the small boys pointing out that they do not use preservatives, inject carbon dioxide etc. Except these guys do. The beers purity is not in doubt until you get to the finings stage, when the fish bladder is pumped in, and the colour goes out. After having half a glass of their Criffel straight from the vat before the finings have been put in, I can tell you there is a massive difference. Damn the introduction of glass.

To the beer though and it was really rather good. They do a lager, Galloway Gold, which is much more of a summer ale, and in sloshes down a treat. The Criffel is a lot more complex. The brew-chap said it was their most popular ale, but it seemed a mite on the too much fanny dangle front for my liking. There were far too many hops for a consistent flavour. There were a few others plus the stuff they bottle for the local lord (still feudal round here you know). However the best by far was the porter, Galloway Black. Light, zingy molasses, a touch of chocolate and the ideal thing to drink with a slice of Dundee cake after it has rained on you, constantly, for the last five days. Apparently the key to the beers flavour is in the water in the area is remarkably pure too. Should hope so, they have plenty of it.