If you’ve ever heard the words ‘steak platter’ mentioned around Oxford you’ll know about The Chester. Over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, The Chester hosted a beer and cider festival to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. They boasted over 40 beers and ciders along with top-notch BBQ food.
The festival kicked off on Thursday evening and ended on Monday evening, giving plenty of opportunity to get down and sample some beer. I arrived just after opening on Saturday hoping to get a good spot. The Chester’s beer garden is great little suntrap with plenty of seating and shade – ideal for the warm weather over the weekend.
The outdoor bar hosted a range of ciders, 2 keg beers and food, while the temporary gazebo was the home of ten cask ales that were rotated over the weekend. A good mix of beer from pale ales to porters were part of the line-up, with similar style replacements as each one ran out to keep a good variety over the weekend.
To start, I opted for the XT15 (4.5%), an English IPA from XT Brewing Co in Long Crendon. This was golden in colour with a slightly sweet initial taste that gave way to a bitter, hoppy finish. A good all-round beer to start with and I always have time for XT, as they produce some cracking beers! I then turned to the London Porter (5%) from Mad Squirrel. This was a beer I kept going back to as I really enjoyed it. Very dark brown in colour with a slightly malty, biscuit aroma. The taste is slightly smoky with a rich choco coffee sweet flavour – far too easy drinking for a 5% beer! Next, onto a keg beer and the Jute Session IPA from Salt Beer Factory. Pale gold in colour with a strong hoppy, pine-like aroma. It packs a happy, fruity punch, with a strong lingering aftertaste. Quite refreshing after the other two beers and great for a sunny day.
Some other good beers sampled were Shawshank Fermentation by Loose Cannon – a dark and malty beer, Budding by Stroud Brewery – a very drinkable Pale Ale, and Red Kite by Vale Brewery – a chestnut coloured hoppy bitter. One that didn’t really hit the mark was Stable #2 by White Horse Brewery, which tasted more like good homebrew than a commercial beer.
The food served looked fantastic, including a pork shoulder bap with that all-important crackling, and deliciously smoky baba ganoush with flatbread and BBQ veg. Chilli and garlic mackerel were a good size and smelled great on the BBQ. Collagin also had a pop-up stall the garden providing samples of their original and rose gins.
Overall, the beer, the food and the weather came together for a brilliant beer festival. I would have happily gone back for more than one afternoon if I could have. If we get more sun I’ll be back in their beer garden soon!
19 Chester St, Oxford OX4 1SN