September 22, 2014 by 250 Beers
Back at the beginning of August I received an email from Ged Connors at Fortitude Brewing. Ged divulged details of an impending small-scale British beer festival and darts tournament that he was organising for a weekend in September – he also asked if I’d be keen on captaining a team for the tournament. It was a question that didn’t take me long to respond to…”Shit, yeah!”
Perhaps I’d spoken too soon as I’d never thrown a competitive dart before in my life – only ever for fun. I guess there was an element of fun surrounding the proposed festival so I wasn’t too perturbed at my lack of prowess at the oche.
The festival was called The Ulysses Festival – centred around the unveiling of Fortitude’s first annual barley wine release Ulysses.
I’d gathered together a team of four to form Team 250 Beers. As well as myself, Team 250 Beers consisted of friends Luke and Cav as well as my wife’s cousin’s husband, Dave. Each and every one of us had zero darts experience and knew it was going to be a tough afternoon yet we duly bragged about how we were going to win – especially as a few of us had gone and purchased a brand new set of darts!
The first beer that I ordered was a Ulysses. It seemed like the right thing to do. Served only in small measures due to the 10.8% alcohol content (which wasn’t hidden), it acted as a fine settler of nerves. Having been aged in a Yalumba Octavius Shiraz barrel for six months and then cold conditioned for a further 6 months, it was quite possibly the booziest tasting barley wine that I’d ever had. Anybody ordering a Ulysses also received a decent wedge of English Stilton. A match made in heaven.There were seven teams in total competing for the Ulysses Cup darts competition (which was played as a variation of the darts game ‘cricket‘). I think this was a really good effort for an inaugural event miles from anywhere.
The event was centred around two dart boards with three teams playing a round robin elimination on each board. The seventh team was Team Fortitude who had elected to give themselves a bye into the next round. This was largely due to the uneven number of teams. Team Fortitude featured Dan Rawlings and Ian Watson who, to be fair, were both refereeing (or is it umpiring?) the round robins so I guess if any team was to get a bye then it had to be them. Oh, and it’s their ‘home patch’ so I got told.
Despite bravado and faux personalised dart flights (a marketing tactic of mine), Team 250 Beers was eliminated at the first hurdle along with The Mermaids, Team Black Hops and The Scrabbs (a mixed team of BABBS members and The Scratch Bar crew). We’d won a game and lost a game. Team Brewhouse Brisbane won their two games in our pool and sailed through to the next round along with The Yellow Fins from the other pool. I won’t publicly accuse Team Brewhouse Brisbane of cheating against us but let’s just say there were some time delaying tactics deployed!
The victorious team from the final was Team Fortitude – unsurprisingly. In winning the tournament they were handed the one and only magnum of Ulysses in existence. Sensing a revolt from angry spectators and wanting to avoid a riot, Ian and Dan donated the bottle to The Yellow Fins to enjoy instead. How very sporting.
Being knocked out of the competition gave Team 250 Beers a chance to reflect but more so a chance to engage in a few beers fresh from the source. This year’s Ulysses Festival featured a range of Fortitude and Noisy Minor beers however, once licensing allows, future festivals will host British style ales and real ales from other Australian breweries.
After my barley wine I tried the Winston (6.4%). It’s an English style Old Ale released under the Noisy Minor label and heavy with caramel malts with an aroma of dark fruits. It was very English indeed and reminiscent of many ales that I’ve sampled overseas in recent years.
Next up was an oak barrel aged version of the Noisy Minor Baltic Porter – Dorian Gray (8.2%). This beer has always been delicious but with the ageing process comes a smoother, silkier result.
The festival itself was quite well attended although staging it the day before Father’s Day certainly hindered numbers. Rumour has it that next year’s Ulysses Festival will be some time in June. Team 250 Beers will be there!