Despite the name, the Sun Valley Business Park car park isn’t the most picturesque part of Winchester.
But with a live musician set up in the shade of a small gazebo, buffalo burgers sizzling on the grill and copious amounts of beer available in one of the trading estate’s units, there aren’t many other places I’d rather be on a sunny spring afternoon.
We were at this unlikely spot for Red Cat Brewing’s open day. The event was a chance for the brewery to belatedly celebrate its second birthday and open its shutters to customers, new and old.
Beer and sunshine
The event was in full swing when we arrived at 2pm. With outdoor seating at a premium, most were sprawled on the concrete enjoying the beautiful combination of beer and sunshine.
Inside, alongside the brewery’s tuns and fermenters, a fast-moving queue pointed the way to the makeshift bar. We wasted no time in getting the drinks in.
After enjoying it so much on my previous tour of the brewery, I plumped for a “Gyle 113” – a 4.5% blonde beer. Meanwhile, Tiff and Hannah went for the “Tomcat” pale ale (4.7%) and Geoff the “Mr M’s Porter” (4.5%).
Most ales on offer were just £2.50 a pint. There were a fair few available too – testament to the hard work the brewers at Red Cat do to come up with new recipes.
Based at Manor Farm in Broughton, just outside Stockbridge, BWB’s buffalo exist exclusively on grass and clover and don’t receive any routine medicines or antibiotics. The result is rich, lean meat that’s 100% organic.
The burger, as expected, was delicious. With it, I had watercress, salsa, fried onions, Monterey Jack cheese and a couple chunky slices of gherkin. The watercress was an especially nice touch. And, in permanent surroundings, a possible contender for Hampshire’s best burger.
We returned to the bar as musician Andy Osman, who sounded uncannily like Noel Gallagher on his rendition of “D’yer Wanna be a Spaceman”, started his set of rock and indie covers. The varied crowd of seasoned real ale stalwarts and craft beer drinkers lapped it up as they munched on their burgers and sipped their pints.
Meanwhile, a few children and dogs of all shapes and sizes played tag and lazed in the sunshine respectively. This was definitely a family-friendly event.
On this visit to the bar, I went for a “Feral IPA” (6.2%), which was very quaffable. I then decided on a beer at the other end of the ABV spectrum – a 3.2% “Nine Tails”. On first taste, I wasn’t keen. But its chestnutty bitterness grew on me.
Geoff and I saved our most adventurous choice – the 8.5% “Imperial 15” – for last. This was only available by the half pint.
I’m not sure I’d go out of my way for this sweet and thick Imperial Stout again. Yet it was worth a try and is a great option for fans of the black stuff who prefer their beer a little stronger.
We hadn’t yet made a dent in the magnificent choice of beers available at what was effectively a one-brewery beer festival. But the afternoon had run away with us and the event was drawing to a close.
We left as the staff were enjoying some well-earned pints of their own beers. How they managed to hold off this long, I don’t know.
Info: Red Cat Brewery is at Unit 10, Sun Valley Business Park, Winchester, SO23 0LB. Call 01962 863423. The shop is open Monday-Thursday 4-7pm, Friday 12-7pm and Saturday 11am-2pm. The brewery holds open days a couple of times a year. Keep an eye on their Facebook page for updates on their next event.