Category: Festivals


Luton Beer Festival 2016

Another year and another round of all our favourite beer festivals begins. There are several local festivals in and around the Bedfordshire area and they are nicely spread across the year. Always the first is Luton, which is run by the South Bedfordshire CAMRA branch. Despite the hectic nature of life I had a free day and was able to attend the Thursday session. I could be lazy and just right “for details see last year’s post” but as I went to look for last year’s post I found that it has not posted or has been lost. So for the first time on this blog let me introduce you to Luton.

For my money Luton beer festival has one major problem, its location. The venue itself is perfectly fine, just getting to the venue can put off some of those who have heard the details of what Hightown is like after dark. If you are local-ish you will know what I mean. If you are from the Anglia region, I’m sure you will have heard about it on the local news. If you are from further afield, just Google it.

Once you have braved the badlands of Hightown you are perfectly safe inside what is normally a local sports hall, given up for Thursday, Friday, Saturday, as a the place to go for the beer drinkers of Bedfordshire and beyond. There are two main rooms. One has the LocAle bar and the cider bar. The other room has the  national parks bar, the everywhere else bar and the bottled beer bar. As variety is the spice of life I suggest a wander around to try something from all the bars. There are great beers to be had at all of them.

Staff of the Black Lion receive their award from Local MP's

Staff of the Black Lion receive their award from Local MP’s

We happened to be in the first room when the local MP’s for Luton (North) and Luton (South) stood up on stage to declare the festival open, even though people had been drinking for six hours by now. They then went on to present the South Bedfordshire CAMRA pub of the year to the Black Lion in Leighton Buzzard. I was again with my mate Jonny on this outing and he took much dislike to this. He found that politicising what should be a fun evening out was a step too far for him. Especially as two barrels of beer (one in each room) was sponsored by the Labour party.

Strangely sponsored Barrels!

Strangely sponsored Barrels!

There were some other curious barrel sponsorships as well. One barrel just said “Luton Haiku” with no contact details at all. Google tells me there is a Twitter account that just does Haikus about Luton. That is all I could find on the subject. Apparently Clod magazine has made these short form poems into books, it is now on its third volume. More mystifying that this, however, was the barrel which mealy said “ALAN WHEELER LEGENDARY LUTON LIBRARIAN”. Err… yes, well done Alan.

The important bit to remember is that it’s all about the beer. With that in mind here are a few of my highlights. First of all it was my first chance to try something from the Ampthill Brewhouse. They are a relatively new brewery, taking over from the short lived Ampthill brewery and they are the nearest brewers to where I live. I am pleased to report that their 3.4% Session ale is a beautifully easy drink to settle into a night at the beer festival. Continuing the local theme Leighton Buzzard Brewery had their 4.2% Cuckoo originally only meant to be served in the Cuckoo micro pub in Toddington. Also, staying local I tried a medium/sweet Evershed’s Town and Country Cider, from the north of the county.

Brewdog's Vagabond - Gluten Free Pale Ale

Brewdog’s Vagabond – Gluten Free Pale Ale

Moving further away we tried several beers from far and wide in the non-local room, however the stand out for me in here was a bottle of Brewdog’s Vagabond, 4.5%. We had a lengthy discussion with the chap behind the bar about whether CAMRA should even be serving Brewdog products, not being real ale an’ all. I doubt there will ever be a definitive answer.

One final beer I want to mention was Sorachi City by Golden Triangle, 3.9%. If anyone out there has had a try of this fantastic beer please get in touch and tell me what that flavour is I get on the nose! It is driving me mad. I asked the guy behind the bar and he instantly said blue cheese, his speed in response proved that there has been previous discussions about this beer. I can see where the cheese idea comes from but I can’t be sure that is it. There is certainly a very creamy mouth-feel to the drink which could convince some of the cheese flavour but I’m not so sure.

If you like the sound of Luton Beer Festival it is on the third weekend of February each year at the Hightown Community Sports & Arts Centre, York Street, Luton LU2 0JD. For more information: http://southbeds.camra.org.uk/

 

Two posts in one day for you lucky, lucky readers of this infrequent little blog, how exiting!

There are three things which my life revolves around, my work with The Friends of Bedfordshire Society, my love of music (especially live) and my love of beer. I had a bit of an update on the music front a earlier today. Now to address the other two.

I realise that I haven’t really talked on my blog much (actually, at all),  about my work with The Friends of Bedfordshire Society, so briefly… we are a small group which tries to promote the historic and ceremonial county of Bedfordshire with our main interest being the pride of the community itself. As part of this we’ve set up BEDFORDSHIRE DAY (28th November) – a day of celebrations across the county which is just there to say “ain’t Bedfordshire great!”.

There are many things going on but what I wanted to draw attention to on this blog, given it’s beery bent was Leighton Buzzard Brewery. They are a fairly new brewery but who are going from strength to strength with a range of fantastic ales all brewed in their industrial unit on the edge of Leighton Buzzard.

To celebrate Bedfordshire Day they will be opening their brewery for the day and releasing a new beer, Bedfordshire Best. As well as the beers the Little Buzzard Bakery will be selling Bedfordshire Clangers to the thirsty beer loving masses. So why not head down if you are in the area, they are open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Leighton Buzzard Brewery 

I have just got back from the Isle of Wight and this year’s Isle of Wight music festival where a fun time was had by all. There was one thing there which really got my goat. The Beer. Now I’m sure that the powers that be have done a lot of market research and deduced the average age of the festival ticket holders and what they are likely to drink etc. etc. But we’re not all 19 year olds with no taste so why oh why do the main bars only give the options of lager and cider? And when I say cider I mean Strongbow, a drink which is so ubiquitous at IoW that it even has a stage named after it!

Looking around the site I saw that there was a huge range of people, from the group of teenages on their first festival, to the family of mum, dad and 2.4 children to the group of ageing hippies who haven’t realised that the summer of love has been and gone. Even the demographicsof these say that some of these people want some ale of some kind, or at least a different cider, one which preferably doesn’t corrode the back of your throat, infact I’m getting acid reflux just thinking about it. Now I’m sure defenders of IoW will say “what are you talking about? there is a tent over there with real ale on”. Yeah, one tent, about 15 minutes walk from the front of the main stage, with one local ale (Island Brewery’s Yachtsman’s, which was rather nice) and one foreign beer (Lindeman’s Kriek, a bit sweet but nice and very popular). The popularity of the Kreik really said it all, in the end they had to stop serving it by about 9 p.m. every evening so that they could ration it for the next day!

So if we want the beer from this tent we have to miss all the good music on the main stage, do we? Well that’s great.

The Isle of Wight isn’t the only festival like this. Secret Garden Party do the same thing, one tent in the arse end of nowhere which has a couple of local beers and all the main bars near the music give you the choice of Kopparberg or San Miguel. Ditto Reading.

Some festivals are catching on Latitude a few years ago already had at least one ale on at every bar, but they made the same mistake as IoW and didn’t order enough. Glastonbury, on the other hand has got it bang on. Real ale at all the bars, even though it’s just one choice, even at the main bar’s near all the good music. As well as that there are several over bars which are more like small beer festivals in their own right and on top of that there is the institution of the cider bus and the brothers bar which is arguably where the cider revolution of the recent years took place.

Why can Glastonbury get it so right and yet the others get it so wrong? I know the first thing that anyone will say is that its all to  do with sponsorship and I realise that but I’m paying nearly £200 a ticket and I can’t even get the drink I want? And on top of all the money they make out of me for the privilege of not having a decent drink is the fact that they make even more money out of the drinks company sponsorship deals.

I realise that people put on festivals to make money. It’s a business after all, but at some point (a point somewhere around overpriced sponsorship deals for bars) it starts to lose the fun and become just a bit tedious. Glastonbury itself has often been accused of selling out and corporate brandings taking over but it is still far and away the best of them all. Why can’t the others learn from them?