Category: Festivals


Last week saw the Sheridan suite in Manchester play host to The National Winter Ale Festival, as I’m sure you know, especially if you have seen my Twitter account in the past few days. I was there, this is what happened.

A coach came and took us to Manchester on the Friday afternoon (by ‘us’ I mean myself and Jonny, mate, walker and fellow beer drinker). It wasn’t a very nice coach – there was no leg room. When  we finally arrived in the city centre we had to trudge through the snow, trying to find our digs for the evening. I had cleverly decided to memorize the map (this doesn’t always work), but we did eventually find shelter. We checked in, dumped our stuff and set out into the city.

Hungry and thirsty we dived straight into the first pub we could see that did food. The Piccadilly on Piccadilly, generally OK pub with five real ales on, none of which I had tried before. We sat down and had dinner, and tried all ales on offer. In the mean time we had been joined by Dan, a mate who neither Jonny had seen since a house party some time ago who now lived locally.

After The Piccadilly we moved on to Brewdog, where we spent the rest of the evening having some rather fancy (and pricey) beers, AB:12 especially was a highlight for all of us.

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Following morning we walked up to the Sheridan Suite, where the festival was taking place. By the time we had got there, there was already a queue out of the door. It soon started to move and we were in.

First pint of the day (After paying to get in, then paying for a programme and then paying for a glass and PAYING to put my coat down) was from Offbeat brewery, a red ale called OddBall Red. A good start, and the good beers kept coming. One of the highlights of the day was another beer from Offbeat called Venus Ella; part of the Venus project, which promoted women brewing. Dunham Massey’s Porter was also up there as one of my favourites of the day.

I have to admit I thought that it was going to be a much larger affair than it was. I was expecting one of CAMRA’s national events to cater for a larger surge of people. When we first walked in I thought to myself that it was going to be rammed, but, in the end, it was just the right size.

The only downside for me was that all of the champion beers which had won at the festival were announced earlier and as such were all gone by the time we got there. Shame.

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After the festival called time me walked back into the city, got a few cans of beer and sat in the common room in the hostel. There was a very loud group of girls from Ireland, who wouldn’t shut up or leave, and an overly friendly chap who was either from Denmark or the Netherlands, Jonny wasn’t overly keen on him.

Following morning we checked out and hit a Wetherspoon’s  had breakfast and a pint of Ilkley’s Lotus IPA, which was nice. After which we mover on to a different Wetherspoon’s which had more choice,amongst which was the champion beer from the festival, Elland 1872 Porter, which was one of the best beers of the weekend.

Last beer of the weekend was Build a rocket boys! by Robinson’s. I had been wanting to try it for some time after finding the bottles somewhat lacking. The cask version more than made up for it.

All in all, lots of good beers at a good festival in a good city.

Milton Keynes Beer Festival 2012

Milton Keynes; a city (well, big town) famed for concrete cows and roundabouts. Horrible place if you ask me. They do, however, put on a good beer festival. Back in October (yes this is another one of those posts I should have written weeks ago), I went with the usual suspects to MK Camra’s Concrete Pint Beer Festival.

As beer festivals go, it’s not a huge affair. It takes place in The Buszy, which as far as I can tell is a glorified youth centre. As venues go it has its good and bad points, on the plus side it is next to the bus and train stations (it is actually above the bus station), which is handy for getting home after a few too many beers. On the down side, it’s not very big. This means that everyone it really packed in tight. I think that perhaps they could have made a little more space by getting rid of the make-your-own-tshirt stand, which took up a large area. I wasn’t there when they had music on and I can’t see where they would put a stage for a band to play, there just wasn’t the room.

The area outside was fenced off for smokers and for people who wanted to escape the crush inside. Out there was also a barbeque which is a nice touch. It makes a change from the usual burgers and pizzas that most beer festivals have. Last year we sat outside with the barbeque and remarked about how much like a post-apocalyptic, “only the children survived” film it all seemed in the cold evening, in the middle of town, and no other people outside the fence.

Back inside the main attraction, the beer, flowed well. I had many different beers, including White Park’s Nightjar. I always have to try any beer which comes from Bedfordshire, and I’m pleased, no proud, to report that it is excellent. Other beers which I enjoyed included Thornbridge’s Jaipur and Concrete Cow Brewery’s Bulldozer. Another good thing about MK beer festival is that they keep updating their website with exactly what is on and what has been sold out. A nice touch I think.

Bedford Beer Festival 2012

I know, this was weeks ago, I’m a terrible blogger. Yes, this is my musings on what happened on Saturday 6th October, the main gist of which was to go to the Bedford Beer Festival. Bedford’s was the first beer festival that I ever went to and so it’s from their example I base my opinion of all other events. Organised every year by North Beds CAMRA, the event is now in its 35th year.

OK, so you know that earlier in the week me and Jay had been on a mini tour of Bedford trying to find cask marque pubs. We were also joined by Daz and Jonny for the festival. We thought though, that we’d show them some of our favourite newly found pubs on the way first. This meant a quick stop in The Foresters Arms to see if they had received their cask marque in the post yet. They hadn’t.

We then moved on to The Wellington Arms, where Jay was very disappointed to find that they didn’t have any Fruit Bat, which was, for him at least, half the reason we went back there. Everyone approved of the pub. I particualrly like the sign on the outside of “The Wellie” as it is called by the locals.

The third pub we went to was The Cricketers. We had tried to get in here earlier in the week but couldn’t because it was shut. I since did my research and found it’s only open during the day if there is a rugby match on, which there was. I had also found that because it was cask ale week we could print off a free pint voucher from the cask marque website. While we were in here we talked to the landlord. He was telling us that he no longer gets a cask marque because he feels that they do not do enough to warrant the money he would have to pay.

Free pint down and we headed for the beer festival. Bedford is quite a large festival. It takes up the entire of the Corn Exchange, including the upstairs bar and balcony area. In total this year they had 110 real ales, 44 ciders as well as a foriegn beer bar. On top of that all the usual games, tombola, food, live music and book sale that you usually expect at a CAMRA organised event. The bumpf recon that over the weekend 18,000 pints will be consumed. That’s quite a lot.

So how was it? Well I always enjoy these sort of things. This year was no exception. I didn’t have any beers that I didn’t like. The food was good, if a little over priced and everyone was friendly, which is always nice. Later on, when the band came on everyone was having a great time, which really set the mood for the rest of the evening. For me the stand-out beers of the evening were T’owd Navigation, Nightwatch Porter, and Rampart.

Every year we go to Bedford beer festival and there is always something which happens which makes that year stand out from all of the others. Sometimes it’s meeting someone you weren’t expecting, other years its lesbians being over friendly with each other on the bar. This year it was a grumpy old man throwing my salad over the table. It was very funny.

After we left we had one more drink in town before making our way back to the train station. We missed the last train and had to get an extortionate taxi. All in all, fun times though.