Nick Love looks forward to a beer festival which has so much to offer
I returned from a trip to the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) this week. It was the usual riotous celebration of all that is great about British breweries and beer.
Riotous, not in a drunken sense, but there was an additional exuberance that was missing from years gone by. Exhibitors and visitors at London’s Olympia were very aware that the UK pub industry recently reported the highest rate of quarterly growth in beer volume sales this century.
There was much to celebrate: the scrapping of the duty escalator and subsequent reductions in beer duty; the PubCo legislation that hopefully is the first step to protecting the nations pubs from closure and giving landlords a fair wage; and the proliferation of a new breed of brewers delivering new styles of beers – combining a wealth of different variants of ingredients like hop infused alchemists.
There has also been an explosion in the number of beer festivals. You can be pretty sure, living in a beer paradise such as Yorkshire, virtually every week there’s one somewhere near that you can visit.
They are superb in providing something out of the ordinary and a lot more choice than most of the local pubs in the vicinity.
They’re organised by pubs, charitable organisations, interest groups, sports clubs – no one needs any justification for organising one.
They’re also easier to organise as well – with far better access to beer suppliers than ever before.
Whilst these should be unreservedly lauded, you do need the occasional monster event to provide something just that bit more special. In the UK that is the GBBF – run by national CAMRA.
In Yorkshire – from September 17 to 20 it will be the York Beer & Cider Festival, run by York CAMRA and now the North of England’s biggest.
What large beer festivals allow you to do is not only sample a multitude of different styles of beer, they allow you to try multiple different examples of the same style from different breweries, whether it be an IPA, porter or best bitter, from all over the UK and further afield.
The GBBF is so gargantuan that you need to plan ahead just to be able to make good use of the time there without walking around in an open mouthed daze.
Knavesmire bigger than London
York Beer & Cider Festival 2014
The Knavesmire, Tadcaster Road, York
September 17-20; 5.30-11pm on the Wednesday and 12-11pm on the Thursday to Saturday
The York Beer & Cider Festival for its size gives you a similar experience.
This year you can expect over 450 different real ales (more than the GBBF!) to be available from breweries the length and breadth of the British Isles, with more than 100 Yorkshire breweries represented as well.
Add to that more than 100 ciders and a foreign beer bar and you start to realise why last year’s festival attracted visitors from more than 20 countries.
York CAMRA are determined though that the sheer variety of beers will not befuddle your average visitor and in a first this year are releasing a beer app for people to download onto their smartphones which will list all the beers available each day, along with tasting notes.
It will be available shortly before the festival when all 450-plus beers are finalised and loaded on to the app. Never let it be said that York CAMRA resembles the stereotypical luddite caricature.
As in previous years, the festival will be held over four days in a huge marquee on York’s Knavesmire.
This 150 acres of beautiful tree-lined parkland gives the festival a backdrop like no other and the adjoining sprawling verdant beer garden is one of the most popular places for people to congregate and while away a few hours sampling the beery delights on offer.
There’s an expansive food village, live music, tombola, special CAMRA membership deals and assorted merchandise stands.
I’ll be revealing more details of the beers and ciders, music acts and things to look out for shortly on YorkMix, as well as our special guest who will open the festival.
In the meantime be sure to put the dates in the diary – after all it’s less than five weeks away now.