When I heard reports back from the 1st Waterloo Beer Festival, I added it to my diary as a must visit event for 2011. I had never been to a beer festival in an old deconsecrated church before. And coupled with the fact it is in one of my favourite cities, it seemed too good to be true. It did not disappoint.
This Waterloo was not on the outskirts of Huddersfield though, it was in the Merseyside suburb of Crosby. Easy enough to get to from Huddersfield though, a train to Liverpool then the Southport stopper brought us to the area and a short walk brought us to the festival. It was everything I had been told, and more. Held in the Old Christ Church it was a stunning venue. The old church with its striated sandstone interior was a perfect venue, light and airy, plenty of space to sit and plenty of space for the beer, and because of the nature of the church, the beer was kept naturally cool. The toilets were a bit of a problem though.
It is organised by Liverpool Organic Brewery, and they seemed to have got everything right. Entry for some of the sessions was ticket only, because of the success of the previous years event, but the Friday daytime session allowed payment on the door. Some may say the £5 entry fee was excessive, but with that came a festival glass,(all 1/2 pints) and a very professional programme with comprehensive tasting notes. All beer was £1.25 a half, irrespective of strength, paid for in refundable tickets of £10 each, and there were plenty of staff to serve on. Foreign beers and cider also featured, along with a good food stall.
But what about the beer. 142 barrels featured on stillage, featuring local breweries and plenty from down in the south west; a mixture of old favourites and new beers to keep everyone satisfied and a good balance of dark and light beers for every taste.
I started with Cambrinus from nearby St Helens, a brewery that has often eluded me and their 'Herald' certainly hit the spot, while Robin and I perused the programme for the rest of the days entertainment. We collected a couple of new breweries, Project Venus from Grantham, and Liverpool Craft Brewery, both excellent first trys, and then set about on some of the rarer beers available. Rob set to work on those from Abbey Ales in Bath and I went for those from the Bristol Beer Factory. Everything we tried was good and the tasting notes assisted us in the choice from the large range available. I ignored some of the newer beers from breweries we see over our part of the world,instead sampling some from Wapping, Southport, and the Liverpool Organic Brewery, all being light, hoppy and very tasty. In fact the only one below par was 'Ostara' from Allgates which the tasting notes made to sound superb, I was a bit disappointed, but one out of twelve was not bad.
We had decided to have a couple of hours in Liverpool to round off the day, but after the advice of the couple we had spent the day with, (a museum curator and a geologist actually, who says that beer drinkers are all bearded blokes with fat bellies !) we took in a couple of beer guide pubs in Waterloo itself, both different and both selling local beers, before returning. I was most impressed and will be looking out on the calendar for next years festival with eager anticipation, if you want a different festival this is certainly one not to miss.