Friday saw the start of the Halifax Camra beer festival, held as usual at The Square Chapel, a stone's throw from the railway station. One of the nicer venues for a beer festival, and somewhat historic, it is one of the local festivals I try to fit into my intinery for the year. This year it has happily coincided with a festival just up the road at the Three Pigeons, and another at the Pump Room so to kill two birds with one stone (to pardon the rather dodgy pun), I trekked across to Calderdale to see what was on offer.
I started at the Mayfest. £3 entry, and refundable £2 for a glass, and off upstairs to the beer hall. I was a bit surprised that there were no programmes available when the festival opened, and I did not realise how much I relied on one to plan my drinking for the afternoon. It was a case of going to the bar, seeing what was on offer, going back to my seat, checking if it was a new beer, then going and buying it. A bit of a time consuming process.
The beer range, as would be expected, covered all styles but in my opinion was a little uninspired. For someone who had visited other festivals recently, trying to find something new became a trial, and without a programme, somewhat frustrating. That is not to say there were not some interesting beers on offer, they just took some finding. Most of the beer was served from stillage, with a few on handpull, and as is usual at Camra festivals, thirds were available. Most cost around £2.60 a pint, a bit of a logistical problem when the beer tokens were £5 each.
So what beer was on offer. Local breweries were represented by Bridgehouse, Bridestones, Little Valley. Mallinsons, Two Roses, and Old Spot, to name but a few and there were plenty of beers from over the Pennines, with Arkwrights, Fuzzy Duck, Lytham and Burscough all in evidence, along with some midland breweries.
I started with 'Balmy Days' from Hopping Mad, a good 3.9% palette cleanser; an probably the best beer I tried. The others were a bit disappointing, and some downright awful, but that is the risk in buying beer blind. Soon I had tried Mr Grundys 'Passchendale', Fuzzy Duck 'Cunning Stunt', and Two Roses 'Barnsley Pride', none of which inspired me, and without tasting notes a bit difficult to describe. All average bitters, and a bit on the brown side. Old Spot ' Its Mild' did what it said on the clip, as did Goose Eye 'Amarillo Pale' - but I expected more from it, and I finally tried Bridgehouse 'Moorland Bitter' at 5.2%, but again it did not hit the spot.
Soon I got fed up with what I considered average beers, maybe it had been my choice of beer that was unlucky, maybe not, so I left to try the other two nearby festivals.
The closest was the Pump Room. Promising 20 beers on offer, and all handpulled, but again I was disappointed. Not all were on, and the one's that were seemed to be a selection from a wholesalers list, and nothing new or very inspiring. I took a half of Tring 'Wooden Wonder', found it almost undrinkable and replaced it with a Salopian 'Surrealism' which was better but at £1.40 a half, a bit expensive. I was the only person trying the beer, the others in the pub drinking lager. So I hoped the festival at The Three Pigeons would save the day. I was sadly mistaken. I was the only drinker in the pub, and the beer range, on the main bar and a makeshift bar in the back room, was pedestrian. It did have all styles of beer on offer but nothing very interesting. A quick half of Northern 'Two Tone' and then off.
All in all, a very disappointing day, I had expected much from the three festivals, and none delivered. The beer range was average, and the quality in some cases left a lot to be desired. Unfortunately none of the festivals were well patronised either, which is a shame for those who have made the effort to put the events on. But that is the lot of the beer ticker, we cannot be lucky all the time.