The pub where I first discovered the joy of real ale was the Barge and Barrel in Elland. I used to go across quite regularly until I found other pubs which satisfied my needs better closer to home and gradually my trips across there became more infrequent. However, when I heard that Andrew, the new licencee, was holding his first beer festival it seemed a good chance to reacquaint myself with the place.
Since my last visit it has been done up and is now a far cleaner pub that previously, when it had taken on a slightly careworn appearance. It has new signage outside but the interior of the pub is much the same as before, with the central bar serving a large seating area and a small pool room and snug.
The festival itself was in the snug, with 18 barrels dispensing beer on gravity, rather than through handpulls which seems the norm at pub festivals these days. There was beer on hand pump though and the regular 6 beers on the bar had been augmented with another 6 pumps filled with beers from the festival list.
A festival glass cost £2 but was refundable, a programme cost £1, with proceeds to charity and beer cost £1.40 per half, so for £10 I was set up for an afternoon's sampling. The beers on the bar were interesting although not especially unusual, but those on stillage made up for that. The majority of them came from the Midlands with a few from over the Pennines and plenty of breweries rarely seen in these parts.
I sampled Beowolf 'English Horseman', a 4.2% English style best bitter, good but not too exciting. Likewise was the Mallard 'Decoy', but things improved with the Milestone 'Green Man', with its subtle use of malts supporting an interesting blend of New Zealand hops. Star 'Wandering Star' from Salford, was a more malty brew, but still pale with some hop character. However the real star was a beer from Blythe in Staffordshire. 'Ridware Pale' was 4.3% with plenty of hop taste and a flowery freshness.
All the beers I had from stillage were in good nick, plenty of condition and crystal clear, but rather than sample another from there I decided my final beer had to be the 7% festival special from Milltown. 'Epic' was unusual for them, I have never encountered a strong beer from the brewery and was interested to see how they fared. To be quite honest, it did not really hit the spot with me, it did taste strong but the balance I had hoped for seemed to be missing, with it tending to be rather malty and cloying.
If you want to have a look, then the festival is on all weekend starting at 12 noon. All in all, not a bad attempt for a first festival, and hopefully the first of many. It will not be too long before I return.