Saturday, October 06, 2012

A tale of two festivals

It is unusual to find two Camra beer festivals in close proximity at the same weekend but this is what has happened this weekend with both Huddersfield and Sheffield festivals taking place. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss, so over the last couple of days, myself and my younger namesake went out to compare and contrast.

In broad terms both were similar. Held in large halls near the Centre of the respective towns, they were ideal for the purpose with plenty of seating and light and airy. Admittedly Ponds Forge was bigger, and because of this maybe a little soulless but there was none of the elbow to elbow drinking that occurs at other venues. The cost to enter both was the same,and one can hardly complain about about £3 entry and a refundable glass. Both adhered to Camra policy and served 1/3 pints so that the 'ticker' could enjoy as many beers as possible, and the beer price was not bad, a pint costing less than £3 usually. But there the comparison ends.

To take Huddersfield first, the beers on offer, 90 in all, were mainly from the Yorkshire area, with a few sourced from further afield. It showcased the first beers from Rob Allen's 'Hand Drawn Monkey' brewery. These have been initially brewed on other brewery's plants until he gets his own up and running and we were treated to 'Inceptio' brewed at Mallinsons and 'HDM 4 CC IPA' brewed at Golcar, both decent beers. Mallinsons were also responsible for the festival charity beer, 'Mrs Bloke', brewed to commemorate Dave Litton's late wife, Maggie, who died earlier this year, and an excellent beer it was too. I selected several different beers in several different styles, the quality was always good, and the condition likewise. I was impressed with 'Sand House' the first beer I had sampled from the Doncaster brewery,  Rat Brewery 'Green Hop Ale' was different but packed with fresh flavours. Wentworth 'South Island Ipa' was full of New Zealand hop notes, likewise Ironbridge ' ANZ Bitter'. Obviously plenty of beers had to fall by the tasting wayside so this is only a small snapshot of what was available.

Sheffield Beer Festival
However,  with the taste buds refreshed, the following day saw the Tims take on the massive beer list at Sheffield. Again there were plenty of Yorkshire breweries on offer, with several duplicated from the Huddersfield list. But this time there was an emphasis on beers from the South West which are rarely seen in our area, and therefore several brewerys new to me. One criticism was the beer list which in several cases was incomplete with several beers and the odd brewery missing from the list I had previously downloaded from their website. It took a little while to sort out the beers on offer, but gradually the system became clear and likewise what was available. This time we adopted different approaches, Tim the younger trying beers from his preferred breweries, being particularly impressed with the 'Steel City' beers, whereas I was sampling the new South West breweries. Some were good, some less so, and Garage 'Radiator Spring' just downright strange. Again, I encountered a variety of different styles from dark to light, from milds to Ipas. Unfortunately many lacked condition and consequently a bit of a zing. One that did have condition and bucked this trend was Dancing Man ' Pilgrims', a clean tasting light bitter. Unfortunately for me, but not my namesake Pixie Spring ' The Boss' ( a collaboration with Steel City) ran off before I could try it but was so good that Tim tried it twice. We did both agree that  XT 'Four' was among the best beers there, along with their darker offering 'Eight'.
Oddly, for those who think that beer festival are purely for hopheads, the first beers to run off there were a wheat beer and a chocolate and vanilla stout.  

So in the space of 24 hours we had sampled a vast array of different beers, with plenty of variety and plenty of new breweries to try. Thanks must go those Camra workers who had worked tirelessly to create both festivals and those who offered their services free to man the pumps. Roll on next year !! 


Jibber said...

The more I see of CAMRA beer festivals, the less inclined I am to go to them. This weekend I went to the Independent Manchester Beer Festival and can categorically say it's the best festival I have been to in years.

There were as many key keg beers as there were casks. Served in third pint glasses only, all were in excellent form, irrespective of the dispense method.

Ian from the Grove showed us how key keg beers work. In many cases, it's just a case of real ale being pushed, rather than pulled, from its container. But, as far as CAMRA are concerned, key kegs are the spawn of Satan.

It's a blinkered, even anal, approach to developments in the field of beer dispense. There is no doubt that CAMRA will eventually see the light. But, being the dinosaur they are, it will take months, even years, of committee meetings and motions (I told you they were anal!)to reach a concensus.

The only reason I retain my CAMRA membership is the £20 worth of Wetherspoons tokens.

Dave Unpronounceable said...

apologies for the incomplete list for Sheffield... basically at the time the program went to press, both southwest suppliers had not given complete gen (in fact I only got absolute gen on the Sunday before the fest, with setup starting Monday). Certain other suppliers were also late with gen.

We therefore went with what we knew. Perhaps we should've replicated what Ieuan used to do when he ran the festival, and offer complete lists on the day in return for a small donation to charity, but as the complete lists were on the website (I think) and scoopgen I suppose we guessed anyone who REALLY cared would be forewarned...