The Bloke from Hull writes...
Collingham is a village just south east of Wetherby and a chance meeting with festival organiser Alan Ashbee while out and about in late April led to an invite to attend this year’s (the 5th) Real Ale Festival on preview night.
As well as being a great social occasion, the aim of the festival is to raise awareness of Prader-Willi Syndrome and much needed funds for the charity both in Yorkshire and nationally. Prader-Willi syndrome (PWS) is a rare genetic condition that affects no more than one in every 15,000 children born in England and causes a wide range of problems including the constant desire to eat, restricted growth, and temper tantrums. The festival has already raised £15,000 for the charity from the first four events with nearly £1,000 for local Collingham good causes.
Before I could think of attending I had a massive problem. To get home to Hull, I would have had to leave at the time the festival opened but my thanks go to June and Stephen Hudson for giving me a bed for the night. Just great.
And so to the festival. I thought that there would be no one I would know there, but that everyone would be friendly and cheery. The latter was the case but as it turned out there were quite a few people I knew. Several of the bar staff were known to me especially the beer festival Trojan, Lee Birch who, as ever, had been working tirelessly behind the scenes to prepare for the onslaught.
The mantra of the organising team for the festival is to make the festival better each year but not bigger. With that in mind they seek to provide a quality Yorkshire event showcasing the best of real ales, lager, cider, wine and food along with great dance and music performances.
Around twenty five cask beers, all from Yorkshire breweries, were available in tip top condition. Of particular interest were those from the Yorkshire Heart Brewery and Vineyard at Nun Monkton near York. We rarely see them in our part of God's Own County. I noticed that the special festival beer was from them and, as if by magic, head brewer Tim Spakouskas arrived for the evening – good to meet him and chew the cud about beer again. Tim introduced me to his festival beer brewing collaborators including sponsor and co-brewer James Garmston, the MD of EasyOdds.com . They had done a good job in producing a pleasant biscuity beer with hoppy notes. Nice one guys.
Friday was also the first outing for a new brewery in Garforth, Quirky Ales. Tim introduced me to head brewer Mike Quirk who told a few of us about his first professional brew – Quirky Gold – a 5% refreshing beer with a lovely fruity taste. Great reviews have since appeared on Untappd.
It was at about this time supper was ready. As Peter Sellers said more than once in 1961 “give us a bash at the bangers and mash me muvver used to make”. Well, I remember it! And though not prepared by my muvver, I did know the chefs – my beery chum Tony “chef” Coltman from Leeds ably assisted by another beer friend, sous chef Ian Weatherill. Between them they served up around eighty portions of a meal fit for a king with lashings of onion gravy. These were then distributed by a bevy of fine volunteer waitresses to the awaiting attendees. In turn the meals were consumed with relish (not Hendersons) and just as in Oliver (not Jamie) quite a few asked for more. They were not disappointed.
Then it was the turn of the multi-talented Tim from Yorkshire Heart to host a wine tasting session featuring his own viticultural prowess. What a mouthful and jolly good indeed.
Musical entertainment was provided by the talented vocalist and musician Steph Baker from Boston Spa. Just right for the occasion. Finally, well almost, it was raffle time with some fab donated prizes raising over £300 for the Orchard Garden Trust.
There was still time to sample more beers including the local Collingham Ales favourites Journeyman & Blonde and excellent ciders from Yorkshire cider makers Mark Stringer (Yorkshire Scrumpy) and Dave Kendal-Smith (Udders Orchard).
The following day the Flagcrackers of Craven border Morris dancing squad provided an entertaining and colourful spectacle with inside and outside performances. Other great entertainment was provided by local young talent Lucy and Jo, George, Andy Bowley and Juvenile Success, followed by local soloist legend Matt Gouland. The fun was rounded off by the fabulous Reggie and the Screamers.
And what of the final scores on the doors? Around 2,000 pints of beer were drunk over the weekend and around £6,000 raised for charities. A massive 10% up on the previous year.
Well done to all for raising funds and awareness.