This year's themed beer festival at the much misunderstood Fernandes Brewery Tap in Wakefield is a curious one. In fact not so much a theme, more a history lesson. The title 'Back to Basics' appears to be a reminder that however clever new brewers are at reinventing their craft and pushing the boundaries, basic beer styles are pretty much written in stone.
As the program notes explain though, this is more of a test of an individual brewer's skills since this festival is purely showcasing the Fernandes brand and the talents of Steve Hutchinson in particular. Of course it shouldn't be forgotten that whilst Fernandes appears to be an independent micro brewery, it could also be described as a test bed plant for parent brewery Ossett. It would be fair to say that nothing gets out of here without a good vetting from the overlords.
That said, the brewery is responsible for some of the best beer to emerge from the Ossett estate (four breweries) in the last nine years - in fact several of the more recent popular recipes are included here, though the re-badging for this festival means you maybe guessing as to what's what - an unpopular ploy if you tick!
In terms of recommendations, the IPA#1 is outstanding, as are most of the Pale Ales here - especially #2, #3 & #4. If you lean towards the malt then both Best Bitter & Brown Ale should hit the spot. The notes encourage you to try a half each of the two keg dispensed beers in the same pint glass with the stout poured over the Double IPA to produce a Black & Tan. My experience of this wasn't as 'magical' as I'd hoped or been lead to believe - more gimmicky than anything else, but a nice attempt at trying to bringing a little fun to the fair.
An interesting festival with a bit of beer history thrown in - should you pick up a copy of the limited edition expanded festival notes, several of which are available on the bars and the tables. Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the brewery's take over by Ossett when it would be nice to see something really special - like a greatest hits compilation perhaps? Just a thought.
'Back to Basics' is on all day Friday, Saturday & Sunday and operating on both the first floor Bierkeller bar and second floor cask bar.