Back when I wrote about the MOSIBeer Festival in March, I explained my disillusionment and lack of enthusiasm for most of the major beer festivals. However, over the last 24 months, many more independent, charitable or local festivals have been held that have drawn my attention, including the one at MOSI and the SIBA event in Manchester last year. Last weekend, the second Tameside Beer Festival was held in Stalybridge Civic Hall. I attended the one last year with low expectations and was pleasantly surprised with the organisation and set-up, so returned this week.
Organised by the Rotary Club of Ashton Under Lyne, I was pleased to see this was a purely charitable affair, with all profit donated to WaterAid. Also, I was glad to see that it was a two day event, the Friday and Saturday, because I really do detest festivals that have run out of beer by the time most hard-working people have time to visit, i.e. at the weekend.
Whilst I’m not going to turn this into a personal diary or peroration, my reason for donating a blog post to this event is really to congratulate and promote it. It truly was a triumph this year, with the pricing, entertainment, selection of beers and choices of food available.
I’m slightly biased beer wise because I was immediately satisfied on opening the programme once I saw that Abbeydale Absolution was one of the beers; a personal favourite and it was on perfect form here. But the choice of beers, stretching further afield this year in terms of breweries was spot on, with the right mixture of light, dark, mild, stout and hoppy goodness
Without extensive tasting notes, the highlights were both Titanic’s Plum Porter and Chocolate and Vanilla Stout (both had before but tasting delicious here,) Derventio’s Hoplite (a new brewery to me but with excellently modern day hoppiness,) Salopian’s Darwins Origin (outstanding beer that I’ve already sourced bottles for, it was that good) and Offbeat’s Oddball Red (again with a fresh, drinkable but powerfully hoppy taste.)
A special mention should also go to the choice to give Bradley’s Bakery the chance to provide the main food supplements. Whereas at most of these festivals you are provided with a poor man’s school canteen hot pot, these delicious local pies were, for some of my party, more impressive than the beer.
We stayed for five hours, by which time a jazz band had started to play who we enjoyed more than expected and by which point we’d tried all that we wanted to on the menu. If you arrived when it opened, at 11am, you could have stayed for 12 hours on the £3 admission ticket AND returned the Saturday for free, a bargain by most festival’s standards. All beers were priced at £1.25 a half and so the payment by ticket system was simple. The entertainment did not disrupt the evening and the food stalls, of which and Indian one opened up as were leaving, provided each table with free samples.
If I were to make a point from this post it would be to suggest to other festivals, especially CAMRA’s long running annual festivals, that this is how they CAN and SHOULD be run and I hope this particular festival does become an annual event. In contrast, my next festival will be the Indy Man Beer Con and I expect a completely disparate affair, especially since I have such high expectations for it. If, however, it proves not to be as enjoyable as the simple Tameside Beer Festival, expect me to use all my methods of letting them know about it… a.k.a. another blog post.