Now becoming an annual event, the third Tameside Beer Festival (housed in the Civic Hall in Stalybridge) took place this weekend again. I’d been to both previous events and, whilst the first was a bit of a swift haze before this blog existed, I thoroughly enjoyed last year’s so much I did a short post about it. I always feel a need to promote festivals, especially the smaller, local ones that are as well run as this.
As the festival is only held on a Friday and Saturday and is purely for charitable reasons, arranged by the local Rotary Club in Ashton-Under-Lyne, there’s no silly “trade day” or weekday event that empties the hall of the best beers before any regular Joe’s have had chance to set foot in the door. In fact, for a group who are not accustomed to organising such events, the rotary club do an excellent job of running a fair and smooth festival. Entry is a standard £3 that INCLUDES the programme. Beer tokens come in simple £1.25 form, as that is the price for a half of EVERY beer on offer. The glass isn’t a silly commemorative one that nobody wants and holds a simple £1 deposit. Lord how much more enjoyable it is to peruse over a programme of beer notes you haven’t had to pay for additionally (*cough* NWAF *cough.*)
So once we were peacefully sat with our first half (mine was a Salopian Brewery Shropshire Gold) we were greeted by one of the organisers, who was a lovely chap and sat with us for some time, though unfortunately his name escapes me. He spoke of his pride of how far some people had travelled for this rather low key festival and how keen some breweries, including Stalybridge’s own Ticketybrew, had been to get involved. Everything was friendly, relaxed and hassle free and that is what these events do best.
Let's not forget how we all judge every ale festival, on the half pint measurements. Unlike the farcical Huddersfield festival last October, this jaunt was particularly generous with it's half pints.
Aside from this, the festival was very similar to the previous year. The food offered was the same and the majority of breweries represented were the same, albeit with slightly different beers. Whilst this isn’t a criticism, it gave the feeling of a lesser experience overall. Similar breweries, who make good beer, yet seemed to have brought less examples to the party. Some of my party were more excited about Bradley’s Bakery returning, with their great range of pies. However, this year they appeared to bring less of a choice and then, subsequently, packed up much earlier. And, if I wanted to be a tad critical, of the 36 beers brought in, only 5 were not of the very pale, floral and hoppy variety; a bit of a disappointment for stout lovers.
Still, I enjoyed trying a good variety and, for the first time ever at a festival, bothered to mark beers based on the recognised CAMRA score system. In order I drank,
Northern Brewing Company – Jewel IPA 4.6% (3.5)
Allgates Brewery – California 3.8% (4)
Derventio Brewery – Cleopatra 5.0% (4)
Brunswick Brewery – Father Mike 5.8% (4)
Ironbridge – Iron Bridge Pale Ale 4.0% (2.5)
Oakham – Inferno 4.0% (3.5)
Titanic Brewery – Cappuccino Stout 4.5% (3.5)
The highlights for me were the Allgates California and the Derventio Cleopatra, although I do love a good Abbeydale beer but know Deception well.
Another really well organised and joyous festival. With a month before Indy Man Beer Con, it was really nice to be reminded of a good, wholesome, canteen-style but friendly local beer festival. I hope it returns for many years and that I can keep supporting it. Another reminder of what brought me to be a Real Ale drinker in the first place.