Weekend Wanderings: Waterloo Beer Festival & Mad Hatter Brewtap

So over the weekend quite a lot was going on in the area! we had beer festivals, Brewtap openings and meet the brewer events, I only managed to get to two events myself but it was a great weekend by all accounts judging by discussions I’ve had with people and from what I’ve seen on social media.

Waterloo Beer Festival #7

Seven Waterloo beer festivals already? seems like only yesterday i went to my first one! I remember hearing a story from someone that the very first one was very quiet, its good to see its gone on to be popular and maintained that popularity it would have been a shame for it to have fallen by the wayside! The Bi-annual event held in Old Christ church in Waterloo was again great fun and busy on both days i visited, with good music on, generous amounts of beer and good food its hard to go wrong, and when your done you have the whole of Waterloo and Crosby to visit as well.

Friday evening at the WBF

Friday along with saturday are probably the two busiest days, for obvious reasons. This year it featured extended sunday hours to coincide with the may bank holiday weekend. It was certainly very busy on friday seating as usual was at a premium so we ended up getting a wobbly stand up table, everything that i went for on friday night was still on and in good condition. As usual upon entry you can buy tickets, pickup your program and festival glass which you can take home as well.

Organisation: papers please

Waterloo Beer Festival is pretty well publicised, Tickets are easily available and convenient to get via Eventbrite who seem to handle most of the ticketing for all the local beer festivals, if it’s not broke eh? they only bother you will have is if your printer runs out of ink!

A full sheet of 8 for £12 (£1.50 a token) and smaller denominations were available, the simplified pricing is some of the best from any festival i have been too and its remained so for several years, only going up in price from £10 to £12 recently, there is no difference in strength of beers affecting the price its a flat price for everything, which for you the punter means no odd-numbered boxes left over!

the sun puts in a brief appearance illuminating the lovely interior of old christ church

I have to tip my hat to whoever does the program for WBF because being honest? the beer descriptions are better than what you get in the Liverpool Beer Festival program! furthermore its a lot more easier to read, yes i suppose that’s being a bit pedantic but the CAMRA LBF program is like a wall of text with no information on some stuff.

I opted to leave my glass behind this year for practical reasons, i had nothing to carry it home in, didn’t want to lug it around and also i am running out of room for glasses in my house!

Munchables

A familiar trio of treats were available as usual over the weekend, Liverpool Cheese Company were on hand with a wide selection of cheeses breads and crackers, and friendly advice to anyone without the slightest idea of what cheese to go for. Peninsula Pies were back as always with their Awesome sausage rolls, pasties and pies. I’ve said this before and ill say it again i wish they had an actual shop because i would rent a van and buy a ton of their sausage rolls they are that damn good. And last but not least Liverpool Cake Co were on hand to satisfy your sweet tooth after the savouries, i had a cupcake myself on friday evening and it was quite nice!

Peninsula Pies and Liverpool Cheese Company

I think i should mention as well that initially Liverpool Cake Co were posted in a side room off the main floor of the church, i got the feeling that they were not getting much attention because of this, thankfully by saturday night they had been moved into the main area, im not sure why they were not put in their to begin with but good that it was rectified! On sunday Peninsula Pies had completely run out by 4pm sadly, I almost started crying over that! seriously I love those sausage rolls! I wish they would always have more available but I don’t know the first thing about catering so can’t really comment!

The Beer

The most important thing of course and why you actually come to a beer festival! 154 real ales were listed in the program 8 Keg craft beers were also available along with 20+ ciders and perries and Liverpool Gin was also available for those who fancied a bit of a change

From what i recall of the two visits I didn’t have a bad drink at all, speaking with some fellow drinkers recently it seems to be that you rarely get a bad drink now, that is a beer that just doesn’t taste nice at all, beers now often range from excellent to average, and if you have a bad beer, chances are it just wasnt kept correctly! if this little theory of mine is right then its good news as it means that not only is the quantity of ale on its way up, the quality standard is remaining high!

Having said that nothing much grabbed my attention this weekend, everything was consistently good, i still recall getting some smoked brews at the winter WBF last year they really stood out to me, still there were lots of very nice brews in particular i loved the Mad Hatter ESB, York Brewery Finishing Touch, RAW majic mild ale and Tiny Rebel Beat Box

Festival glasses with contrasting ales, and the infamous wobbly table.

One thing i felt compelled to mention and, im thumbing through my battered program just to check, yes there is quite a lack of stouts at this particular WBF, only 8 in total i believe. Now I didn’t get around to having more than one on Friday and was hoping to have another sunday, but it seems Merseyside stout lovers hammered the few available ones over the weekend and alas there was none to be found! not even any on the south road pubs afterwards! now 8 might sound like a lot to some folk but compared to the amount of other pale ales available at the festival its not that much! i wonder why there were so few stouts?

Is it because were heading towards summer and people are in “summer mode” that’s an imaginary thing i dreamt up where people drink lighter coloured beers in the summer? Regardless i liked all the beers i had.

By Sunday though the previous few days and extended hours had taken its toll on the beer range and it was severely reduced by the time we got there, of course we still found some good drinks but  it made choosing a bit of a headache! since you had to make multiple back-up choices! I attended a previous years sunday session and don’t remember it being as hammered but this was winter! maybe the extended hours brought out more folk?

If you’re looking to get the first dibs on the beer and not wanting to worry about stuff running out you should ideally aim to go between Thursday and Saturday, stuff will certainly start to run out saturday, I didn’t observe anything sold out on Friday.

Music for the masses

Over the course of the festival entertainment was provided by 6 groups/entertainers with 3 squeezed into the extended sunday session. On Friday the Penniless Tenants were in-house providing us with some great folk tunes, especially appreciated by some of my friends of irish descent, on Sunday we enjoyed a bit of swingology and The Rip Roaring success, who were my favourite of the night, mixing early 20th century music and some well-known favourites such as Johnny Cash etc.

Rip roaring success take the spotlight

The size of the church does mean if you want to enjoy the music your best being closer to the stage, as the PA can struggle to fill the air in-between, we did struggle to hear it a bit further away on friday, so sunday we got close up to enjoy the tunes!

Volunteer Army

Again all the volunteers did a great job, helping the uninitiated, offering opinions on brews and keeping the whole process running smoothly. I felt sorry for the poor fella calling time at both sessions, the ringing of the bell was met with the inevitable chorus of good-hearted boo’s from the crowd and the gentleman had a good chuckle over it!

In Summary

Waterloo beer festival remains a great place to go to, it’s well organised, fairly priced, has a good selection of beers, Cask, Keg, cider and now Gin, the catering is super. If i had one suggestion to make it would be could someone please pretty please make scouse for the winter one? The festival also has what i consider a more relaxed atmosphere than the Liverpool Beer Festival and even when its busy it’s not so bad you can barely move. I would certainly recommend going to more than one session as well if you can, going to the sunday session especially which is not as busy if you prefer things quiet and you also have ample time to explorer the local pubs and bars in the area.

Before you go!!

Personally I don’t think any visit to the Waterloo beer festival is complete without going into at least one of the local areas fantastic pubs and bars, there are quite a few to choose from and all within walking distance or one train stop away. Not only that but there are some good quality eateries around the area as well to fill any hole in your belly

I have a selection that i prefer myself which you can read here, but you can also use the Local CAMRA branches pub passport maps as a good basis to go off or the CAMRA whatpub website. This weekend when coming out on both Friday and Sunday we headed to the South road in Waterloo, my two choices are generally music themed but if your after a nice quiet pint you can’t go far wrong with a walk to the Volunteer Canteen (aka the volly).

First to the old bank for a pint and then onto one of my favourite places Stamps too, a mecca for real ale and music fans, Stamps Too regularly hosts live music, has a good consistent range of excellent ales and are very often Local Ales (LocAles)

Live Music and Good Beer staples of a good diet in STAMPS Too

I have never had a bad night in Stamps too the beer is consistently well-kept by the staff, there is usually a good range of beers on from light to dark, unfortunately for me this weekend there was no stout! However the ales that were on were great, over the weekend period beers from Southport, Brimstage, Burscough and Purple Moose brewery were all on, the golden sands by Southport was quite delicious.

The dockers belting out some cracking tunes on sunday

Sundays music was by far the best for me the lads from The Dockers Band were on the stage, three talented lads who can knock out a fantastic tune, they had stamps suitably head bobbing and foot tapping until close of play when we sadly had to jog for the last train!

full of beer, song and food, now you can’t do much worse than that can you?

Mad Hatter BrewTap

This weekend also saw the inaugural opening of Mad Hatter Brewing Co’s own Brewtap premises in the Baltic triangle, Mad hatter will soon be moving fully into the new premises on the corner of Jamaica Street and Watkinson street, once things are settled down there should be more regular openings of the Brewtap so you can enjoy the creative magic right at the source.

A good selection of the Mad hatter range was available, in both Cask, Keg and bottled form, we plumped for a Liverpool best which was very satisfying, there was also Wapping rye smile, showing the continuing strong links with Mad Hatter and Wapping breweries.

mad hatters new brewtap

A regular theme ive noticed over these last few years are how unassuming and humble most of the places are local breweries occupy, half of the time you’d probably not even know they were there as you drive or walk by, this is in stark contrast to the red brick behemoth of Cain’s old brewery, the giant Tetleys plant i remember from back home in Yorkshire and also the Black Sheep Brewery which i had the pleasure of a tour of once.

I think it’s reassuring, in a way, there’s a down to earthness about it all, ill be looking forward to seeing more of the brewplant as it gets put in, a few fermenting vessels were present when we visited and although we only had time for one pint, it left me thirsty for another visit which i hope won’t be too long! So best of Luck to Gaz and everyone at Mad hatter with the new location!

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