Beer Festivals

Topics about beer festivals

Ship and Mitre – Wirral Beer Festival 3.

The Wirral? never heard of it, that was until I moved to Liverpool. Somewhat overshadowed by its world-famous neighbour and foreign tourist trap Chester to the south the little peninsular sits between the Mersey and Dee estuary’s just quietly getting on with its own thing. It has a good range of pubs and bars and several home-grown brewers. But when it comes to festivals it does lag behind its neighbours somewhat. Wirral CAMRA (of Wirral beer desert fame) abandoned doing their own festival some time ago, though it does seem they are trying to get it back up and running again. Leaving other people in the meantime to try to fill the void.

Arguably one of the biggest is the relatively young “Wirral Beer Festival” organised by Liverpool based pub The ship and mitre. The event is held in Hulme Hall in the delightful model village of Port Sunlight. the hall is famous for the debut of that drummer bloke in the Beatles that nobody seems to like. The Hall is a Grade II listed building, and sort of acts like a village hall. It has an early 20th century dance hall vibe to it. It works well as a place to host a festival, the two largest rooms play host to the beer and catering, it usually provides ample room for punters to mill about on the quieter session but it can get quite full on the busier nights. Two other large rooms provide a quieter seated area to get away from the bulk of the crown and gives you somewhere to sit down.

The Cask bar area of the festival

With it being a “new” festival the organisers have been finding their feet and tried to accommodate feedback as best as possible. I have to commend them for being open to suggestions and criticism. The third incarnation has been one of the best arrangements so far I believe, the placing of the cask and keg bars has worked well. Bottle bars, cocktails and other beverages were dispensed from the halls own native bar. Entertainment was placed in a corner of the largest hall, it made it quite easy to hear but also didn’t really overpower conversation if you wished to stay in the hall.

Getting to the festival is very easy the location works well for anyone taking public transport or being dropped off by car. Ideally I would recommend the train for those travelling from the Liverpool side of the river, Chester and Ellesmere Port trains run very frequently and Port sunlight station is less than 5 minutes walk from the festival site of Hulme Hall. Wirral and Cheshire residents are well served by both the Wirral Line rail services and local bus routes.

The other half of the main hall features the food and snack stalls, and seating during quieter sessions

Food and snacks were joyfully abundant and included; Liverpool Cake Co, Peninsular pies, Merry Berry Chocolates, Bongos Rock and Roll Chilli, Hulme halls own in-house catering was also serving hot meals. There was even a tuck shop were you could spend some of your tickets on snacks.

As usual for beer festivals the Beer was the main attraction. Credit where its due the ship and mitre have attempted to make as many people happy as possible. We had Cask ale, Craft Keg, ,Cider, Euro Beers, Bottled beers, cocktails, Wine and sensibly soft drinks were available. Alongside the Liverpool Craft Beer Expo, Wirral beer festival currently offers the best range of types of dispense and variety.

Hmmm dat nitro tho

I amongst several others were excited to see some very popular US kegged beers. specifically the delicious Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro and Anchor Big Leaf Maple a lovely seasonal Autumnal brew, Founders Dirty bastard was listed initially but wasn’t available on the day sadly!

British Kegged beers were also very well represented with many locals Including Deva from Chester, Liverpool Craft beer Co and Mad hatter from Liverpool, highlights being the Deva Dual IPA, Liverpool Craft Badlands and Mad Hatter Autumn Saison.

The range of Cask beers was also pretty well represented and featured several new Local breweries from Merseyside including, Neptune Brewery, Red Star Brewery and Rock The Boat Brewery. Breweries from all around the country were also present with many big familiar names mixed in with smaller breweries. A good range of darker coloured ales were on offer alongside the more ubiquitous ambers and pales. This would have provided the average drinker a good chance to sample a whole range of tastes and styles in one sitting. A few people I spoke to felt that some of the cask beers were too cold I cant say I had the same opinion, though some of the stouts might have benefited from being a tad warmer. It’s a minor quibble! of all the cask that stood out well I remember Squawk Brewing Espresso Stout and Big Hand Brewing Co Bad Gorilla.

Saturday featured Johnny Rocket and the Retro’s entertaining the crowd. Keg bar located to the right of the stage.

Overall I really enjoyed the third Ship and Mitre festival. I have held off writing about the previous two events as it is a relatively new festival and I wanted to see how it evolved. I’m pretty confident that it will be a regular fixture over the coming years, and in my opinion it’s now one of the better festivals in the area sitting confidently alongside other popular festivals despite its relative youth. For the moment it is still Wirral’s biggest beer festival.

I visited on two separate days, Thursday night and Saturday day. Thursday was certainly not heaving but it had a great atmosphere. By Saturday day some of the beers had started to run dry but this didn’t detract from the fun of a second visit. Generally in both groups I accompanied the feelings on it were very positive. So well done to all the staff, organisers and volunteers of the festival you’ve done a grand job! I would strongly recommended you try to visit if you have not already been yourself.

One last side note is that even though the Wirral currently has fewer festivals than the Liverpool side of the Mersey it still does have them! The ship and mitre make appearances at farm fest and also this year were on site at a local cricket festival. Hoylake beer festival is also very popular and is in the northernmost part of the peninsular generally this particular festival occurs during summer months. You can read my write up on it here. Keep your eyes on social media and local news for upcoming Wirral beer festival and who knows, maybe the Wirral CAMRA beer festival will be back eventually? Until then, I look forward to the 4th Wirral Beer Festival, hopefully in early 2016!

Think locally at St Georges Hall beer festival 2015

a busy previous St Georges hall beer festival in grand surroundings!

St Georges hall beer festival 2015 is on this weekend! If you didn’t get any tickets commiserations. I myself am not going this time owing to festival fatigue. The beer list was released just a few days ago and includes many of the new breweries in the local area. Even though I can’t attend there are several I can strongly recommended you try ill list those below. Many of these are newer brewers and have only just started operating this year.

Ladies that Beer

Worth mentioning as well to any female visitors is are you a lady that likes beer? or are you curious about trying some at this festival? If you are Ladies that beer will be at the festival on Friday evening between 7-7.30pm! Ladies that beer are a welcoming group who want to encourage more women to drink good beer, and can offer you great advice on beer styles and brewing. They are very active on social media and host regular events for members. you can chat with them direct by clicking the links to Facebook and Twitter. Check your program for where they are located within the beer festival and go say hello!

Uh yeah but I just drink lager – an appeal

Some bottled continental lagers will no doubt be available but please don’t waste the opportunity at the festival to sample the ales available. The main thing is do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask what to try! That’s what the volunteers are for! If you traditionally prefer lagers try starting with something pale or lighter coloured and maybe move up to more amber coloured beers. If you like a strong hoppy lager try some IPA’s.

Volunteers will offer you a taster before you commit so don’t be afraid to try a few. Just don’t take the piss and ask to try 10! When you sample what is out there hopefully it will open up for you a whole world of different tastes to enjoy.

Recommended beers to try

So below I am going to suggest which beers by brewer to try while at the festival, some I have had in person others I think sound interesting, I will of course indicate which ones I have actually tried.

Neptune Brewery

Located in Maghull, Neptune just started producing full-time this year. They offer a great broad colour range of ales to choose from. Neptunes ales are becoming available on draught at pubs and bars around the region. And are also available bottled in many of the local beer shops to try at home Neptune also do not use Isinglass finings which is great news for those with specific dietary requirements!

  • Amberjack 4.5% – an easy drinking with nice bittering and a marmalade like finish.
  • Riptide  3.6% – English bitter, which is nicely balanced and very sessionable
  • Triton 4.4% – pale ale, good hop flavouring and nice light biscuity finish

Keep an eye out in the pubs and shops for the “thick and twisted” and abyss these are both very lovely dark beers. Also worth trying is AmberJack’d a stronger version of the already tasty 4.5%.

Red Star Brewery

Bridging the gap in the West Lancashire plain and based in Formby is Red Star another Merseyside micro-brewery. With a solid small core range they are quickly becoming regular features in many of the local pubs and bars, bottles again are also available in the many local beer shops too.

  • Partisan 5.4% – strong-tasting and complex malty brew with nice bittering, smooth.
  • Weissbier 5.3% – a new ale, unfiltered and unfined so naturally cloudy, wheaty body and fruity.
  • Formby IPA 4% – tweaked since my last tasting but had lovely toffee malts.

Keep an eye out locally on draught or in bottle for Hurricane a strong bitter which punches way above its weight, bit of trivia the partisan is quite popular amongst some eastern European football fans!

Rock the Boat

Another micro-brewer who has just commenced operation this year is Rock the boat, working out of a 16th century wheelwright’s workshop in Little Crosby Village. Currently working with a good core range at the moment there maybe a stout on the horizon soon!

  • Bootle Bull 3.8% – a great traditional bitter which leans more towards malts than hops, don’t miss.
  • Dazzle 3.6% – a well bittered pale with a nice initial bite to it.
  • Liverpool Light 3.4% – very sessionable and refreshing pale.

Also try the mussel wreck at the festival i have not tried this myself yet but is a 3.9% golden ale. Hopefully bottles will be available soon to take home!

Liverpool Craft Beer Co

Established in 2010 and operating from the railway arches on love lane, LCB have become a local favourite amongst drinkers, pubs and bars in the area. they have a core range supplemented by changing seasonal and one-off special brews. Please note I have not tried any of the beers below yet sadly, however knowing the good work the brewery puts in I can recommend them easily!

  • Hinnomaki Wheat 4.7% – Hefeweizen style ale, so naturally cloudy and fruity
  • Pzyk Diablo 4.8% – a tea infused ale brewed for liverpool festival of psychedelia
  • Springbok 4.6% – a pale ale which i believe has been brewed with south African hops

LCB bottles are readily available in many outlets across the region to take home. American Red is one of my favourite beers that LCB produce and keep an eye out for their oatmeal stout!

The Melwood Beer Company

Up and running since 2013 and based in the picturesque Knowsley parkland area. currently operating out of the old Cambrinus premises. A regular fixture in many of the pubs and bars in Liverpool and the surrounding areas, a regular range of beers with a tie to music are brewed along with one off brews.

  • High Time 4.2% – rarely brewed on cask a good sessionable pale.
  • Jester 4.4% – made with the new English jester hops (unsampled)
  • Life Of Riley 4.5% – balanced pale ale (unsampled)

Melwood beers are also available to take home bottled from stores in the area.

Liverpool Organic Brewery

Festival organisers LOB have a large range of beers to sample, some have been available in hand pump dispense in previous years so keep an eye out for these! Based close to the Leeds & Liverpool canal LOB is currently one of the longest-serving breweries in the city and brew a large range of beers.

  • Kitty Wilkinson Chocolate & Vanilla Stout 4.5% – a lovely stout with choc malts
  • Bier Head 4.1% – based on an old Higsons recipe.

Bottles of the entire range are very easy to find in local beer shops.

Peerless Brewing Company

Operating since 2009 Birkenhead based Peerless has recently expanded its capacity and is a popular fixture in pubs on the Wirral and on the Liverpool side of the Mersey. A core range of beers is regularly produced along with seasonal’s and one-off’s, they hold regular brewery tours and “thirsty Thursday” open nights.

  • Fusion 3.5% – session pale ale with a blend of UK hops
  • Peninsula IPA 5.7% – popular and robust smooth IPA with biscuity malts.
  • Waimea 3.7% – an amber New Zealand hopped ale (unsampled)

Peerless bottles are available in many shops around the area and are also available direct from the brewery as are some mini kegs for home use. I recommended trying the Red Rocks, Paxtons peculiar and the lovely oatmeal stout.

Brimstage Brewery

Based on a farm in the heart of the Wirral and founded in 2006, Brimstage have a solid core range of ales that are found regularly around the Wirral and Merseyside. Bottles are easily found in many of the shops in the local area.

  • Rhode Island Red 4.0% – a pleasant red ale that is malty and sweet
  • Scarecrow 4.2% – marmalade coloured fruity session ale
  • Trappers Hat 3.8% – smooth and easy drinking session ale.

Oyster catcher is also a nice stout to keep an eye out for

Cheshire Brew Brothers

Located just outside Ellsemere Port and opened within the last few years Cheshire brew bros have become a regular fixture in bars across the Wirral and Cheshire, and produce a regular range of core ales.

  • Cheshire Best Bitter 4.5% – English style bitter which is a bit more malt forward
  • Earls Eye Amber 3.8% – tasty amber tinged beer with a slight smokey after-taste
  • Roodee Dark 4.0% – lush dark ale with hints of coffee

Bottles are available to take home in many of the shops around the region.

In Closing

I hope that you do enjoy your time at the festival, enjoy the quality local beers from our local brewers, get some local food and have a great time. But don’t forget if you enjoyed what you had, SUPPORT your local brewers, drink their beer, follow them on social media, and interact with them. These people are not sat in an Ivory tower they are regular working people like you and I and it’s us buying their beer that keeps them in business and keeps the lovely beer flowing. Support your local brewers and support your local pubs! Because lets not forget Liverpool and its surrounding areas are chocker with great places to drink.

Hoylake Beer Festival

Credit: Rob Shaw

August bank holiday saw the return of one of the Wirral’s newest beer festivals held in Hoylake Parade Community Centre, organised by Peerless brewery and sponsored by several local businesses the festival saw several very busy days and plenty of sold out beer. Plus it was all for a good cause helping to fund a new lift for the remarkable building.

I visited on Saturday with a large group of friends, for the purposes of this write-up and any future ones on beer festivals I am going to try not to ramble on too much. Truthfully I also had such a good time I can’t really remember many of the finer details but ill try to do it justice!

The community centre was originally a school but has been now re-purposed into a community centre that has a myriad of uses for local groups and residents. A beer festival being just one of them! The building was an excellent place to host as the various different sized rooms provided quiet areas to sit and chat, an area to enjoy the live entertainment and also the old school yard was made great use of for the catering and for anyone to soak up the last dying rays of the British summer. my party opted to sit in the room adjacent to where the bar was set-up.

The bar itself was very well-arranged, with all beers served from hand pulls and all fully labelled up. you could just as easily browse the length of the bar in search of your next ale as you could thumbing through the festival program. The army of volunteers many now familiar faces stood guard and were ready to serve and offer suggestions.

The range of beers was good, with several local brewers featured as well as those from further afield. a blackboard kept punters up to date as to any substitutions and which beers had been finished off. The beers were also in a good condition, despite the warmth of the day and the sun beating down on that side of the building the cooling system coped admirably.

Pricing for the event was kept flat regardless of beer strength, something very much welcomed by our party, 1 token equals one half of beer. Nice and simple. unless you were drinking wine then it required 2 tokens. A full sheet of 8 tokens cost £12, half sheets were also available. Its worth noting again that the proceeds from the event go towards the upkeep of the centre and hopefully provision of a much-needed lift as well. So its good value for money and it goes to charity!

Credit: Rob Shaw

my personal favourite of the day was local brewery Deva Craft Beer of Chester with their American pale “pandemonium” additional brownie points to the guys for letting us know what the IBU’s were on the pump clip, not strictly necessary for all us but im sure there are a few out there who appreciated that bit of info! Those of us who have seen the Japanese Animé and comic book series Dragonball Z will probably love the art on the pump clip also! Pandemonium was well hopped but not overwhelmingly so and had a smooth finish.

Other honourable mentions included beer festival début by Neptune brewery, based in Maghull the small brewery has just started delivering its casks and bottles to outlets in the local area. Amber-jack was their festival ale, a 4.5% Amber/red ale a nicely balanced beer with a marmalade after taste.

Loch Ness Brewery was someone I had not heard of before and after some of my party sampled it and commented it was a good choice I picked up their “Red Ness” which was a rather lovely 4.2% dark malty brew.

Predominately ales were mostly coloured blonde to amber. There were several nice stouts, porters and milds on offer, of particular note was “Dark Horse Stout” By Elmtree Beers and “Beijing Black” by potbelly brewery.

It was also possibly for everyone to vote on a beer of the festival, something that was while a small touch was a nice addition! the winner was the popular Salopian Brewery with “Kashmir” (que the led zep). Though i cant actually recall trying it on the day my friends reassured me it was a great choice.

Credit: Rob Shaw

Pen-Y-Lan pork were catering for the event with sausages, burgers and pulled pork on offer. I picked up a very nice pulled pork bap towards the end of the evening, and they were very popular by all accounts.

Alas we didn’t stay for the evening’s entertainment, our group wanted to visit other places in the area and make the right transport connections later in the evening. So after running out of tokens and then using up another stub of four we ventured onwards. Would I be coming back again? Most definitely. I believe that everything about the festival came together very nicely, it was a great venue with a choice of beers not too large or small and a great atmosphere to boot. Tie it in with a visit to some of Hoylake and West Kirby’s pubs and bars and you’re not only helping to contribute to the excellent Parade centre but also the local economy as well.

And just to back that up it was recently confirmed to me by the Parade centres twitter account that approximately £10,500 was raised over the weekend.

When you can raise that much at a weekend beer festival why bother with dry charity months?

Acknowledgements

Several photos in this blog post were kindly provided by my friend and peer Rob Shaw. These photos are clearly marked and all other photos were provided by myself.

St Luke’s Beer Festival

Confession time: Before this beer festival I had never been in St Luke’s church at the top of bold street aka the bombed out church. Now I’m not religious so not visiting would sound like a good excuse, however St Luke’s is a Liverpool landmark and institution, a stark reminder of the effects of world war two on civilian life, and a scar left on the city as a memorial to the Liverpool Blitz.

I wont bother with facts and figures as they can be easily found and they tell of the horrific damage dealt to Liverpool during the Nazi bombing campaign. Coming from a place that was untouched by WW2 I was curious about it, but never enough to go in. My loss! until now.

The festival was organised by Liverpool Organic Brewery (LOB) and Real Ale Events Ltd. I believe they may be a spin-off company of LOB as most Merseyside beer lovers will be aware there are lots of festivals organised by the brewery, so it probably makes sense to concentrate one part of the business in that, LOB do regularly advertise that they can help set-up festivals.

Tickets for the festival had been available for sale on the now ubiquitous Eventbrite, and the event did sell out for Friday and Saturday. Billed as a 4 day event with multiple sessions on some days the festival followed the comfortable format of other similar events. The list of beers that would be available was not made public before the festival or throughout so unless you had visited or knew someone who had been it wasn’t really possible to find out what was on beforehand.

Excellent Pies and pastries were on offer from peninsular pies to ease any savoury pains, Liverpool Cake Company had a fantastic array of cakes to satisfy your sweet tooth and new to these events was Delifonesca providing more hot food in the shape of, pulled pork, jerk chicken and falafel baps. I enjoyed one of the jerk chicken baps and a Oreo cupcake made with kitty Wilkinson stout!

Entertainment was on through out the period of the festival, on Thursday night when we visited splintered ukes were in session, who were bloody toe tapping good. however you had to get somewhat close to the “rear” of the church, i actually thought the acoustics would be good considering how booming the place is when i walk past when other events are on, however the sound system was mostly down at the bands end. As always with these events I’m sure it’s a fine line between giving people good music and not wanting to annoy the quieter festival goers.

The organisers and volunteers did a great job setting up St Luke’s for a festival, entrance was by the steps at the top of bold street, from there a walk clockwise around the grounds of the church took you inside, the paths outside were covered as was inside with a very well constructed transparent gazebo the full length of the church, should the British summer time have a tantrum. Luckily it didn’t! and in the warm summers eve it was easy to enjoy the festival in the open air. Having the transparent gazebo up meant that people could admire the odd juxtaposition of sombre surroundings, all while having a good knees up!

The main cask bar area and gin den.

All the above aside, how was the beer? One really big concern many had been cooling. this was after all an outdoor beer festival in the summer months, and there had been previously acknowledge cooling issues at a past St Georges hall festival. However this time our fears were allayed, a super clever glycol pump system kept the vast majority of the casks cooled to a nice reasonable temperature. and I for one couldn’t notice the difference. so assuming the same system is implemented at future “warm” festivals there should be no more warm beers. (unless its one that improves with room temp).

The festival program lists 237 real ales, bottled continental beers (which some were sadly content to glug all night), wines, ciders and perries. Liverpool Gin which has become a regular fixture was also situated in their own bar under the church tower.

looking towards the far end of the church with the stage, sound would struggle to progress beyond here.

Thumbing back through the program now and my previous check-ins on untappd I can see there was a fair few darker ales on than at previous festivals even in the winter! (when dark ales are supposed to be king). this was a welcome change to me, and i took the opportunity to have a fair few mixed in with the usual pales and bitters. The festival saw many regular returns and also some new additions including new kids on the block Red Star Ales based in Formby who have done some great ales in my opinion in the short space of time they have been operating (Partisan and Hurricane are two of my current faves). Though there were some surprising local omissions such as Wapping brewery, Mad Hatter and Peerless. Why I am not sure, all have produced a lot of seasonal and one-off ales recently that I was hoping to try.

Granted my one visit didn’t give me much of a chance to make a dent in the list of over 200 beers but I have to be honest I wasn’t really blown away by the majority of the beers available. beers I really enjoyed included:

  • Exit 33 – New England best: A traditional styled northern bitter, i found it quite nice but a bit thin on the body, other people on untappd tend to review it favourably. I reckon it would be even better coming through a handpull and sparkler.
  • Rat Brewery – After Rat Mint: a mint and dark chocolate inspired stout which delivered as promised, also had a bit of vanilla and reminded me of mint Vienetta ice cream.
  • Magpie Brewery – Pica Boo: a unique tasting amber with really woody resinous notes.
  • Hopcraft Brewing – Graveyard Eyes: a porter which is hopped with sorachi, one of my fave hops and something new for a porter.

A closer look at the program reveals there was a decent array of speciality beers, I can see several saisons, weizens and fruit beers, so the range is definitely improving. I would like to see more of an inclusion of these beer styles as Pale ales and IPAs tend to dominate the program, indeed most of the programs. I quickly counted up in my head approximately 130 pale ales in the program, doing some bad brutal maths that’s almost 50% of the range. I’d like to see a more even balance of the styles, though I can appreciate this maybe hard to do as some people will downright refuse to drink anything other than pale ales, or prefer darker beers to light. maybe by narrowing the ranges it will encourage people to taste newer stuff?

I would also like to see more Keg beers, these have appeared on and off at the LOB festivals throughout the years, id like to see them become more of a permanent fixture. now if space is an issue i can understand not including them, but if its to keep say for example the bottle bar, then lose the bottle bar! I saw some people on nothing but imported bottles of the same stuff all night! What’s the point of going to a beer festival if that’s all people will do? maybe a bit of “cajoling” into trying new things is a good thing?

As always the volunteer army that manned the many posts at the did a commendable job keeping everyone happy. volunteers were happy to offer suggestions and I was even steered away from one beer that apparently wasn’t too popular, I was offered tasters nearly every time which is good for people not too confident in what they are picking. It was also nice to bump into people who i have been chatting with on social media for a while and finally met in person, and also bumping into other regular festival volunteers.

One thing that this festival does contribute to in  an unintended way is the quiet discussion of “are there too many beer festivals in the area now?” A lot of people think there are just far too many to squeeze into the year. Another discussion point is some people I have talked to believe that it also affects local pubs and bars. I am not so convinced of this myself, I suppose the only way to know would be to ask the opinions of local publicans and managers in proximity to the festivals and see if they are positive or negative influence. At 10.30 this festival ended and it seemed that many of the local pubs I visited afterwards had plenty of customers in, especially for a Thursday night. I do know of one local publican who was quite furious that the festival was taking place nearby but this is the only instance I have ever heard of someone being quite vocal about it. Another topic for discussion at a later time.

In Summary

I really enjoyed the festival at St Luke’s it was a great opportunity to visit the building. Though I hasten to point out it is open very much all year round with many a varied event going on throughout so even if you missed this festival you can still visit “the bommie”

The organisation, atmosphere and cooling of the ales were great, I just felt the choice of beers available was a bit uninspiring, maybe this would have changed if I had popped back a second time but this wasn’t possible. Would I visit for a second St Luke’s Festival? most definitely. If only to see what improvements might be made.

If you wish to discuss anything mentioned here please feel free to leave a comment or chat with me on twitter, I welcome any corrections.

West Kirby Oktoberfest

The weekend around the 18th of October this year saw the first Oktoberfest beer festival in West Kirby to help raise funds for Westbourne Community hall, beer and charity? you can’t say no to that! Beer drinkers are usually a very charitable lot. I popped over to see what was going on!

Even though it was called Oktoberfest the actual real Oktoberfest (In german terms) had been over for a week or so, and there were no european beers on, but who cares about that? unless your very anal about these sorts of things, what was on offer was a greatly organised setup, great beers, satisfying food and toe-tapping entertainment.

Westbourne Community hall is funnily enough down Westbourne road in West Kirby, a mere stones throw away from the Train station, so getting there is no problem, and if any festivals are held there in the future i can assure you that it’s an easy place to get to from anywhere on Merseyside and the Wirral.

Tickets were easily available online via the now ubiquitous to local beer festival goers eventbrite, they were also available in several local businesses and priced very reasonably at £5 popping into the event was straightforward, hand in your tickets, pickup your festival glass and program and then exchange your hard-earned pounds for beer tokens, a typical format. Beers were priced at £9 for a set of 6 tokens making each drink £1.50, quite reasonable in my books! I am unsure whether or not your glass was to take home or not it wasnt mentioned to us, im quite sure it was but sadly i and my friend had no safe means of getting them home, also our cupboards are now bulging at the seams with beer festival glassware!

Now having experienced disappointment at the previous beer festival at St Georges hall with regards to the quality of beer i was curious to see the setup and taste the beer. No stillage was present at the Westbourne hall, however a bar had been built virtually the whole length of the side room and all beer was dispensed from hand pull.

This was great because you could easily match up your choice in the program to what was on the bar, sometimes matching up a beer number to the cask is a bit of a “where’s Wally” affair at some larger festivals, no such issues here, and if you decided to just browse you could easily do that. Tastings were offered by everyone who served me a very welcome thought, i was usually quite happy with my choice having been given several suggestions on what to try before hand by reliable peers. I didn’t have a bad pint all night, even the drinks i would class as average or OK were still nice to drink, so whatever was being done to make sure the beer was at least in top condition worked, im assuming that behind the bar was some sort of cooling system, so whoever sorted that out, well done!

Of all the beers i had my favourites worth mentioning were: Domino Welsh stout by big hand brewing, Autumn breeze by Arundel brewery, Olive Branch by Mr Grundy’s, Nova by Bristol beer factory and finally Dark Mild by Bank top brewery a category winner of this years GBBF.

I would like to just point out again that i throughly enjoyed every beer at the festival, the ones mentioned above stood out the most. And I think that a good testament to the folks who organised the festival that all the beers were kept consistently good and providing a good range of light session ales through to dark strong stouts.

Food was provided by Latitude of West Kirby and you can see the menu below!

I grabbed myself a pulled pork batch (or bap or bun…) which was very satisfying while my friend managed to scoff both meat options over the course of the night and was quite pleased with them. There was also a pub quiz on over the period of the festival, in the form of a question sheet left on your table to fill out over the course of the night should you wish to enter, the only downside to this is that everyone could google the answers on their phones if they wanted to! I at least knew the answer to two of them straight away!

#5 being the prancing pony and #9 stones was first brewed in Sheffield, if I’d got that wrong i’d have probably not be let back into Yorkshire! This is actually the first festival i have been at to feature any sort of quiz and i think its something that other festivals could include! but it would have to be done live to avoid mobile internet cheating if possible!

Entertainment was supplied by Mersey Morris dancers early in the evening and then later on by reckless elbow a local folk band. Now I don’t get Morris Dancing myself its a really odd English peculiarity, i wont criticise the fellas who entertained us because even though some were thrice my age they are a damn sight more spritely than me! I cant help think they were a bit ignored at first by the crowd who were more happy supping their beers and chatting amongst themselves, its possible the hall was almost a tad too small for them, but by the end of their set they had several audience members helping out and everyone was having a good chuckle, one of their sticks did go whizzing past me but no harm done!

Reckless Elbow came on for their set a little later on in the evening, and while we didn’t stay to hear the whole set through i really enjoyed the music and it rounded out a good nights worth of entertainment for a small beer festival, counting the numbers in the program there were 37 beers on which isn’t bad at all! not forgetting there was cider and other alternatives available too then I think this was a very succesful event!

I’d certainly be very happy to go back for another even in the future, if you organise things right you can always visit the festival and then have a walk around the many other lovely pubs and bars in the West Kirby area and even hop the train to a few in Hoylake.

So Kudos to all the volunteers and organisers of the West Kirby Oktoberfest, I think you did yourself proud! and I think it just goes to show that you don’t need a massive venue with a huge list of beers to have a succesful beer festival!

Last thing worth mentioning is whoever put the copies of merseyale out on the table was a genius because what was inside this issue? the responses to the article made by Wirral CAMRA members labling the Wirral as a “real ale desert” this has become amusingly known as “Desert Storm” to some, well folks who thumbed through it could make their own mind up. I’d like to point out that Wirral Camra did nothing to publicise this event, compared with one of their neighbouring branches who actively promote other beer festivals even those not directly affiliated with CAMRA

St Georges Hall Beer Festival 2014

The second of two new beer festivals that were born last year the St Georges Hall Beer fest is set up in the eponymous 160 year old neoclassical building, a grand setting just like the Crypt Location for CAMRA’s beer festival, arguably one of the largest beer festivals in the city, last year over 5,500 people visited the inaugural festival, myself included. Numbers were expected to exceed that this year, it certainly felt like it did. read on to see how the second outing for the festival shaped up.

Organisation: papers please

As is quite the norm now for local beer festivals the tickets were available from many places, chiefly online via the eventbrite website, and ive never had an issue with it (unless your printer runs out of ink), it’s a good smooth process and it works! tickets were available on the door to some sessions.

And as usual for these events swapping your tickets and hard-earned pounds at the door will net you a festival glass, program and book of 8 tickets for £12, smaller denominations were available though. pricing was helpfully flat across all beers, other than bottles of continental lager for the unbeliever.

After navigating the corridors of st Georges hall the vast majority of this years action took place in the cavernous great hall, food was available in side rooms and the beers were readily accessible, in the previous year keg beer and entertainment had been relegated upstairs to the concert room. This year entertainment was in the great hall itself but more on that later.

The large open space made itself well suited to hosting a large number of casks on the stillages and long rows of shared tables and benches, though these filled up quickly on friday evening when we visited it wasnt to hard to find somewhere to sit down if you needed, you could also this time step out onto the top of the steps outside the hall facing the plateau if you fancied a breather.

Hats off again to whoever designs and writes the programs for the festival, they are usually packed with all the info you need and the really important information the beer tasting notes and colour are clear. new for this year were abbreviated notes such as adding IPA to denote an india pale ale, and ST for a stout, and so on. it might not be necessary to veteran drinkers but i think it’s a good idea to help out all the newbies. I myself used it when quickly scouting the program while mixing up my styles.

Munchables

Perennial beer festival favourites Peninsula Pies, Liverpool Cake Co and Liverpool Cheese Co were all present again to satisfy whichever tooth was itching for food. I myself grabbed the last sausage roll of the night! and still lovely it was too! last year the Blackburn hotel was present providing some warmer foods such as scouse, something i would have liked to see again, but the spread of food on was enough to satisfy most!

The Beer

284 real ales were available this year up on last years 260 odd, again keg beer has made a welcome addition to the setup, cider is as usual available and so is Liverpool Gin.

Now im going to get right to the point the beer this year was just not good, the quality was quite poor, i am not the only person to comment on this several friends have agreed with this assessment and also some total strangers at the festival and on social media. Liverpool Organic have themselves admitted it was not that good, it seems whatever options were used for cooling did not work out all that well this year. I can’t remember too clearly what last years beers were like so it’s not fair to compare them to a previous session. However when compared to the Waterloo beer festival and Liverpool Craft Beer expo there was something definitely amiss, beers just didn’t taste as vibrant or were straight up warm. something we all know real ale shouldnt be. It’s good that Liverpool Organic have commented on the quality i hope it can improve for next year but i fear the actual problem is St Georges hall itself. Its huge, and when the light comes streaming in through the windows straight onto the casks it cannot be doing them any good.

Were there any stand out beers on this year then? well because of the overall disappointing quality its hard to decide. A week previous I tasted Wapping breweries Amarillo Pale ale at the Baltic Fleet Pub, home of the brewery, it was a lovely pale with a  intriguing woody resinous smell and taste. Angus the chief brewer of Wapping suggested trying it at the festival to see how its quality held up moving from source to stillage. I can honestly say it was affected, while it was definitely a nice pale that unique smell and taste had gone. So i had a feeling from that point on things might be affected by the environment the ales were in. Probably Bristol Beer Factories Sorachi was the best ale to me, it was recommended to me by a friend who was volunteering and it didn’t disappoint, im finding something of a taste for sorachi myself.

Flicking back through the program i can see a decent spread of ale colours, some beer festivals are guilty of having barely anything above an amber colour on offer so it was good to see a nice range of milds, stouts and porters on offer.

One thing that i noticed was missing before i even got to the festival was the unusual absence of Liverpool Craft Beer Ales. It’s rare to not see them at a local festival, I don’t know why they were absent, i was told there was nothing untoward about them being left out of it, but it is the first time it’s ever happened. Hopefully its just a blip, its good to see local brewers working together and complementing one another.

Music for the Masses

Last year the entertainment was situated up in the concert room, which would make sense given the title of the room but a curious one considering few people would probably wander up there, i felt a bit sorry for the groups and artists up there. This year entertainment was moved down in to the great hall and oh dear it didn’t really do it much justice. I think once again the problem here is St Georges hall itself. When the entertainment started we were sat right at the back by the organ and try as they might the band just couldn’t be heard at the back over the chattering masses and echoey acoustics of the hall. The only real option was to move closer to the band if you wanted to hear them. penniless Tenants were in session on every night excluding sunday, im not a big fan of irish folk music but they were enjoyable to listen to and certainly folks didnt want them to pack up at the end of the night.  Other entertainers included Uke Box, South London Jazz orchestra and Pete Brown spoke at the festival on Friday day session.

Volunteer Army

Despite the disappointing quality of the beer and the entertainment struggling against the halls acoustics one thing you cannot fault is the reliable unsung heroes who turn up to these events ready to help out, serve you a beer and offer advice and banter on whats on. There were many familiar faces from other beer festivals in the region. without these people it simply wouldn’t happen so we should always be grateful for their attendance!

Feedback and other issues

If your still reading then I thought id make a little extra section for more constructive feedback rather than just summarise what happened. As I said you can’t fault the organisation of the event or the staff and volunteers but the beer quality took a real knock this year, so too did the entertainment in my opinion.

I cant help but wonder then  is St Georges hall really suitable? it certainly packs people in if that what your after but does it lend itself to the storage of beer? cooling seems to have been an issue and what with the warm sunny september we have had it doesn’t seem to have done the ale on the stillage any favours, anyone who has visited St Georges hall before knows it’s a wonderful open grand hall but sunlight certainly streams in, and sunlight is one of the big enemies of beer.

Most beer lovers know that Cask beer doesn’t usually keep for more than 3 days or so once its been tapped. So why is there a trade session on Wednesday when the main bulk of the festival takes place over 4 days? why not do away with the trade session all together so it gives the Ale less chance to start deteriorating? or even maybe limit it to a Friday Saturday and Sunday? or Thursday to Saturday? I Previously had mixed feelings about the rotation method at Liverpool Craft Beer Expo but wonder if this sort of thing would suit a larger beer festival?

One other thing that really irked me and a few others is the inclusion of a VIP section. This is the only beer festival i have ever been to that has had one and i think it is a very bad idea. The enjoyment of quality beer should bring people together, it should be inclusive, not exclusive, coming to a beer festival all suited and booted and hiding away in a room with other people goes against the principle of a beer festival and for me that’s to enjoy good beer, food and music at a big social occasion. I would like to see the removal of the VIP section from future festivals, they have no place at them as far as im concerned, while we are on the subject of VIP’s i cant help but think that there is a creeping amount of corporatism (is that even a word) creeping in? Sponsorship may be important to some of these events but did anyone at the festival even pay attention to the sponsors? I didn’t. Maybe therefore my argument above is moot? I just worry that VIP areas and Corporate sponsoring is a slippery slope.

The last thing that i think was a bit of a let down was some of the people at the festival, its great to welcome new people to the festivals, but when they are holiday drunks who only drink a few times a year and spend the entire night drinking a bottle of lager i have to wonder why they came? I saw people barging into one another in the corridors and people arguing about seating and proceeding to take seats even when they were for people who were already there, indeed this happened to me. I’ve never seen one bit of a trouble at a beer festival and the atmosphere was still better than any saturday night in concert square but there just seemed to be something missing at this years St Georges festival.

Maybe we could have beer festival mentors? “have you been to a beer festival before? no? ok would you like me to tell you how to get the most from it?” something like that maybe! Personally id stop the sale of bottled continental lagers and wine, its a beer festival for crying out loud. maybe that’s a tad too draconian?

I’m not sure what a good fix would be for the entertainment, moving it back upstairs is an option but again it puts it out-of-the-way for most people, maybe the PA system needs a helping hand? get a few more speakers in about the place, the issue with that is then just like in a noisy pub everyone is fighting to be heard. It’s a difficult one that I don’t have a real suggestion for.

Ill end now by at least saying remember it is only the second year that such a festival has been put on in St Georges hall, not everything will go right first two times, and from it the organisers will no doubt learn lessons that will hopefully improve upon it for next years festival, you wont have to wait to long as a winter ales festival is set to be run in January, being a fan of winter ales im strongly considering getting myself a ticket! Its no easy task organising a beer festival, so lets see how things get on next year for St Georges beer festival?!

Liverpool Craft Beer Expo 2014

Last year saw a new edition to the beer festival scene in Liverpool, the craft beer expo, organised by Liverpool Craft Beer Co, The Camp and Furnace and an army of volunteers. It was in my eyes a great success and the biggest coming together of both cask real ale and craft beer (yes on keg CAMRA U MAD?). the great surroundings of the camp and furnace, great entertainment, lovely food and of course great beer made it a stand out event. And it all happened again this year!

Sadly i only got to go to the opening night, otherwise I definitely would have been back again over the weekend, but it was enough to wet my appetite for another expo in 2015

Bring me your huddled massess of beer lovers

Organisation: Papers please

Again like a lot of the well organised events in the city tickets were available for sale online, early sales were available if your signed up to early access by email, various places around the city also sold tickets for the event adding greatly to the availability, owing to the popularity there were a few last-minute desperate calls for tickets over Facebook and twitter, hopefully they didn’t miss out.

swapping your tickets gets you a wristband not as snazzy as something you would get a music festival but it does let you move onto the next stop, collecting your glass and program/menu and 3 free tokens of course your going to need more than that!

Tokens are available for £10 or £5, a full sheet includes 20 tokens, beer pricing ranged from 3 to 5 tokens. Usually this was affected by the beers strength, and the pricing does work pretty well, though your sheet can end up looking like a game of connect 4 after a few drinks, so a bit of careful management might be required if you want to avoid overspending! 20 tokens is quite generous if you prefer lighter abv drinks but you’d only manage 4 very strong beers, in the end i myself mixed stuff up and ended up with two sheets during the whole night!

The program/menu was smartly designed and quite easy to thumb through quickly, the previous years took the form of a broadsheet newspaper which in some cases was a bit unpractical so its good they slimmed it down, also more detailed info is included on the beers this time which is great that feedback was listened to, also you got a pencil when you come in if your that way inclined you can scribble on your menu, thumbs up and down marks are available on each beer, being a bit of a geek i did scribble on mine. I liked all the beers I had as well, not a single thumb down. Beers were marked whether they were cask or keg so you could wander over to the appropriate bar. I’d like to go on record as saying I quite liked the newspaper look of the 2013 expo program, but it was a bit large and lacked info on the beers.

Menu, tickets and glass and your off!

The glass which is as usual yours to take home at the end of the night and was the same as last years event with slightly different writing on, i left mine behind as I’m running out of glass space in my house! also i had no practical way of getting it home again sadly!

The 2013 expo took place in the smaller of the two camp and furnace warehouses (are they warehouses?) this year it was moved into the large one that tends to host the fanpark and other events. A lot of people thought it was a good move, im still getting mixed feelings about it, i can see why it was done, you can fit more people in, its less cramped, i just prefered the atmosphere that the other warehouse gave off, maybe that’s just me and its a personal thing, it seemed more light and airy. But it doesn’t take anything away from the expo itself this year was great, im just being a fusspot so ignore me! as in the previous year, long bench seating was provided which was generally easy to find, so there was no hovering round trying to get a seat or giving people evil stares to make them shift.

A new edition was the big screen at the stage, projected onto it was a rotating list of a the cask and keg beers currently on. Brewer, beer name volume, token cost and which bar it was situated on were all handily visible for quick reference, and this swapped from cask to craft at a regular interval so all you had to do was look on your menu and see if it was currently on.

Not all the beers in the menu were available each day so the screen would allow you to double-check before you got off your bum to get your brew.

Munchables

There was a good selection of food on this year including burgers, hot dogs and fish, im not sure if there was a vegetarian alternative? but since im a raging carnivore i was ok! Queues for the food did tend to fluctuate but service was quite quick for me when i went, although i have to say having a booming loudspeaker right next to where you collected your food made it a bit hard to hear (WHAT!?) when your food was ready!

SAY WHAT? the food was damn popular!

I opted for a simple cheeseburger and chips it was quite nice! the bun could have done with being warmed maybe but im no food critic, it got demolished by me and i was a happy monkey afterwards! my friends got fish and chips which looked pretty tasty as well.

The Beer

Again this is what you really come for isn’t it!? The craft beer expo doesn’t disappoint either, and blends cask and craft beer better than any other event in the city at this point in time. Over the 4 day period of the expo there were 140+ real ales and keg craft brews available, there was also a whiskey lounge and cider as well to complement the whole list. Something else that only the expo does is all the cask beers are on handpull, no other beer festival in the city does this. I for one think it makes the beer better, im not sure why but it just tastes and feels better, I feel that some beers can be a bit watery or lifeless when they come direct from a cask, I don’t know why again, I’m certainly no expert but that’s just what i think. So well done to the expo for having all the cask range on handpull.

Cask bar replete with handpumps for ALL beers!

However not all these beers would be on at the same time, things ran a bit different at the craft beer expo! After speaking to a few folks i could understand why this setup was chosen. If you have all the beers on from the get go some of the most popular can sell out, some later people will miss out, not only that but the beer will start to spoil after a few days which isn’t good of course! so by running a certain selection and then replacing them with newer casks/kegs as they run out it maintains the freshness of beer on hand. The main disadvantage with this is you might look in the program (as i did) see something your interested in, check the big screen or bar and discover its sadly not on. Not quite an issue if you’re coming to another session but since I couldn’t, I missed out on quite a few.

It’s a good idea to try this method, no other beer festival in the city has done this to my knowledge, do you think it worked? let the guys know with your constructive feedback it will all help! I would have liked to have had everything on so I can just pick as a I please but i can understand why its been done so if this system remains in years to come ill be comfortable with it! probably means ill need to visit twice though!

one of the many keg bars present.

Thumbing through my menu I can see there are quite a lot of beers i circled to try. I tried to keep a wide scope of different opposing styles, so I’d have a malty beer first then a hoppy one, then maybe another malty and then maybe a saison, and so on so forth. There wasnt a bad drink in the house for me, probably the most memorable was the napalm like Hell’s Porter from Liverpool Craft Beer Co, a smoked porter made with chipotle chilis, it was very VERY spicy and VERY hot, probably too much so for my taste! but i had it on a whim and i sure wont forget it!

Other stand out beers included again from Liverpool Craft; bad choice milk stout, which wasnt a bad choice at all but a very good one. I haven’t noticed that many stouts coming from the folks at Liverpool craft I hope it’s a sign of change because this one was lovely! it would be nice to even see it added to the core range (pretty please guys!). Siberia Rhubarb Saison from Ilkley Brewery back home in my native Yorkshire was a highlight, and it was made using proper Yorkshire Rhubarb (probably from very close to where i was brought up too) so even more of a patriotic bonus for me!  Dark Arts by Wirral brewery Peerless was something i had been hunting for a while, and was a nice surprise as it wasnt listed in the program, it was very sweet and very drinkable, i believe it has the distinction of being hop free as well?

From the keg bar comes I ♥ Galaxy, recommended to me by Angus of Wapping brewery which was a great balanced beer it had toffee and biscuit malts mixed with hops which is how i like my pales. Truman’s Runner was a lovely traditional tasting nutty bitter which offset the hoppy pales well. Finally bringing the event to a close for me was Anspach & Hobday Table Porter, this is a very low percentage beer but it’s amazingly rich for its low strength, so you don’t have to make things a silly strength for them to be tasty!

At the risk of being shouted at by my peers i think having low strength brews on such as a the table porter in many bars and pubs might not be a bad idea for those who may want to have a drink out but who may need to be up and about in the morning for work! Of course self moderation works just as well!

Music for the Masses

The expo had a wide range of entertainment on over the weekend all attached to different establishments, Thursday night when i went was in association with Bido Lito (Liverpool music magazine), Friday was the Kazimier garden, Saturday afternoon The Caledonia, Saturday evening Rebel Soul and finally on Sunday Mello Mello

The DJ on thursday did a great job of trying to entertain everyone with a varied mix of music from a bit of 80s new wave (is it still new wave or old?) to house music. It wasnt too loud as long as you were not right next to the speakers (WHAT?!) so it didn’t impinge on any conversations going on. I personally would have prefered a live band, i suppose i was spoiled by having Loose Moose on when i visited last year!

Volunteer Army

once again the beer fans of Liverpool answered the call and came to help out at the expo, without these people it simply wouldn’t happen! you can’t pay people for this sort of even and expect it to balance out economically so hats off to the Volunteers again, they do get paid in beer though the jammy sods! It was nice to bump into many familiar faces at the expo and everyone was friendly and suggestive of what to try.

And Finally….

I think the second ever Liverpool Craft Beer Expo has again been a stonking good success. It’s not inclusive it welcomes all, real ale fans and craft beer fans, yes it probably might seem like the cooler cousin to all the other beer festivals in the city but it’s not uppity about it, everyone is here from all walks of life and age ranges. It proves to me beyond all reasonable doubt that having both Cask and Craft beers on works, they work together, they compliment each other, they are just GOOD BEER and that’s all that matters in the end. So a hearty slap on the back to all involved in making it a success and here is looking forward to the 2015 Liverpool Craft Beer Expo….

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!

May Madness approaches!

well there is a busy weekend approaching here in Merseyside and the surrounding areas, several beer festivals and events to please your hop soaked taste buds in! here is a very rough roundup, and my apologies if i miss anything, let me know and ill update!

Waterloo Beer Festival

a bustling evening session at Waterloo

I’ve actually lost track of how many Waterloo beer festivals I’ve been to, it’s that many! WBF ties for best festival in the area for me (with the LCBF) it’s a great mix of good size venue, friendly atmosphere, great entertainment, wide-ranging beers and lovely food. Some tickets may still be available the festival runs from thursday the 1st of May right through to the 4th on Sunday with an extended session for the final day. I’ve always enjoyed the Waterloo beer festival and i am looking forward to this one, there will also be a Keg bar this year but don’t expect to see Carling on tap only quality Craft Beers will be available!

As it’s in a church and the weather hasn’t quite settled down yet you may want to bring something warm if it gets cold, although being from Yorkshire I’m made of hardy stuff, anything above zero is tropical to me!

When you have finished at the festival don’t go home straight away as the surrounding pubs in Waterloo have a lot to offer, visit Stamps Too and The Old Bank on the south road for nice beers and excellent music afterwards or head to the Volunteer Canteen for a nice quiet pint if that’s more your style, Crosby is only a bus/train ride away too, head to the Liverpool Pigeon for another quiet quality pint (closes at 9pm though so be aware!) or visit the first stamps for more entertainment. You can see my suggestion for a pub crawl for the area here, also you can consult the local camra branch pub passport map or the whatpub website.

You can purchase tickets and get more info on the festival through the link below, and MANY local brewers products will be in attendance!

http://www.waterloobeerfestival.com/

Mad Hatter Brewery Micro Brewtap opening

reproduced with kind permission from mad hatter brewery

As the lovely poster above tells you mad hatter brewery will be enjoying its inaugural opening of their Brewtap this weekend in the fantastic Baltic triangle, these initial few days are to promote the business and Brewtap which will be getting more definite opening hours soon, beer will be available on Cask, Keg and in bottle on the days, and you can even buy some to take home!

Mad Hatter have been another great local success story for Liverpool and celebrated their first birthday in February and within that time have already taken their place amongst the pantheon of excellent brewers in our fair city. I’m hoping i can sneak over to the open weekend at some point i got tickets to two sessions at Waterloo, why not stop by mad hatters brew tap on your way to one of the other events this weekend and say hello? Or stay for a few hours and then pop around to visit the other places in the excellent triangle like camp and furnace and the Baltic Fleet pub? you’d be mad not too (pun intended).

Liverpool Cricket Club Beer Festival

As mentioned by me previously there will be a festival on at the cricket club running from the Thursday the 1st of May to sunday the 4th of may. There will be day and evening sessions on the friday and sunday, Live music appears to be on the cards for saturday but there is no information about entertainment at other sessions, typical beer festival food will be available and there will also be some cricket matches on at the same time by the looks of things, i am unsure if your entrance to the festival will allow you to see the matches but it would seem silly if you can’t.

you can buy tickets on the below link and there is more information on the official page

http://www.liverpoolcc.ticketsource.co.uk/

http://www.liverpoolcricketclub.co.uk/lcc-beer-festival-is-back-lccbeerfest/

St Helen’s Mild ale trail

St Helen’s CAMRA branch will be hosting a mild ale trail this friday night, meet at the Cricketers pub at 7.30 on friday evening 2nd of May, for more information please contact the St Helen’s CAMRA branch, they are quite active on twitter and Facebook!

Get out and about

If you’re not going to any events in particular it’s still a good time to get out and about and enjoy a drink or two, support your local pubs, support your regulars. Head to a new place like Chester, or Southport or West Kirby and Hoylake, even if you just pop to a beer shop and stock up for a drink at home your supporting an independent local retailer and in turn is supporting a brewery that makes proper good beer.

Have a good weekend and remember drink responsibly, drink good beer!

Republic of Liverpool Beer Festival

Another new beer festival to add to this years ever-expanding list of beer festivals is ROLFest (nothing to do with Rolf Harris)

ROLFest will be running from the 25th to the 27th of April, which forms a nice bridge between the CAMRA festival and the Ever approaching Waterloo festival, it’s the inaugural Republic of Liverpool beer festival so if you can, get your self along and support another fine festival, alas i myself will not be able to go.

full details of the festival and how to buy tickets can be found on their website: http://www.rolfest.com/

in summary though they expect to have 70+ Real Ales and Ciders, 50 of which to be dispensed by hand pump instead of direct from the cask (the method a friend of mine prefers), there will also be food and entertainment at each session.

The festival is to be held at St Luke’s parish hall next to the church its self. located just in the centre of Crosby its easy to reach, if your feeling up to it as well don’t forget you can visit the other great pubs in the local area on the same day, checkout my own suggested pub crawl here.

One of my first posts was saying how blessed we are for festivals in the Merseyside area, i reckon we are fast becoming the beer festival mecca of the UK!

I wish ROLFest a succesful 3 days and hope to see it next year when i might be able to visit!