There are various types of beer festivals; those which are hosted by pubs, the monoliths with hundreds of ales on tap and then there is Festival of Brewers.
The first category is a great way of introducing your customers to different beers, usually with a theme, and giving them an opportunity to drink out of their comfort zone, although the pubs which have beer festivals usually offer a regularly changing line-up of guest beers anyway. I stopped going to the huge festivals years ago as the choice is so overwhelming that I never knew where to start – and when to finish! They do have their place in the scheme of things but not for me. Finally we come to Festival of Brewers which was absolutely perfect.
I was told that six small, independent brewers had been gathered together by Mike Hampshire in order to expose their beers to a discerning band of drinkers – and me. It was held at New Craven Hall at the end of Dewsbury Road which proved to be just of the right size. The bars had been set up round the edge of the room with tables and seating taking up the space in the middle. What was really good about this event was that the brewers themselves were running their bars so it gave visitors the opportunity to have a chat with each one, rather than paid staff or volunteers which is what you get at the big festivals, or the landlord and staff of the pub should that be the venue. Limiting the number of exhibitors to six, plus a cider outlet, also meant that I could have a half at each one and still go home relatively unscathed.
Every one of the brewers was passionate about what they do even though they all seemed to have different aims in life, some were happy to stay small and supply the odd cask to different pubs as guest ales whereas others were out to conquer the world.
The first chap I spoke to was Chris, who runs Penistone Brewery, no prizes for guessing as to where that is situated. This is one of the outfits who have been happily brewing seven cask ales for some time now and supplying them to local pubs as well as doing lots of festivals. He said that is surprising how many beer festivals there are in the region and they are busy most of the time although would like to expand in the near future with permanent lines in some pubs. I tried a half of Amber at 4.3% which was excellent and a decent session ale.
Next door was the Horsforth Brewery which has the strap line ‘Probably the smallest brewery in Yorkshire’. I had conversations with Mike and his merry band of helpers who appear to want to change the third word from ’smallest’ to ‘largest’ before too long. They operate from an industrial unit on a trading estate next to Horsforth station producing a range of cask and keg ales and have permanent lines in such pubs as The Bridge, on the border with Hawkworth, Doghouse and also supply Manjit’s Kitchen on Kirkstall Road. As well as draught ales they produce bottled beer which is available in several specialist retailers.
Mike said that from February they hope to have a brewery tap which will be open to the public on the first Saturday of each month with food on offer as well as the booze. He will let me have the details nearer the time so watch this space or keep up to date at https://www.horsforthbrewery.co.uk
The third bar was that of Mill Valley Brewery which is now situated in Liversedge although started life in the Mill pub in Woodroyd Mill, South Parade, Cleckheaton where they still have their brewery tap. They also have events at the Brewhouse in Liversedge. Full details can be had at http://millvalleybrewery.co.uk
This is brewery with big plans and their new brewing facility means that they can increase their range to include not only bottles and kegs but also to be able to brew their own lager. Simon, the head brewer was rightly proud of being approached by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to take part in the 2020 Great British Beer Festival at Olympia, London. As well as their own pubs they supply others and take part in several Meet The Brewers events.
Number four on the dance card was Half Moon Brewery from Ellerton which is located between York and Howden. I spoke to Tony Rogers who runs the company along with his wife Jackie. They started up in 2013 and now sell their beers through Yorkshire pubs, mainly the Jacob’s Well in Bradford, The Beehive in Shipley, the Swan in York and the Whalebone in Hull although they also venture farther afield. They don’t produce keg beer, just cask and beer from the wood. They were awarded Beer of the Festival at York this year for their 9.6% ale aged for two and a half years in a whisky barrel. A dozen pints of that and you’ll know you’ve had a drink. If you can know anything at all!
Tony said that they have tap night on the first Friday of each month when they offer their range of beers accompanied by food. For more details of where to find them and their social media addresses please see http://www.halfmoonbrewery.co.uk
On to the Truth Hurts Brewery https://www.facebook.com/truthhurtsbrew/ which produces keg and cask ales in limited runs. They also do cans which is handy. They are situated at City Mills, Peel Street, Morley where they have a brewery tap and bottle bar called Beer Thirty. Please check with them for events and opening times. At the moment they are mainly a guest beer brewer with a varied range of ales which changes on a regular basis.
They have a website which is undergoing an update so if you want to know what their current range is why not pop along and try them.
Frisky Bear Brewing Co was opened in 2016, again in Morley, it must be something to do with the water. Carl, the director and head brewer told me that he began brewing in a garage supplying local bars and pubs but took over Oscars Bar in Morley a year later when he moved to a commercial unit to carry out an expanded brewing programme. For opening times and directions please see the website https://www.friskybear.com He produces a 50/50 output of cask and keg with no core range but a seasonally inspired changing output. Carl is rightly proud that Oscars has been included in the Good Beer Guide for the past two years.
Seventh brewer of the six – what? – is Leeds’ own Nomadic Beers which is situated in Sheepscar where I have been lucky enough to attend a few functions. It is owned by ‘Gaffa’ Katie, under whom it is coming on leaps and bounds since its recent move there, due in no small measure to head brewer Ross. In addition to their core range they produce specials at least twice per month. The brewery has been the setting for an arts evening and has Taproom events once a month. Some of them are themed so for details please see their Facebook page which can be accessed through their website where there are much more details available on the company. https://www.nomadicbeers.co.uk/
Finally, I had a word with Phil from The Cider Cask in Mytholmroyd. Strictly speaking he is not a brewer but is the outlet for a very eclectic range of ciders and perries. I sampled his dry cider which was just to my taste. I think that everyone of a certain age began their drinking with cider as the sweeter version is more akin to the non-alcoholic stuff we drank as kids. It has now got very sophisticated and there are several versions more suited to the more sophisticated palate. I also had a taste of the rhubarb cider which was amazingly good with the real flavour of the fruit rather than a synthetic taste which you can sometimes get with these types of drinks.
Sadly, by this time I was feeling a little ’tired and emotional’ so neglected to take a photograph of his display for which I sincerely apologise, but if you go to https://www.thecidercask.co.uk you can learn all about it.
I must say that I enjoyed this event very much as it was busy without being overcrowded, thus providing time to have a chat with the brewers, this was the aim after all, and not feel rushed. If I have one criticism it is that the only food available was from a pizza van outside and, although their produce looked very appetising, they only sold full pizzas rather than slices and they looked a little large for one person. Either that or my capacity for food and booze is diminishing as I get older, I think that the brewers would call it being aged in the cask.