The Rise Of The Mini Beer Festival

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IS THERE ANYTHING BETTER THAN A GREAT BEER FESTIVAL?
(The birth of a baby, watching the sunset on a far-away beech, falling in love. No, I’m going with beer and the joy of discovering a new super stout or brilliant bitter at one of the many great festivals, that are put on, up and down the Country. He said with his tongue very much in his cheek).

We’ve covered the Winter Winding Wheel Beer Festival, organised by Chesterfield CAMRA earlier in the magazine. So, in this article we’re going to be looking at the rise of the mini beer festivals hosted by pubs themselves. It goes without saying that when it comes to wonderful cask and craft beers, these days we are spoilt for choice In many of our fine drinking establishments, gone are the days of a solitary, lonely hand-pump, with a wide range of exciting and enticing ales on offer. We should always applaud and indeed support our locals, that bring great cask and craft beers to the masses.

This article was inspired by visiting the new Chesterfield CAMRA Pub of the Year, the
Rose & Crown at Brampton (104 Old Road, Chesterfield S40 2QT). Every year in late November they hold their Birthday Beer Fest. Running over three days, there is live music (Brew Droop, The Groovy Cats & Nudus Acoustic this year) and pop-up food stalls (Jim’s Smash Burgers who definitely smashed it). Plus, beer, lots and lots of lovely beer. Befitting of the winners of Pub of the Year, you can find around 10 cask beers on sale all year round. As the pub is owned by Brampton Brewery you are guaranteed to find a number of their ales like Brampton Golden Bud (Bitter ABV 3.80%) and Brampton Best (Bitter ABV 4.2%). New ales that I discovered on the day were Brampton’s seasonal Winter Bock (Barleywine ABV 6.00%) and Mount Washington (New England Hazy Pale Ale ABV 4.5%).

They also have a large number of guest cask and keg beers from local favourites like Ossett Brewery, Buxton Brewery and Thornbridge Brewery. One only has to glance at the ever changing beer board, to see why the pub is so popular with real ale connoisseurs. The Birthday Beer Fest added lots of new exciting ales to the line-up. Beers sampled on the weekend included Wensleydale Brewery’s Future’s So Bright (Pale Ale ABV 4.0% – A boundary pushing shady pale ale, made using a trail hop alongside a traditional English hop to give full fruit flavours) and Vocation Brewery’s Naughty & Nice (Chocolate Orange Stout ABV 5.5% – Roasted barley and crystal malts create a rich and indulgent stout, paired with milk chocolate and balanced with zesty orange for an intensely smooth finish). Festival ales were poured in a separate area from the main bar, straight from the barrel. It’s was a rocking line-up of beers, that hit all the high notes!

It’s not just the Rose & Crown that runs it’s own festivals. The Mallard just across the border in Worksop (Station Approach, Carlton Road, Worksop S80 7AG) runs it’s own beer festival too (See photo above). A lovely touch is they produce a mini beer programme with tasting notes and boxes to tick the ales off. There’s even a little section on the back page where you can add your own notes. Recent Breweries that have took centre stage at their beer festivals include Brew Social (Sheffield), Aldwark Artisan Ales (Matlock) and Resting Devil (Chesterfield). It’s great that your just as likely to find beers from one of the smaller independent micro-breweries alongside ales from the bigger names in the industry.

Pubs are innovating and looking at new ways to stand out from the crown and attract new thirsty customers. Channelling their inner Darth Vader, the Tom Said Micropub (1 Well Street, Ripley DE5 3AR) hosted a Dark Side Stout & Porter Festival in December 2023. With some heavy hitting and unusual stouts like Broadtown Brewery’s Barnabus (Russian Imperial Stout ABV 10.4%) and Crich Brew Co’s Flying Colours (Bonfire Toffee Stout ABV 6.0%), the force was strong in this great micropub.

Wikipedia tells me that the Bergkirchweih was the first ever beer festival. (And, we all know that everything on the Internet is true. Please let me know, if this is a load of old Codswallop). The Bergkirchweih has taken place since 21st April 1755 in Erlangen, Germany (Making it 55 years older than the Oktoberfest held in Munich). Just imagine how many pints have been downed over the years. Wiki also says the origin of the word ‘Festival’ can be traced to the Latin word ‘Festa’ meaning ‘a religious holiday’. So, I’m sure we can all raise a glass to the Small Gods of Real Ale. Because it must be said that festivals bring people together. Be it local CAMRA run festivals like the one at Winding Wheel, quirky events like Rail Ale (See our centre spread – pages 19 -20), to smaller “pop-ups” in pubs like we’ve covered here. Quite simply beer Festivals are great fun and a fantastic way to discover new ales. As always, happy beer hunting and have a pint or two for me!

Chris Fox (This article originally featured in InnSpire Magazine).