Across the well heeled villages of North East Leeds there seems to be a growing fixture list of beer festivals, fundraising for village halls and local charities. A lot of them are worth a look, so I visited the original trend setter Thorner beer festival now in their eleventh year. Set back from Main street down a quiet lane, Thorner Victory hall is both venue and benefactor. It’s obvious that the hall has undergone quite a makeover in recent years and the original 1920’s hall has been transformed very sympathetically, whilst retaining many interesting original features – look up at the roof.
Five pounds gets you in and buys you a souvenir glass and your first half. To get more beer, another five pounds buys a voucher, marked out in 20p units. Every time you visit the bar they mark off what you spent. All the beers were a reasonable £1.60 for a half, and you could cash in unspent vouchers, or parts of, when you left, which is pretty good.
In the main hall beer geeks mixed with locals, while WI type ladies wandered through the throng purveying decent pies and pasties. At three o’clock there was a good crowd in, nice atmosphere, busy but not over crowded, and you could quickly get served at the bar. Outside there were lots of families, well behaved kids and probably a few too many chaps in yellowish trousers, with pink shirts poking above the crew neck of their navy jumpers, talking about Lamborghinis and Ferraris. Remember what your Dad says mate – if they’re talking about it they can’t afford it. What was useful outside were the many tents and marquees. Handy if it’s sunny and essential when it unfortunately rained later on. One of the gazebo affairs housed the musicians where I listened to a very competent classically trained guitarist playing modern covers and later a brilliant ensemble of talented young men knocking out trad jazz. A nice take on New Orleans standards, refreshingly, without any drums. Beer wise there were twenty nine ales, five real ciders plus a couple of quality lagers. The beer selection provided something for all tastes, and had clearly been carefully considered. Predominantly Yorkshire breweries, an odd speciality/novelty, a porter, plus a couple of milds, and quite a few I had never seen before. Top marks to the selection committee. Although there will be a committee as it is a village hall, a special mention is deserved for Peter Schofield, a sort of founder figure in the local beer festival scene who is always willing to support and advise new ventures.
What did I try? Roosters Baby Faced Asassin 6.% – mmmmm, Bad seed Dana single hop 4.5% – best beer by a country mile, Yorkshire Dales Muker Silver 4.1% different but nice, Rudgate Stars and stripes 5.2% – wish they had this on all the time in my local, Wolf Straw Dog 4.5% – wheat beer, slightly sour & bananas, and Riverhead (Osset) White Cloud 4.5% – refreshingly dry and pale. Everything was spot on beer wise, bar staff friendly and helpful in their ‘raising the roof’ aprons. Definitely worth a visit, there are two village pubs to visit as well, three actually but one’s really an eating place. It’s pretty easy to get to Thorner, the Harogate and district 770 bus conveniently runs every half hour from Leeds to Harrogate and all points between, ask the driver to put you off outside the Fox PH.