On Saturday 6th June I visited Collingham real ale festival, one of the many beer festivals hosted in the North East Leeds area (see post of July 5th).
Entry was five quid for the usual commemorative glass, quality programme and a free half (I wonder who and when are going to be the first beer fest round here to break the five quid barrier?). Ten pounds bought a ticket with six tokens on, each representing one half which was ticked off at point of sale. I made that a reasonable £3.30 a pint. Cider was a bit dearer at 1/3 pint per token and wine or Pimms was two tokens. The downside, it was ten quid or nothing, no refunds. I’m not coming to get tanked up, but I might want an odd one or two more than three and a half pints (seven ales), but definitely not seven pints or twenty quids worth. Neither do I want to go home with unspent tokens, I reckon this could put a few people off and I would have liked a bit more financial flexibility.
Outside the stone built village hall everything looked really cool. Inside the hall was a bit of a disappointment though. The light and airy wooden panelled area housing the bar was fine and had the look and feel of a beer festival but the main hall was a bit of a dour, dingy, damp smelling sort of a place. Almost a bit Darby and Joan, although it started to gain bit of atmosphere as it filled up.
The beers? There were lots of micro and smaller breweries represented, a lot from within a twenty-five miles radius. I know it’s a village festival and it is definitely in Yorkshire but I have to say, for me, the list of Yorkshire ales was boring, boring, boring. I expected the likes of Collingham to be represented, and they make decent beers, so long as you steer clear of Journeyman which tastes far too much like Sam Smith’s OBB for my liking.
I know the so called ‘new wave’ beers aren’t to everyone’s taste and I respect that, but there wasn’t even a tiny ripple on the bar. If Collingham beer fest were a rock festival it would have been a local talent show rather than a big concert with showstopping headline acts, classical music rather than punk rock. The only big name was Black Sheep, unfortunately the ubiquitous Masham brewer can be found everywhere and anywhere. I don’t really want to see mainstream middle of the road brewers on the bar at a beer fest and taking the concert analogy to Black Sheep, it’s a bit like going to see the Grumbleweeds; they’re still going and they were okay once, when there wasn’t much competition around. I know it’s billed as Collingham ‘real ale’ festival but couldn’t we have been offered a bit of craft, maybe a bit of Magic Rock or a Northern Monk?
My first half was Exit 33 Riverside Pale (4.2%). The programme notes said it was ‘biscuity with a gentle bitter taste for a clean
refreshing finish’. It tasted a bit sharp and sour and I didn’t like it. I tried a Harrogate brewing Co Hornbeam, which was only okay and not exactly bursting with the Citra hops the programme promised.
I sort of started worrying whether it was my palate or the beers that were at fault? I’d not come across Rooster’s Birdman (4.3%) before, but I desperately needed a touchstone. I don’t think you can have a beer festival around these parts without Lee, he turns up everywhere and he really does graft, before and after, not just on the bar. Anyway he pulled me a nice half of Birdman. Thankfully it tasted the same as the Knaresboro’ brewers ales always do. I just wished they’d chosen something like Baby faced Assassin instead.
Yorkshire Sparkle by Treboom brewery is a very pale golden ale of the best quality but it still left me searching and I sat pondering the programme looking for something to provide the higher IBU levels I desired.
Up to this point we’d wandered around a bit and watched the excellent Flagcrackers of Craven, a sort of progressive Morris team. Blacked out faces, coloured ribbons, excellent infectious music and riotous dance sequences, while still retaining the traditional Morris dancing ethos. Unfortunately it became a little cool outside so we trooped inside to watch them. Ironically, I sat drinking my fifth selection, Sole Destroyer (4.5%), whilst the clog footed Flagcrackers knocked pony out of the polished wooden floor. This seasonal ale from Old Mill brewery was a very nice, well rounded, light coloured pale ale, nice malt base with just a hint of both marzipan and banana in there, which would go really well with food.
Exit 33 redeemed their selves with New England (4.2%). Okay this brown bitter wasn’t the intense hop hit I was looking for but it was superb. Malty, a subtle hint at chocolate, nicely bitter with a hoppy back taste, but not done to death. In essence, a cracking traditional Yorkshire bitter, I just couldn’t help wishing that the beer picker had chosen some of Exit 33’s more progressive stuff. My last choice was pretty decent as well, Wharfebank brewery Ro Sham Bo (4.2%), I could drink this excellent session IPA all day.
In the background there was a big flat cap thing going on with all the volunteer supporters sporting natty caps or bespoke aprons which gave a bit of a corporate feel to the event. There was plenty food available, including a rather happy looking roasted hog. One really good feature was the free juice and water for non drinkers and kids and no expectation for the chauffeur to pay an entry fee, spot on that.
A programme of eight bands kicked off at four o’clock, going through until the close at eleven. As we watched the first act ‘Lucy and Jo’, the hall was starting to fill up. You could tell it was going to build into a proper bash and if all the bands were as good as these two young ladies, who had some genuine potential, then the punters were in for a good night.
It’s good to see that fifteen grand has been raised for the Praeder-Willi syndrome Association from the previous four festivals. This is a good event, a good festival, an excellent charity and a cracking village do. After a shaky start I had some nice beers but didn’t find what I came for and I left wishing they could have been a bit more progressive with their choice of beer. Verdict, I would have a real careful look at the beer list before I go again.