I know I’m biased, but, you really have to believe me when I say that the sixth annual Clifford Champion Beer Festival proved this event continues to be the best little beer festival this side of Leeds. All the others compete in terms of being cracking village events, or having excellent music, or food and raising money for good causes. What makes CCBF stand out is the blend of progressive and traditional beers. There might be other festivals that come close, but if you’ve got Black sheep on the bar then you are not cutting the mustard for me. I know why they’ve got Black sheep on the bar and the fund raising aspect is important, but I prefer the no compromise outlook of CCBF.
To tempt the punters, thirty real ales, split equally between hand pulled and gravity drawn, and five real ciders from Westons were on offer. This proved very popular as over 500 people paid the £5 entry for a souvenir glass, complimentary half and programme, which included a few words by the beer drinker and publican’s friend MP Greg Mulholland. An unspecified number of non beer drinkers also turned up and took their ease in the Millennium gardens taking advantage of the beautiful weather and pay per glass Prosecco, wine and bottled lagers. There must have been a lot of them, as well as demolishing close on a hundred bottles of Prosecco, the committee had to send out for more lager to keep the non believers going.
So what about the beers? Two classy milds, two top porter/stouts, five bitters and the rest all gold and pale ales. I thought there was a really good mixture of traditional styles and progressive brewing. Ironically, despite the theme of Britain’s beer revolution, the excellent Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker was the first to go. This isn’t surprising as, along with a lot of the other ales on offer, it has been a recent champion. It also demonstrates that traditional styles are still very popular and that folk know what a good beer is when they taste it. There was a vote for the best beer of the festival but the organisers have not publicised it yet, watch this space, as soon as I know I will pass it on. Prices were a reasonable £3.20 per pint and vouchers were available in multiples of five English pounds.
My favourite ale was Brass Castle Sunshine (5.7%), closely followed by Dark Star American Pale Ale (4.7%) and Siren Soundwave (5.6%). Although I didn’t take any notes, I think you can get an idea of my preferred style. The day was more of a fun day with mates rather than a tasting day for me, which you can see from the photos (I’m not the twit in the hat!). I also tried Mallinsons Cha, Cha, Cha, Tiny Rebel Fubar (4.4%), Sponsors Stew & Oyster Haus (4.0%) – brewed by Hand Drawn Monkey (a little birdie tells me this might be changing soon owing to a change of brewer?), which were all excellent. Plus Oakham Citra (4.2%), which unusually was a bit sharp. If you are into modern beers then you’ve got to acknowledge that the brewers assembled here were of the highest order and at the cutting edge. Likewise, if you prefer something a bit more traditional then have a look at the 2015 line up of champion ales on the CCBF web site to see what you missed. I think you will agree that whatever your taste, Andy Poulter and Tim Downes pulled together a cracking beer line up and I disagree with the few punters who wanted more bitters. Everyone knows people prefer blondes these days.
Around about 5pm I required sustenance and had an amazing pork pie with black pudding from nearby East Keswick butchers R P Setchfield, with mushy peas. There were some appealing cornish pasties too, from the Oven Door in Wetherby, I think. Musicians were on the main stage from the doors opening till finish. Starting easy and mellow with Boston Spa Guitar Club then drifting through some folk from Lairum Rise, into the excellent acoustic guitar and vocals of Steph Baker, then ramping up into some louder stuff by The Doctors and a grand finale from This Way Up. Each act different but all very capable and entertaining musicians of the highest quality.
This is a beer fest not to be missed with it’s eclectic style that suits the beer connoisseur as well as those just seeking a fab day out in our wonderful pretty little village. Oh, and it looks like it raised somewhere around six grand for the Village hall and Clifford AFC. Well done CCBF committee, here’s looking forward to Saturday 25th June 2016. Have a look at the website to see some more of my photos of this year’s and previous events, maybe put the date in your diary?