Owing to the hectic work and social calendar of The Clifford Champion Beer Festival Beer team, it was difficult finding which of the six sessions of this four day event all three of us could get to and at first I wan’t sure whether we had made a mistake going on the Sunday afternoon session. I’m not sure whether the ‘Family day’ billing had put people off, although all the people who had taken opportunity of the free under 18’s admission were in possession of well behaved offspring.
Everyone I spoke to said that the Saturday had been manic. Lots of beers had sold out. The brewers of current CAMRA supreme champion beer of Britain, Cwtch, had actually gone home. I rang the good people up at Tiny Rebel and the really helpful Laura, said that they had sold all twenty kegs before the end of the session on Saturday evening so they packed up and went back to Wales. They took the same amount of beer as they did to last years festival so it just shows what winning the Supreme Champion beer does for you. Lots of other brewers were down to a couple of lines. Magic Rock said if anything, it had gone too well and had rock all left. I managed a third of Cannonball though.
On the plus side it was very pleasant to wander around talking to the various brewers who all had time to spend chattering. I met some really nice people and if I’m honest. I’m getting to that stage where I can’t be arsed with queueing and shouting and being buffeted by the crowd. I’d go again to the Sunday session, or even better to the Thursday afternoon trade preview. Although the main hall looked quite sparse, it was different altogether outside as the vast majority of people were taking there ease on the Town Hall steps in the warm autumn sunshine.
The highlight for a lot of the staff had been the Saturday night after party at North bar. By the sounds of it they need a bigger venue next year. Clara who works in logistics at London’s Five Points said they queued but couldn’t get in so they went to Sela bar instead. The Weird Beard team waited five minutes to get in and then left because they couldn’t get near the bar. There wasn’t one person I spoke to from the various brewers who didn’t think Leeds was absolutely brilliant and everyone had really enjoyed themselves. The only dampener being they had to dismantle their stalls and drive home, as soon as the festival finished.
In terms of beer there was a British tent outside, the UK brewers hall in the stunning main auditorium, an American room, a NZ section, Cider and Perry room and a European hall. If you’ve never been to Leeds Cuthbert Broderick’s magnificent statement of power is worth visiting. He’s even got his own pub round the corner now (‘spoons). I stuck with my favourites which meant, apart from a brief foray into New Zealand, I never really got out of the British/UK section and if you really want to do the festival justice I would suggest a couple of visits, focussing on separate regions on each visit.
The focus was on modern cutting edge brewing, some may call it craft. Predominantly keg but some had hand pulled ales on and lots of cans. I’m predicting a canned revolution from what I’ve seen recently and what brewers were telling me. In terms of price the beers I had were around what you would expect to pay and varied between £1 to £3 per third, depending on strength.
Foodwise there was a good variety from Hot Dogs to Asian street food, even some Brazilian pies. I like street food, but I think it’s often over priced. I paid sick squid for a paper cone of calamari and fish goujons. Really, really good, hot, fresh and tasty with a spiced up batter. I just couldn’t help thinking I could have walked down to Gravely’s for a full Haddock and chips for £4.65, instead of the little snack I ate, as the colour coded wrist bands allowed you to walk in and out of the fest during the session you had paid for. I guess you have to pay a premium to cover the cost of all the vintage French van conversions.
Overall, I really enjoyed my afternoon. A right royal collection of cracking beers all in one place, dispensed by committed professionals who were all happy to chat to the drunk in the trilby. I’ve already added next years Leeds International Beer Festival to my diary; 1st to 4th September 2016.