Unusually, for me, there’s no photos on this post. A combination of not remembering to put the memory card back in my little compact and leaving my phone plugged into the charger. So you will have to do without and create an image in your minds eye through my literary description of the event.
Like many of the beer festivals in the NE Leeds area this is a charity event, raising funds for Bramham Village Hall. I like this ethos, I have no problem donating to good causes whilst simultaneously having a good time and sampling a few decent beers. There’s a lot of other people with the same idea and the people I chatted to at the bus stop had given the Harrogate Bus Co 770/771 the nickname of the ‘Beer bus’ because throughout the summer it takes them to at least six different festivals. I’m a little dubious when it comes to the bigger financially motivated festivals who take a fiver entry fee off you just to line somebody’s pockets. I’m not referring to the many excellent CAMRA run festivals here, whose aim is to provide an experience without making a profit for anyone (I think I will try the Wakefield one next week, 15th to 17th October). Having said that, I enjoyed the Leeds International Beer Festival, he said going round in circles?
Bramham is a pretty village, all honey coloured magnesium limestone and as you walk up to the Village Hall venue, you are met by fine vistas of the Kirk. Although Bramham is associated by many as simply the setting for Leeds Fest or ‘the’ Horse trials in Bramham Park, the backdrop for many period dramas, there is much more and it’s worth visiting and having a walk around this historic place. There’s two decent pubs, The White Swan or ‘top pub’ and Sam Smith’s Red Lion in the village square. Have a pint sat outside the Red Lion and wonder what it would be like now if the A1 still thundered through the middle of the village.
Anyway, back to the main subject. They had fifteen beers on, all on hand pulls with no gravity fed ales. This was quite interesting as I know from running our own (charity) beer festival that drawn from the cask ales are not to the local taste, which much prefers ale forced into the glass through a sparkler with the aid of a beer engine. I remember having two barrels of Worthington Red Shield on at our festival one year, we put one through the pump and the other from the cask. The former sold within a few hours and we threw over half of the gravity fed one away.
The beer selection had a Yorkshire only theme. Stewart Gibson, festival chairman said they had tried to get a balance between what they know to be favourites and something different. Abbeydale Moonshine was apparently a big favourite with the regulars and Stewart predicted it would be the first one to run out. I tried his recommendation and discovered a very, very well balanced pale straw coloured beer with a nice subtle taste. I had a couple of Magic Rock brews – Ringmaster and Rapture. I got fed up with seeing people holding the Rapture up to the light and trying to peer through it, just drink it for Pete’s sake. Rapture was my favourite, so good I drank it twice, as the song goes … ? I think if I were ever on Desert Island Discs I would choose Huddersfield’s finest brewery to take as my luxury item. I also had Absolution, another Abbeydale brew and Dissolution from Kirkstall – No, I hadn’t wandered across the road into the church! Also on the bar were offerings from Leeds – Yorkshire Gold & Midnight Bell, Collingham – Artisan & Journeyman, Bridgehouse – Tind Ale & Blond, and Brown Cow Brewery – White Dragon & Thriller in Vanilla. I think Keith and Susan at Brown Cow Brewery are deserved of a mention as they support a lot of these little festivals acting as both beer broker and technical support, it makes things easy when you just have one point of contact and one delivery.
Additionally there were five real ciders, think three from Lilleys, a Westons and a Snails bank, served at a separate bar along with Prosecco, Wine and bottled lagers. There was also the obligatory pie & peas, pasties, bacon sarnies and soft drinks available.
Prices were very reasonable. Nay, dirt cheap at £3.00 a pint. I know how much a Firkin some of these beers cost and I think it was as much a case of having a ‘bit of a do’ than an outright money making exercise; this summed up the whole festival.
In previous years there has been live music throughout the day but this year the Rugby (Union) World Cup fiasco took centre stage on the big screen with all three live games on. Even though the rugby was on in the afternoon, someone you’ve never heard of against somewhere else obscure, no one was really watching it and everyone was getting on with the serious business of drinking, giving the hall a really good tap house atmosphere.
I spoke to Mick Ray, one of the organisers and sadly, he told me that the current organising committee would probably be standing down, owing to dwindling financial returns against increasing cost and effort. It would be sad if this were the eighth and last Bramham beer fest because I really enjoyed it, due primarily to a decent choice of beer, good company and the really friendly, low key atmosphere. A little birdie did tell me later that another of the village societies may be lined up to take on next years event. I sincerely hope they do as this is a really good day out.