Saturday saw the end of an era, when Leeds CAMRA held their last ever Leeds Beer Festival at Pudsey Civic Hall after twenty four years at the venue. Those stalwarts who have attended every single one of these need not worry though! It isn’t the end of the festival and it’s planned to hold the 2018 event at Leeds Beckett University Students Union City Campus. For those of you not familiar with Leeds Beckett Uni, it’s been variously known as Leeds Carnegie, Leeds Metropolitan University or Leeds Poly; depending on how old you are. It’s also a cracking venue, well suited to a beer festival, and within walking distance, or short taxi/bus ride, from the train, bus, and coach stations.
Although the move is enforced; Leeds City Council are permanently hosting a youth musical programme at the venue, which for various reasons means the halls will be no longer suitable, or available. Personally, I welcome this move. Leeds Beer Festival should be in Leeds, not in the suburbs, three quarters of the way to Bradford. I mean if you went to Sheffield Beer Festival you wouldn’t want to arrive in the city centre only to catch a second bus/train to the venue in Rotherham would you? I wouldn’t anyway. I did speak to quite a few people at the festival who were disgruntled about this move away from Pudsey. Some perceptive questioning soon got to the bottom of this: So where do you live then? Pudsey!
I reckon if you’re only going to go to a festival when it’s convenient to walk to it, then it’s a poor do. If Septuagenarian male bag lady impersonators from London can manage to do it in a day, then anyone can. Someone did ask me why a lot of the older guys were sporting retro style shoulder bags or backpacks? Well the answer is, many of then have travelled a long way to get here, mostly on public transport, and an anorak, drink, snack reading material and sundry items, are very useful on this type of journey. To all those who ventured from afar, I salute your dedication.
As well as the hardened beer tickers and festival stalwarts, there was a surprising number of younger folk there on both Friday and Saturday, of both sexes, and I know a fair number of punters signed up for CAMRA membership, which is encouraging.
Also encouraging was the speed at which the keg beers disappeared. You really had to be there on Thursday or Friday to get the best of the fourteen different keg beers. Everything had gone by Saturday afternoon, despite the number of beers on offer being doubled from 2016. Any Keg naysayers need to wake up and smell the coffee. Quality ‘real’ keg ale is here, and it’s here to stay, and a lot of people obviously like it. Can you compare it with cask ale? Before you answer that, answer this one – can you compare a traditional English Best Bitter with a German Rauchbier, or a Northern French Farmhouse Saison, or even one of the many Pilsner style beers that are extremely popular the world over? I’ll let you decide that one for yourself.
Getting back to the festival, I was impressed that eight keg beers carried the ‘Locale’ marque, signifying they were brewed within 10 miles radius of the Leeds Metropolitan area. The one from Brew York must only be just outside qualifying too? Either way, sound evidence of much progressive brewing in and around Leeds. The ‘Locale’ theme was even more evident across the cask range and forty four beers, just under a third of the cask ales available, were ‘Localey’ brewed; overall, a nice showcase of the vibrant Leeds beer scene. The ‘buy five thirds and get one free’ promotion on the Locale beers proved very popular. Business cards advertising the festival, which had been available in pubs across Leeds and in good quantity at the festival, complete with the ‘Locale Trail’ on the reverse, became like Rocking Horse doo doo by Saturday afternoon. N.B. as previously, and successfully, all the glasses were sized at small (one third pint) and large (two thirds pint) measures.
Overall, although I’ve no idea of the facts and figures, this felt like a successful festival with lots of happy punters, many of whom could be seen sporting exotic head gear, courtesy of entertainer Grommet.
Photographic evidence suggests the bands just might not have grabbed everyone’s attention? I enjoyed the easy going Rhythm n Blues covers the band in the photograph played but, it does raise the issue of music at beer festivals? I like music, I like live music even better. You can’t please everyone all of the time though, so give ‘em a choice and have the music in a separate auditorium. Yes, I know, that’s easier said than done at some venues.
Anyway, the end of an era at Pudsey Civic Hall, and hopefully the start of something new and exciting in the city centre. I guess time will tell, but I feel very optimistic and even a little excited at the prospect of a new, central, venue.
NB; Although an active member of Leeds CAMRA, these views are entirely my own and are neither sanctioned by, nor intended to represent the branch view, which although progressive, remains diverse and inclusive.