Beer Blog

Why Beertown Malton is my favourite beer festival

I’ll add a rider here and say favourite medium to large beer festival, because my favourite small festival has got to be Clifford Champion Beer Festival the tenth edition of which is being held on Saturday 29th June this year.

If you follow my blog you might recall mention of the Pub Pyramid paradigm; Beer, People, Place and Time. If you take time as being the three days that Beertown is held every May then I’ll outline, using the other parameters why I think Beertown is brilliant.

I could say it’s the delightful market town setting, nestled on the edge of Ryedale roughly half way betwixt York and the fabulous Yorkshire coast. Some of us might remember the journey to Scarborough and long delays when the A64 ran straight through the town. Not anymore just don’t make the mistake of flying past on the by-pass, Malton is worth a visit any day of the week and there’s excellent rail links.

There’s a wonderful ambience inside the Milton rooms. A mix of all ages, all sorts of people gathered to indulge an interest in beer, out and out crafties sat side by side with hackneyed CAMRA stereotypes, everyone enjoying themselves.

Beertown bill themselves as a celebration of craft beer. I don’t particularly like the word because it instantly creates division. Boundaries that Beertown seems to pull down, with different interests within the beer world coming together; York CAMRA providing the bars and keg beer dispense, SPBW advising on the wooden cask side of things and two new wave brewers choosing the beers and providing the impetus behind the whole project.

I’m not going to discuss the beers, bore you with tasting notes, tell you which ones I had, preferred or didn’t like as much. Instead I’ve scanned the beer list in for you. I might just tell you I tried all the beers from the wood and thought the Cloudwater cask offering was as good as any and there were some very good beers available.

There really is something for everyone amongst the seventy odd beers (32 cask, 41 keg) particularly the curious and adventurous. It’s like someone mentioned to me, the days of 60 casks of traditional beers being an exciting proposition are long gone. And why shouldn’t you have a traditional 4% bitter alongside a 12% Gingerbread Imperial Stout? Both in cask too.

The formula must be working because Chris Waplington of Bad Seed Brewery, and co-organiser, told me they’d seen the busiest Thursday night session ever and had never sold as many advance tickets for the Saturday session. He also re-iterated what co-organiser, Phil Saltonstall of Brass Castle  told me a few years back – they choose the beers they like to drink, end of.

There might be bigger, trendier festivals with more beers and more esoteric offerings that are only brewed once every millennium when the tide is right, then drank by select individuals at unpublicised bottle swaps in some trendy metropolis, but for me there’s only one Beertown.

12 replies »

  1. “There really is something for everyone” except pint drinkers if third, half and two-thirds are the only measures offered.
    There are only five session beers of below 4% out of the 73 beers but presumably the organisers know what sells so that’s how it should be.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Like I said Paul. The days of 60 traditional cask beers is no longer exciting. Look how many once top flight beer festivals have folded, mainly owing to lack of footfall.

      For the very reason there are so many stronger beers, the 1 pint glass is not appropriate at this type of festival.

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      • Yes, and nowadays ‘exciting’ gets the footfall.
        You’ve not explained the significance of the Grim Reaper.

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      • The Grim Reaper appeared every time one of the beers went off and (using a marker pen attached to the end of his scythe) struck it off the list above the bar. The first one went off quite early on the Friday afternoon when we were there.

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    • Even a lightweight like me considers 4.5% as a ‘session beer’ but here I am trying to define terms rather than just enjoying what’s there, as so often in the beer world these days. But I think there are 19 beers at 4.5% or lower, so that paints a slightly different picture.

      I would also imagine that restricting ales to schooners as the largest measure also ensures that more people get the chance to sample every beer. Come Saturday 90% of the beers were going strong and slowly through the day the numbers fell.

      The Grim Reaper was a fun idea signalling when beers had run off. A bell would ring, the Reaper would walk around to the relevant beer list (which were high up, as you can see from one of the pictures) and strike through the relevant beer/s with a red marker pen attached. It was typical of the thought that went into the festival and was a very audible and visible reminder that beers were going and if you had a particular beer on you ‘to do’ list then you’d best get on and have it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Stuart,
        I now understand and that use of the Grim Reaper is a nice change from the regular cry of “and another winner on the tombola” at beer festivals that I no longer bother going to.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Quite right. I too wish the”craft” is taken out of the tag line. Good beer, great venue, nice atmosphere. All you need if you like quality, choice and variety.

    Liked by 1 person

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