Summer is the time for beer festivals in the UK! CAMRA is running 23 festivals in May alone, with a further 14 in June, so if you’re taking an early holiday this year, or just fancy something to do at the weekend, then check out one of these events. With many of these taking place indoors, it will be something you can plan ahead for with certainty, and enjoy even if the weather never perks up!
The festivals vary enormously in size, style and type of venue, and also in the kinds of facilities they provide. There are too many taking place to mention each one, but here is my list of the top 5 CAMRA festivals taking place this year.
1. Macclesfield beer festival – Friday 11th and Saturday 12th May 2012.
This festival takes place at Macclesfield Rugby Club, and will showcase around 130 different ales, including some which have been brewed specifically for the event. In addition they will have a sizeable selection of real ciders and perries. The daytime session on the Saturday is a family session, so you can bring the kids. Friday and Saturday nights will be adults only, and will feature live music both nights.
2. Cambridge beer festival – 21st to 26th May 2012.
Located on Jesus green, just to the north of Cambridge city centre, this festival will feature a huge 230 (ish) different beers, as well as a good range of real ciders and perries. You could even try some mead if you feel the urge! There will also be a CAMRA cheese counter serving fine cheeses along with other locally produced food and snacks. The weekday afternoon sessions are free, and there is a nominal charge for the evening sessions. There is also a dedicated children’s area with a separate marquee and toys, plus entertainment for children on the Saturday afternoon.
3. Beer festival and race day at Newbury Racecourse – Saturday 19th May 2012
A beer festival with a real difference, this event takes place at an afternoon race meeting at Newbury Racecourse. Over 50 real ales and ciders will be available, and there will be live music, as well as some really exciting flat racing to enjoy. Entry is free for children, and this promises to be a great day out!
4. Beer on the Wye: Hereford beer and cider festival – Friday 6th to Saturday 8th July 2012
This festival will take place in an idyllic setting at Hereford rowing club on the banks of the River Wye in a large big-top style marquee. With over 140 different real ales, and 120 real ciders and perries, you’ll be spoilt for choice. There are plenty of food concessions, and there will be live music on all three days. If you want to stay overnight, or make a weekend of it, there’s a campsite right next to the festival site. The site will take both tents and campervans, and campers will have use of the modern toilet and shower facilities in the rowing club clubhouse. We’d recommend that you try to get to this one if you can.
5. Great Welsh beer and cider festival – Thursday 7th June to Saturday 9th June 2012.
Housed at the Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales, this is Wales’ biggest and best real ale event, showcasing over 200 real ales and 60 ciders. Hot and cold food will be available throughout the festival, and there will be a number of stalls selling souvenirs, jewellery and other bits and bobs. There will be live music on both the Friday and the Saturday – the Thursday is designated a ‘quiet day’! If you like beer and cider, and you’re in Wales over this weekend, this festival is definitely worth a visit.
The CAMRA website (www.camra.org.uk) will give you details of the full calendar of events taking place throughout the year, so if you can’t get to one of these, there’s bound to be one at a time and place that suits you. Also, for some of these events it’s worth pre-booking tickets – CAMRA members often get concessionary rates so you could look at this option, particularly if you’re under 26 or over 60, as you will get reduced membership rates.
I hope you find something that you enjoy amongst this list – do let us know if you come across other events that you think are worth mentioning!