Notes on how to run a successful Beer Festival

CCBF & Collingham
Clifford, Collingham and Thorner Beer Festivals

To have a successful beer festival, you need a lot of support, volunteers, sponsors and lots of customers.

In rural North eastern Leeds, then that means lots of support from the other festivals in the area, things like the bar and dispense equipment from Thorner beer festival, non return valves to put the top rack of barrels onto hand pumps, thanks Boston Spa beer festival and general all-round support from Collingham beer festival.

It was really cool to get support from fellow bloggers and beer writers too. The Bloke from Hull came knocking at my door for his breakfast at about 10.30 (by invitation of course) and we had a good natter about the beer scene in general.

The Bloke from Hull with a well known Brewer

Even before the doors had opened, someone came up to me and said, ‘There’s a bloke called Martin looking for you?’ I was disappointed I didn’t get much time to have a proper conversation with Retired Martin and Mrs RM, but on reading his blog post, it seems he was quite impressed. Thanks for coming mate, it’s appreciated and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

One thing Retired Martin wasn’t sure about was the date of the next festival? Well it was in the programme. Only thing is, despite several people proof reading it, including myself, we had the date down as Saturday 24th June 2016! Shit! Well you can’t get everything right can you?

Jon Mitchell pulling a pint of his specially brewed Elland Gale Force IPA

A few other people joined us as well. Jon Mitchell the Yorkshire TV weatherman who had an Elland Brewery ale named after him, in the wood to boot. We were hopeful that the five woodies on the bar would draw punters in? If I’m honest, they probably only drew a small additional number. A lot of people were mildly curious and pleased to see them. Would we do it again? Yes, but not expecting to draw punters in as an added attraction.

I guess the moral of the story is know your audience. Yes we did get some beer tickers and aficionados travelling from Leeds and further afield, including Leeds CAMRA chair Mike Hampshire who I thank for his support. However, the core audience is from probably a 3 – 5 mile radius.

CAMRA’s glass looks empty?

Sadly, for me, thinking the team had presented a pretty good, across the board, selection of beers, I ended up banging my head on a barrel end as the first beer to run off was Theakston’s Best bitter, of which we went on to sell a full second cask of. Similarly with Deuchars IPA. You will hear me say different is not wrong, but please, please, can some of you just try and burst out of your bubble. It broke my heart to throw away a couple of gallons of Burning Sky Aurora and NMBCo Eternal. Thankfully it was only a couple of gallons from maybe half a dozen casks that was wasted, apart from a couple of dark beers that were still half full.

‘Craft comes to Clifford’ worked and we did both the kegs of Brass Castle Hoptical Illusion and Sunshine. I received some good feedback here, including, ‘I don’t usually like the sh1te served up at beer festivals but that’s brilliant.’ We all know that it isn’t, but a lot of the bar staff were pushing Hoptical as ‘it’s like a Lager with taste’. Sorry Aaron and Phil. It just shows what people outside the beer scene think and I think we need to take notice of it.

The other welcome face was The pub champion  and Top 40 CAMRA Campaigner Greg Mulholland MP who does so much for pubs, brewers and beer lovers generally. We are pleased to have his continued patronage and informative programme notes. Thanks Greg.

MP Greg Mulholland with some bald bloke

My favourites? Sunbeam Chocolate Mild which had been brewed for The Leeds mild festival and sat in a wooden cask for the last 8 weeks nearly was both complex and chocolatey, although the chocolate just disappeared after the initial hit. You can never go wrong with NMBCo Eternal or Ringside Stargazer and I also quite liked the Barngates Tag Lag, which surprisingly didn’t sell out. The only reason being, it wasn’t on hand pull, which is a must in these parts. Personally I’m ambivalent, but I’m locally a minority. I think we’ll be looking to have everything on hand pump next year. Oh and have I ever mentioned Cloudwater?

Sat in the pub after we had cleaned up we pondered which beer had been voted beer of the festival? Well, the votes will probably get counted tomorrow, but festival stalwart Janet Allen said, Kronenburg! We shifted hundreds of bottles of it, along with enough bottles of prosecco to drown an entire section of the posh stand at York races. Despite having 30 real ales on and shifting around a dozen boxes of Mr Weston’s finest cider. Again, know your audience, as well as trying to present the best of beer, we are also a village fund raising event and an excuse for ‘a bit of a do’ so there’s a little bit of something for everyone. Including those who came along with the near 600 or so who paid for a beer glass, but just don’t like real ale and drank other things.

There’s a message in there somewhere for all those contemplating the CAMRA revitalisation?

Anyway, come and join us next year Saturday 24th June 2017 because we are going to make it even better!

One thought on “Notes on how to run a successful Beer Festival

  1. Hi Richard – it was a great festival and one a superb promotion for the village and area. We spent quite a bit of time walking around so dotted in and out during the day. Both of us had stinking colds so probably not ideal shape for all those lovely beers. Would never normally miss opportunity for a Burning Sky.

    NB I can understand frustration at folk preferring Theakston or Deuchars to the great stuff you had, but personally think it’s good you were able to show some of those classics in top form. As I mentioned, quality was outstanding !

    The Cloudwater was stunning !.


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