A highly successful event has shown that there is more to beer than just lager and pale ale. The two-week Lunesdale Dark & Winter Ales festival, jointly organised by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the local trade, saw pubs offering almost 70 stouts, milds, porters and winter warmers.
A feast of unusual and exotic brews with names like Wobbly Bob, Bishop’s Finger and 99 Red Baboons drew eager and inquisitive drinkers into the 13 participating venues, many of them sampling dark ales for the first time. At a time of the year when trade is slack, many pubs reported a boost in sales.
Speaking for Lunesdale CAMRA, Julian Holt said that for years drinkers had been told that dark beer styles were unpopular and unfashionable. “This festival has shown that when people are actually given the opportunity to try beers with real flavour and depth they respond with enthusiasm. They discover that darker styles and winter ales are much more satisfying than over-chilled, tasteless lager and many pale beers.”
Jane Barnes, manager of Lancaster’s Water Witch pub, said: “We sold out of the ales we ordered for the event and needed to get more, with lots of new faces in the pub and people from outside the area visiting just for the festival.” She added that the Water Witch would be selling 2 – 3 dark ales permanently from now on.
Manager of Lancaster University’s GradBar, Gareth Ellis said that the festival fortnight was extremely busy, with a “considerable increase in trade” among students and staff. Tom Wilkinson, bar manager at the White Cross, where at one time three mild ales were on sale, reported encouraging sales, while at The Penny Bank the dark stuff ran out and emergency supplies had to be obtained from Hawkshead Brewery.
Participating pubs were The Borough, George & Dragon, Golden Lion, Green Ayre, Merchants, Penny Bank, Sir Richard Owen, Three Mariners, Water Witch and White Cross in Lancaster, the Patten Arms at Winmarleigh, the Wheatsheaf (Garstang) and the GradBar at Lancaster University.