The festival took place between May 1st and 5th and featured 10 ales and three ciders. CAMRA members attended on Friday and Saturday evenings and tried 9 festival beers plus two others on the main bar. CAMRA’s national beer scoring system was used in assessing the beers (0= undrinkable, 1= poor,2 =average, 3 = good, 4 = very good, 5 = excellent).
There was a pleasing and varied selection of beers, including low-ish strength bitters, mid-range, malty brews and full-bodied, richer beers with an abv of 4.8—5.0%. Though members of the tasting team had their individual preferences as regards styles, each and every beer was enjoyable in its own way—which isn’t true of every festival. All the beers were served via hand pump.
That said, there was little that was outstanding. Most scores were in the 3 to 3.5 range, with Hampshire’s Pride of Romsey and Bowland Patriot (not a festival beer) scoring 3.7.
The main problem was that the beers were too warm (a sudden spell of fine weather meant that the cooling jackets on the casks couldn’t really do their job effectively) and this affected the condition and mouth feel, especially of the paler, lower gravity ales. There was general agreement that had they been served cooler these high quality ales would have scored better. Despite this, Village Brewer’s Old Raby, which was on the main bar and marginally cooler, was given 4 by one taster and praised by all. This 4.8 abv gem, really an old ale was for some the beer of the festival: “wonderful...fruity, rich, chocolatey, multi-layered, with a long, rich, bitter-sweet finish.” The feeling was that it would be tremendous as an autumn or winter drink.
There was a great atmosphere in the pub and a lively and mixed clientele who clearly felt at home and were enjoying themselves, though sadly (at least while we were there) few were trying the festival beers. Our main organisational criticism concerns the voucher system: vouchers could be used only on the night they were purchased and there were no refunds on unused portions. Somewhat mean, surely, and hardly likely to encourage the punters.
But despite some negatives, this was an enjoyable event for real ale enthusiasts and we look forward to similarly imaginative festivals in the future.
Julian Holt Media & Publicity Officer Lunesdale CAMRA