Preview: Clifford Beer Festival

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THEY had to wait for the Harmony Square Dancers to finish their weekly practice, but since about 10pm last night, the organisers have been working around the clock to get Clifford Village Hall ready for its seventh annual beer festival.

There are some added complications this time around – the beer will have to be racked up and locked away right through today as the hall is doubling up as the polling station for the EU referendum. But the committee is confident that everything will be ready for the first pint to be pulled on Saturday. The weather forecast is looking pretty good too.

It is testament to the current popularity of beer that events like this take place up and down the country every weekend, each of them worthy of support. But with its great choice of 29 beers, including five served from wooden casks, Clifford’s promises to be something special.

As well as traditional Yorkshire favourites such as Theakston’s best, the festival features some real highlights like the current Champion Beer of Britain, Cwtch from Tiny Rebel brewing in Wales, and a previous winner, Elland’s 1872 Porter, served from a wooden cask. Highly-regarded Leeds microbrewery Sunbeam is another to have gone down the wooden route, with a Chocolate Mild which has been conditioning in oak casks for over six weeks.

Clifford has also followed a lead taken by Leeds CAMRA by allowing the festival to feature two key-keg beers from Malton’s excellent Brass Castle brewery. The time was when anything in keg was anathema to campaign members, and though some diehards may still refuse to try it, many have come to realise that good beer is always worth drinking, whatever the packaging.

Fans of Yorkshire Television’s Calendar news show (believe me, there are such people) might want to try two rival beers which have been specially brewed by weatherman Jon Mitchell and presenter Duncan Wood, in conjunction with Elland Brewery. These two ‘festival specials’ are Jon’s 5% ABV India Pale Ale Gale Force, packed with New World hops for a big blast of tropical fruit flavours; and Duncan’s citric 4.6% golden bitter Wood You Believe It.

There are bottled lagers too, but faced with all this choice, why would you bother?

The doors open at noon on Saturday, and the bars will be open until 11pm. All the cask ales are £3.20-pint, with key-keg beers and a good choice of ciders and perries at £3.60-pint. Between 9 and 11am on Sunday any remaining beer will be sold off in carry out cartons at £1-pint to callers at the village hall.

“There probably won’t be much, though,” warns committee member Richard Coldwell. “We had about 700 people through the door last year.”

They come for the beer, of course, but the festival offers them plenty more, with four live bands – starting mellow and mild with Boston Spa Guitar group, melting into an un-named local folk band and ramping up after 6pm with The Doctors and a three-set session from This Way Up.

Saturday’s three Euro 2016 matches will be shown on a big screen in a separate room.

There’s plenty for kids in the Millennium gardens at the rear of the hall, while local suppliers the Oven Door Bakery and Sedgwick’s pies will be supplying enough beer-soaking calories and pastry to satisfy the most enthusiastic festivalgoer. All proceeds are shared between Clifford football club and the village hall.

Says Richard: “This is the most diverse range of real ales we have had in the seven years we have held the festival. From traditional favourites to cutting edge key-keg beers there really is something for everyone.

“The fact this is a village event, with a stunning variety and quality of beers on offer, is what makes our festival appeal to both families and beer aficionados alike. I’d encourage people to taste the extra dimension that wooden casks give to a beer.”

FACTFILE

Venue: Village Hall, Albion Street, Clifford

Type: Village ale festival

Opening Hours: Noon-11pm Sat

Admission: £5 including a commemorative glass, and a half of beer

Beers: Great choice of real ales, key-keg beers, wooden-aged beers, ciders and perries from £3.20 to £3.60 a pint.

Wine: Decent choice

Food: Typical festival grub - pies and peas, pasties and sausage rolls

Entertainment: Live music all day, plus big-screen coverage of Euro 2016.

Disabled: Disabled access, though the toilets are not fully wheelchair-adapted

Children: Welcomed with games and face-painting

Beer garden: Large grassed area to the rear of the hall

Transport: Harrogate bus company runs a regular 770/1 bus service from Leeds and Harrogate.

Parking: On-street parking nearby

Website: www.cliffordbeerfestival.co.uk

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