Dewsbury Beer Festival, Dewsbury Town Hall

'Did you have a good trip to Wembley?" It's always nice on those rare occasions when a complete stranger proves that they read the column, have taken in that I follow Oxford United, that I am still alive, and what's more recognisably the same guy as on that nice mugshot which was taken the best part of a decade ago.

So yes, since you ask, my son Ben and I had a great trip to Wembley, and it was so refreshingly polite of York City not to start trying until we were two-nil up. Perhaps they were waiting for their fans to arrive.

Anyhow, being as how I'm in Kirklees, where the play-offs haven't gone down nearly so well this year, I'd best change the subject. I'm sure the area's real ale pubs have done occasional events in the past, but this lively shindig, which finishes this evening, is the first full-on beer festival in Dewsbury for the best part of 30 years.

The 2010 Dewsbury and Heavy Woollen Real Ale, Food and Music Festival, to give it is full title, is a real celebration of Yorkshire beers with 70 available from all over the county as well as 10 ciders, a Belgian Beer Stall, and lots of curry.

I rolled up on Thursday evening, and after grabbing a half of the deliciously hoppy and refreshing Pennine Gold from Hebden Bridge, caught up with Andy Kassube, for whom the festival ends seven months of planning. Andy, a regular contributor to the Good Pub Guide, is branch treasurer for CAMRA and one of the team behind the event. "It's been a lot of work, but it's good to see it coming together. We've had the Town Cryer in today and the Lady Mayoress. She had a few."

He was full of praise for the local council, who gave the group free use of the Town Hall: "Kirklees get a lot of stick, but they've been really supportive."

As we were talking, rugby league legend Mike Stephenson, now the face of Sky TV's coverage, turned up to perform the opening ceremony, while I tried a half of the wonderful Rum for Cover, from Fernandes Brewery at Wakefield. As the name suggests, this one has the warming characteristics of rum, lending extra weight and richness to an ale of real potency. Earlier in the day a learned panel of judges had named this Beer of the Festival.

The event also features a Girl's Guide to Beer – in fact if you're reading an early edition of the Yorkshire Evening Post on Saturday morning you might still have time to sign up as it starts at 11am.

I might have thought this "Girl's Guide" thing was a rather sexist concept, were it not being run by my old mate Annabel Smith, former licensee of the Brewers Pride in Ossett and the only female beer inspector in the UK. Her talk covers the history of women in brewing and why 21st century beers are not primarily aimed at female drinkers – and is naturally followed by the opportunity to sample a range of beers under Annabel's expert guidance.

It matches the demographic of the Dewsbury group. "I probably fall into the CAMRA stereotype, but we're actually quite a mixed group and we've made big efforts to get women and young people to join," said Andy.

Local licensee Sarah Barnes, who runs Dewsbury's West Riding, Huddersfield's Sportsman and Batley's Cellar Bar, was one of the driving forces behind the event. Her mum Ros pitched in too.

Pubs don't always welcome beer festivals nearby, not least because it hits their takings for the duration. Here the organisers have kept the locals onside by pointing festival-goers towards a mild trail round a number of neighbouring pubs.

Another neat touch was to couple the festival with a 35-year reunion for members of CAMRA's former Kirklees Branch – one of the UK's first – who held their first beer exhibition in the Town Hall way back in 1975.

A display of photographs and archives from the early days of that group shows earnest chaps with tartan shirts, big collars and facial hair enjoying some of the region's ales at that event – and many of them, presumably a shade less hairy, returned for an evening of nostalgia, and yet more beer, last night.

This being also a music festival, there's a good range of entertainment this afternoon and evening with performances by surf-funk-soul group Pocket Of Three; guitarist and storyteller Chris Martin (no, not that one), sci-fi country comedy band Eric the Viaduct and bluegrass folk combo the Happy Red Tractors. Rounding off the festival are rocky Irish band Thingamejig, presumably so named because by the time they tackle the stage the announcer will be too drunk to remember their real name.

As will most of the punters.

s.w.jenkins@ntlworld.com

FACTFILE

What is it? Dewsbury Beer Festival

Where is it? Dewsbury Town Hall, Wakefield Old Road, Dewsbury,WF12 8DQ

Who's running it? Heavy Woollen District branch of CAMRA,

How do I get there? By bus – Regular services run from all surrounding areas and towns into the bus station which is approximately a 5 minute walk to the Town Hall; by rail – a regular direct service runs from Leeds and Manchester and all stations en-route with the Town Hall being a 10 minute walk from the station.

Where can I park? Town Centre car parks nearby

When is it? Last sessions are today noon-5pm and 5-10.30pm.

Girls' guide to beer tasting 11-noon with free afternoon admission

Who can get in? Over 18s only – take ID if you look young.

What can I eat? Curry mostly. This is Dewsbury, after all.

How much is it? CAMRA members 2, non-members 3. Girls' guide to beer tasting CAMRA members 3, non-members 4 includes free afternoon admission.

How can I book? You can pay on the door but bookings offer fast-track admission. Telephone bookings on 01924 324501.

How do I get further information? www.dewsburybeerfestival.co.uk.

EP 22/5/10