Preview: York Beer and Cider Festival

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I’ve had decent days out at Newmarket and Wetherby, but for some reason horse racing never really did it for me.

Somehow it always felt like an excuse for wealthy people to have a day out at the expense of mug punters like me.

No matter, I’ve always felt that a beer festival was a far better use of the green acres than some high-speed parade of horseflesh. And it’s a safe bet that if you get along to the Knavesmire this weekend, there will be plenty of absolute thoroughbred Yorkshire ales to enjoy.

York CAMRA’s Beer and Cider Festival opened yesterday evening, in a giant marquee opposite the grandstand and right beside the winning post.

As beer festivals go, this one is an absolute beast with more than 450 real ales from familiar characters such as Timothy Taylor Landlord to some fascinating strangers such as Rudgate’s dark Vanilla Mild and the beautifully named strong ale Righteous Indignation from Leeds’ own microbrewer Wilde Child.

To help you plot your own route through the smorgasbord of choice available in the marquee, it’s certainly worth getting hold of the festival programme which includes really good tasting notes of all the beers on offer. Unlike most festivals which operate a cashless system where you pay for your beer with tokens, here the bars are happy to take your readies. This means that all the beers can be priced individually to match their strength – and the glasses are marked for third and half pint measures so you can get plenty of variety before falling over.

You’re spoiled for choice, but it’s certainly an opportunity to make acquaintance with some of the region’s newer breweries, particularly those newcomers in the Vale of York which are giving the longer-established York Brewery a real run for its money. These include Ainsty from Acaster Malbis who are dispensing four of their beers at the festival, and the brilliant Bad Co, who are represented by rock-themed ales such as the fruity pale Love Over Gold and the dark, rich and chocolatey Dazed and Confused. From slightly further afield, you might want to seek out Elland’s 1872 Porter, a former champion beer of Britain, while a strong Leeds contingent includes Kirkstall, Northern Monk, wheat brewer Eyes, and those shady characters from Legitimate Industries.

I’ll be along on Friday afternoon and I’m already lining up the favourites where I’m going to put my money. I’m sure they’ll include my beloved Quirky Classic from Garforth, the intriguingly named Shapeshifter from Twisted Angel and the super strong Olde Skool from my friends at the Half Moon brewery in Ellerton.

Embarrassingly, the list of breweries represented here also includes several producers which I missed out of my new book, despite my best efforts to include every brewery in the county. So I can only apologise to Aire Heads from Goole, Breworks from Pickering, Crafty Little Brewery from Brough, East Yorkshire from Beverley, Little Black Dog in Carlton, Turning Point in Kirbymoorside and Sherwood Outlaws in Donny. And Horsforth too. No-one told me there was a brewery in Horsforth, just four miles from my front door! If they let me do a second edition, I’ll be sure to include you all.

Simon Jenkins’ new book, The Yorkshire Beer Bible, is available, priced £11.99, from www.ypbookoffer.co.uk or by calling 01274 736056.


Hosts: York CAMRA

Type: Giant beer festival

Opening Hours: Midday to 11pm, Thurs-Sat

Admission: Tickets from £4.50 (£2.50 for CAMRA members) available through the website.

Beers: Over 450 real ales, more than 100 real ciders and premium world lagers.

Food: Cosmopolitan range of hot and cold food, including numerous vegetarian options.

Entertainment: There is a varied programme of live music covering most sessions.

Children: Accompanied under-18s welcome until 8pm.

Parking: Some on-street parking available nearby.

Public transport: An hourly bus service runs from 11.30am daily from York Railway Station, with return services on the hour.

Website: www.yorkbeerfestival.org.uk