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12-11-2011, 07:07
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The 11th day of the 11th month of 2011, was once of those days that doesn't come around very often, (don't ask me, I am no mathematician !), so it was just a question of where to be at 11;11 on the day. Since Wakefield Beer Festival opened its doors at 11;02 (it was Rembrance Day after all) it seemed a good a place as any to mark the event.

For the last few years it has been held at the Light Waves centre, convenient for the bus station, and with a large sports hall converted for to beer hall for the weekend. There was plenty of seating in the hall with the beer stillaged around the outside. Most beer was served direct from the cask, with some on handpull. My only problem with the venue is the lack of toilets which does become more crucial as the session wears on. Being a Camra run festival did mean that beer was served in thirds, as well as pints and halves so it gave the opportunity to sample plenty of the beers on offer. They were reasonably priced, most being £2.60 a pint.

Armed with a glass, and a list, I set about trying some of the new breweries that had previously eluded me. First up was Cap House. Based in Batley but with connections to the Reindeer at Overton, I always managed to miss them at previous festivals, and had heard good things about them. 'Miner's a Pint' was a good introduction to their range, a nicely balanced session beer, followed by 'Love At First Brew', a more traditionally English style beer but quite acceptable. Big River from Brough was next up, with their 3.5%,'Ropewalk', another decent session beer for its strength, and my third new brewery was Brass Castle from Pocklington with their refreshing 'Cliff Hanger'. Three new breweries and all brewing good beer, things were looking hopeful for the rest of the session.

It was then down to selecting beers that were new to me. Most of the beer on offer was from fairly local breweries and many I had previously encountered so that narrowed my choice down a bit but Foxfield had sent a couple down and their 'Blurred Encounter' was another good beer from a brewery who always impress me. I rarely see anything from their sister brewery, Tiger Tops, brewed in Flanshaw, so I tried a couple of theirs, 'Orange Order' with real orange peel did not really do it for me, but 'Black Arts' at 4.5% packed a lot of flavour into a beer that leaned more towards a black bitter than a porter or stout. I had never managed to sample Sportsman 'Beautiful Blue' before but I found it too thin for my liking, with little hop flavour. It was time to stop experimenting and find something I knew I would like. Mallinsons 'Take Your Aim' was what I expected, pale and plenty of hops; Dark Tribe 'Captain Floyd' a traditional English bitter; and East Coast 'Hoppers no18' was full of Cascade hop bitterness.

From my point of view, the star brewery of the show was 'North Riding' brewery from the pub of the same name in Scarborough. 'Maori Magic' set the tone, with its blend of New Zealand hops, but my beer of the festival was their 'Neilson Sauvin'. Only 3.7% but it showcased the use of the hop superbly and left me wanting more. So instead of trying another new beer, that was where I finished, with another. For a fairly new brewery it was excellent, the best example of a Nelson beer I have ever had, and that is some praise.

As always, Wakefield Camra, put on a good festival, and it is good to meet up with old friends. I was a little concerned when I saw the list, but with a couple of exceptions it showcased what excellent breweries we have in Yorkshire, and what superb beer they brew. Long may it continue.


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