This may sound daft for a fella that writes about beer, but I’m not the biggest fan of beer festivals. Give me a beer that’s been properly looked after, in a cellar until it’s perfect to serve, any day. For some festivals, however, I’m prepared to go out of my way.
The Campaign for Real Ale’s Great British Beer Festival in London in August is a must-see, as is, increasingly, the London Craft Beer Festival, which runs almost at the same time. Down here in the West Country, the Celtic Beer Festival, held at St Austell Brewery at the end of November, in aid of the company’s South West charitable trust, is always an atmospheric, music-filled, fun day out.
Falmouth Beer Festival was always an event with an enviable national reputation — visitors would plan holidays to Cornwall around it. It ran for many years at the Princess Pavilion, but the decision to switch, last year, to a marquee on Events Square, outside the National Maritime Museum, was inspired.
There’s space, loads of space, both for the 245 real ales and other drinks, and for the masses of visitors that will pack the event from October 3 to 5. As well as those cask ales, Falmouth was one of the first CAMRA festivals to embrace the popularity of craft (or keg) beers, especially with younger drinkers, so there’s a bar for these, too, as well as a spot for craft gin.
The out-of-county beers look like absolute crackers, but the focus remains on Cornish beers
A group of Cornwall CAMRA volunteers spends a whole year planning then ultimately working at the festival, and they deserve a big pat on the back for the effort that goes into something akin to a military campaign. Special attention has been paid this year to making sure the out-of-county beers are absolute crackers, while a lot of thought also goes into the live music programme and the street food offering. But the focus, as ever, remains on the Cornish beers.
Tips? Well, in terms of light beers, I’m going to be wanting a try of Verdant’s Break Even, a 4.6% ABV session IPA made in collaboration with Kirkstall Brewery of Leeds. I’m intrigued by Tremethick’s Brexit Bitter (3.8% ABV), which offers “a bitter taste with undernotes of betrayal and despair”. In the middle range, I’ll have my eye on Treen’s Krowsek (5.2% ABV), and Porther (5.2%) from Mark Jasjew’s new Krow Brewery in Redruth. And if I need a nightcap, it’s going to be something like Penzance Brewing Co’s Scilly Stout (7% ABV – declaration of interest, I work in brewer Pete’s pub), while the St Austell Barney Wine (10.5% ABV), with “lashings of sherry and raisin flavours”, has piqued my interest. Just a third of a pint. It’s all about quality, not quantity, you know.
• Falmouth Beer Festival takes place from 8pm on Thursday, October 5, and runs from 11am until 11pm on the Friday and Saturday. Find out more and pick up tickets via Eventbrite