44th Cambridge Beer Festival – preview

Here’s an article I wrote for Local Secrets about what to expect at the fantastic 44th Cambridge Beer Festival – read on..!

Cheers! It’s time for the Cambridge Beer Festival

Raspberry, ginger and chilli stouts, porters brewed with coffee beans, chocolate orange ales, and beetroot-flavoured wheat beers — these are just a few of the interesting and inventive ales that you’ll be able to try alongside the more traditional beers, ciders, perries, wines and meads at this year’s Cambridge Beer Festival.

The 44th Cambridge Beer Festival takes place on Jesus Green from 22-27 May, and it is the longest running CAMRA beer festival and one of the biggest regional beer festivals in the UK. Visitors can look forward to over 200 real ales from the local area and further afield, over 80 ciders, and perries, meads, wines, and a foreign beer bar with offerings from the USA, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands on draft and in bottles.

Our fantastic local breweries will be showcasing their beer, and they include (take a deep breath..!) Milton from Waterbeach, Lord Conrads from Dry Drayton, Moonshine from Fulbourn, Fellows from Cottenham, Crafty from Stetchworth, Son of Sid from Little Gransden, Calverleys from Cambridge, Cambridge Brewing Company from the Brewhouse, Beach Brewery from Waterbeach (Milton’s craft keg offshoot), Turpin’s from Cambridge, and Three Blind Mice from Little Downham. And from ever so slightly further afield, Bexar County from Peterborough, Oakham from Peterborough, Elgood’s from Wisbech, Mile Tree from Wisbech, Tydd Steam from Tydd St Giles, and Xtreme Ales from Whittlesey.

Amongst our local breweries we are lucky enough to have some CAMRA Champion Beer of East Anglia award-winners: Milton, Moonshine and Cambridge Brewing Company. Milton will be bringing along their popular Marcus Aurelius, the beer that won Gold in the Stout Category, a 7.5% black, rich and velvety beer, dubbed an Imperial Roman Stout. Moonshine’s Chocolate Orange Stout won Gold for Speciality Beer, and this full-bodied chocolate and coffee flavoured stout with a hint of orange will also be available at the beer festival. Cambridge Brewing Company will be bringing their hoppy and easy-drinking pale ale Misty River — this brewery won the Gold award in the Porter category for their delicious Night Porter, and Silver for the Overall Champion Beer of East Anglia also for the Night Porter — a great achievement.

The beers sourced for the beer festival seem to get more exciting and inventive each year. Bexar County will be pouring I Am Not A Fruit Beer, a sour beetroot wheat beer; Elephant School from Brentwood are providing a Crème Brulée Dubbel with cream oat, wheat, necatrine and berry flavours; Gyle 59 are bringing a ginger-infused IPA called GIPA, and Three Blind Mice are showcasing Russian Blud, a strong (11%) imperial chai latte stout, which will be served on KeyKeg.

The KeyKeg Beer Wall will make an appearance for the second year running, with beers suited to higher carbonation and colder temperatures. This year, brewers with beers on KeyKeg include Cheshire Brewhouse with an 8.1% Belgian hopped IPA, Cloudwater brewery with a double IPA at 9%, Bexar County with a coffee stout called Bitter Invention of Satan, and Moor with a new quaffable session ale at 3.5% called Alldayer. The queues at the KeyKeg wall last year showed how popular this bar quickly became!

Cider, mead, wine and perry are always very popular at the festival. Ciders and perries are mainly sourced from Cambridgeshire and East Anglia, and producers include the likes of Simon’s, Pickled Pig and Hereward. All the mead  — or fermented honey — comes from the British Isles, and is one of the largest selection at any CAMRA beer festival; mead lovers can expect a variety from sweet to dry mead, and producers include Lyme Bay, Lindisfarne, Moniack, the Rookery and Crowded Hive. All the wine available at the festival is English, with some of the producers being Chilford Hall, Winbirri Vinewards, and Dedham Vale. Beer glasses can be swapped for wine glasses at the wine bar or glasses counter.

This year’s festival theme is Paradise Lost, to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the first publication of the poem by the 17th century English poet John Milton about the Biblical story of the Fall of Man. Look out for beers called the likes of Fallen Angel (Grain Brewery) and Devil’s Side (Bexar), and spot Caskman on the festival poster/souvenir glasses who can be seen with his split personalities, both devilish and angelic!

When you enter the beer festival, grab a souvenir beer festival guide, browse the drinks list, buy a sale or return souvenir glass, and make your way to the bars! The breweries are arranged in alphabetical order around the marquees, with the exception of the row of brewery bars on the left as you enter. The bars accept cash (rather than a token system) —  come well prepared as there are no cashpoints on site.

There is always plenty of tasty food to eat at the festival, including delicious cheeses, bread and deli items from the famous Cambridge CAMRA Cheese Counter, Pieminister Pies for great pies and mushy peas, Daisy’s Diner for hog roast, wood-fired pizza from Fired Up Pizza, artisan Spanish food from Azahar, veggie dishes from Vegetaria, and more.

Blue Smile is the charity that the Cambridge Beer Festival is supporting this year; it supports children with mental health issues, and provides expert counselling and mentoring in schools for children between three and 13 years old. Visitors can donate their spare change to volunteers with collecting buckets, or by giving Blue Smile your festival glass when you leave.

The festival, which attracts around 40,000 visitors per year, couldn’t take place without volunteers, and around 300 are needed! Sign up at the festival website, and you could help build the site, collect glasses, serve at the bars, work on the cheese counter, or take down the site when it’s all over. Volunteers receive food and drink tokens, a festival t-shirt, and get to meet new people.

The Cambridge Beer Festival opens on Monday 22 May at 5pm. It is free to enter on weekday afternoons (12-3pm), while evening sessions (5-10.30pm) from Monday to Wednesday are £4, evening sessions on Thursday and Friday are £5, and on Saturday it’s £3 to enter all day. Entry is free for CAMRA and CURAS members with a valid membership card.

Published in: on May 17, 2017 at 11:47 am  Leave a Comment  

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