More people, drinking less…
We’re glad to report numbers well up on last year’s festival, well over 100 more people through the door, at a count of just over 1100 visitors. Interestingly our customers drank less beer to the tune of about a pint per head. So overall volume of beer sold was down, and cider & perry especially so. We can certainly still call this festival a success however, and general feedback on the event has been very positive.
This year saw us in a new venue, as we’ve been turfed out of Plinston Hall while the Heritage Foundation work out what they’re going to do with it. Thankfully the great folk at the Green House Community Market came to our aid and offered us their space to hold the festival. I must say this did present some challenges! With a new venue comes a lot of extra paperwork as we get various approvals to hold the event. If you’ve seen the market space during normal operation you’ll probably have noticed that there is A LOT of stuff in there — the Greenhouse team did an amazing job relocating nearly everything so we could fit in our bars & beer.
So, what of the venue in hindsight? The branch was apprehensive at first but once the festival was set up we all thought it looked fabulous. There was also a lot of very positive customer feedback on the festival site & arrangement. The separate smaller bars kept people circulating, and the nooks and crannies gave plenty of opportunity to get out of the way while enjoying a drink.
It isn’t perfect of course, our primary complaints were about the cold and the lack of seating. Seating is always a hard one, as for safety reasons we cannot scatter the area with too much furniture. However, perhaps next time (if we have the opportunity) we can attempt to squeeze a handful more chairs in around the edges and perhaps see if we can put up some boards to rest your pints on. The cold was a blessing and a curse… it meant the ales kept very well for the duration of the festival, always a good thing! Alas it probably contributed to crowds thinning out in the evenings as the temperature plummeted. Next time we’ll ensure that we advertise that people bring a coat for evening visits.
Now, time for the much–anticipated & ever–exciting post–festival news…
Our festival winners!
Our beer of the festival award goes to Moor Beer Company for their Revival (3.8%) — a refreshing light & hoppy golden ale. Revival won the vote by a clear margin, and I heard much praise for the beer while I was on the bar where it was being served. I think I could have picked this as having winning–potential from the moment I hammered in the spile on set–up day. The smell of hops on the released vapour was immense and thirst–inducing. The beer’s description from the brewery website follows…
Moor Beer Revival – A very hoppy and refreshing bitter, brewed to celebrate the revival of the brewery, and meant to revive you when you need it. Light in colour but not flavour thanks to a blend of Pale, Lager, Cara, Crystal and Wheat malts. The hops are a blend of American varieties, with American–style yeast providing a crisp finish. For a beer relatively low in alcohol it has a very full flavour and drinks well above its strength, earning it a multitude of awards and setting the standard for the style. A modern classic!
The joint runners–up in the beer of the festival vote were Crouch Vale Brewery’s ever–popular Yakima Gold (4.3%), and local Verulam Brewery’s Citra Hit (4.6% — 2011 Luton beer of the festival winner). All three of these ales are fashionably light coloured and rather hoppy, this definitely seems to be the popular beer style at the moment.
The cider/perry of the festival is an interesting one. The winner is the Oakwood Farm Perry (5%), a rum cask matured perry. We’re used to presenting and talking about “cider” of the festival awards — for a perry to win it is a refreshing change, but it does mean we need to remember to use the word “perry” when appropriate! The interesting part is that we have FOUR runners–up. Two from our local friends at Apple Cottage: FTJ (6.7% — this year’s Cambridge cider of the festival winner), and Rum Cask (6.8% — my personal favourite). Millwhites light and refreshing Hedge Layer (4.8%) was another runner–up along with Troggi Perry (6.4%) all the way from Wales.
Stay tuned for news of when we’ll be presenting these awards — we normally arrange a branch trip to the brewery/producer if they can accommodate us. I’d personally love to visit Moor brewery myself, as I’m very interested in their approach regarding unfined beer (on behalf of my many vegetarian friends!)
We also take votes for our foreign beer of the festival and rarely make much of a note of the result. However at the festival one foreign beer stood out, getting nearly as many votes as the rest combined. It was the Rogue Ales Chocolate Stout (6.8%), an intensely chocolaty brew. A bit “too much” for most people I talked to who’d tried it, yet this beer clearly left a positive impression on many of our customers. Better look at getting it back again in future.
Our festivals are entirely volunteer staffed and co–ordinated and we thank everyone who participated in making this festival a success. Festival volunteers get pints of just a quid, a free festival t–shirt and glass, and are invited to attent a celebratory brewery trip. This year we’re going to XT in Thame, Buckinghamshire. XT is the brewery that supplied us with one of their ales (XT5) in a wonderful oak cask for the festival. If you’d like to help out at our next festival keep your eyes on this website, we’re always on the look–out for willing CAMRA members to get involved and get the word out well before the festival date.
Our usual next festival is supposed to be in Hitchin in March — yet as North Herts Council have taken the Town Hall away from us we’re currently lost with respect to finding a venue for the festival. If you have any ideas please let us know! Finger’s crossed we’ll see you there!
As for Letchworth next year… the situation is much the same. We don’t know if the Green House will even be there! Word on the street is that the Heritage Foundation would prefer to demolish the facility to make way for a hotel. If you’d like to support the Green House folk’s work & a possible repeat–performance for this festival then how about writing to the Heritage Foundation and The Comet to make your feelings known?