Yesterday afternoon I took one for the team and went along to see what was happening at the CAMRA Beer Festival at The Ukrainian Club. Hard work, I know, but someone had to do it (yippee!). If you’ve never been to a beer festival before, then I would recommend trying one for the atmosphere and there is plenty to enjoy, even if you are not a massive ale fan. A wide range of other drinks also available!
We were met by tantalising aromas from the barbecue sizzling away outside the front door. It could only be Alain from Nkono, providing the perfect accompaniment to a nice pint. Luckily the weather was kind and I’m sure he will have tempted in some passers-by.
For the £10 entry fee you got a collectable half-pint glass (£2 refundable if you didn’t want to keep it) and £6 worth of tokens to spend on beer or cider, which equalled appx. two pints and gave you the chance to try four different drinks. It’s much easier for everyone using tokens, rather than messing about with change, and you could top them up if you wanted.
Being near the end of the festival, we had a more limited palette of drinks to choose from, as so many had sold out. It was still an impressive selection, however, and I found it hard to choose, but in the interests of fairness I tried three different ales and one cider!
Even though I am not a massive cake fan, I was surprised and delighted to meet Julie from Décor Cakes. She and her husband are CAMRA members and she had chosen three beers from the festival to use to make cakes – yes, really! She had made three amazing cakes: one squidgy cider fudge cake, a lemon drizzle style one with Squawk ale, and an iced one with Rammy craft ale, fruit and chocolate and she was offering free samples of them all. I am used to using beer in bread, but had never thought of using it in cakes (apart from Guiness) however I would thoroughly recommend all of them, though my sneaky favourite was probably the cider one! All of them worked surprisingly well as a tasty accompaniment to beer.
The festival relies heavily on the sterling efforts of volunteers, and everyone we met made the event go really smoothly and served us with a smile. I have been to large beer festivals before but this had a brilliant atmosphere and was busy, but was not so crowded and noisy as to be uncomfortable. We bumped into some old friends and it was nice to have a relaxed chat without loud ambient music blaring out. Seating was at plenty of long tables which encouraged people to sit and chat together, and discuss their opinions on the drinks. It had a great community feel and there were people of all ages mixing together happily, enjoying the day.
I could drone on about the beers and offer tasting notes, however you can’t enjoy it vicariously and I am no expert. What I will say is that the beers were kept and served well and there was a range of different kinds of beer/cider to suit all tastes. It’s interesting to try out different beers and breweries and if you are trying new tastes, then a half pint (or less if you go with someone else and share) is enough to decide on what you like and don’t like, without a lot of waste.
If you missed it, then make a note to follow Bolton Live or CAMRA Bolton for news of future festivals and events near you and try something new. Cakes and ale, what’s not to love?