The inaugral day of a Beer Festival is always one filled with excitement.
The Uttoxeter Lions Society has been running for a while now, they’re just a hop, skip and a jump away from us here in Burton – so, every now and again, we find our paths crossing at Festivals and Brewery Tours.
Where we fundamentally differ in our approach to running a society is that, where we’re quite happy to tour the country drinking as much ale as we can muster, the guys over in Uttoxeter want to put together the events themselves.
A great deal of work and preparation goes into pulling off a successful festival, even one on a small scale. There’s venue hire, licensing, contacting brewers, selling tickets, marketing, food stalls, entertainment and so much more to think of – it’s even harder for first-time organisers.
Having fond memories of drinking with this particular group of ruffians, us here at Burton Real Ale Society had all our fingers crossed for these guys in the run up to the big day. If it went well then it would be a yearly fixture on our social calendar and, with Uttoxeter only being half an hour away, a great excuse to start socialising more with our Ale-loving compatriots.
When we arrived at around 3pm, the party was already in full swing.
There was a band set up in the main tent, where the majority of the brewers had set up shop and the lively sound of conversation made the whole ambience all too inviting.
A winter beer festival is a tricky event to pull off. I’ve been to all too many that have failed to take into account the frigid conditions of the November weather. Freezing cold beer tents, out of season ales and confusing food choices can often throw the party off whack and have guests wishing that they were somewhere else.
Luckily, the organisers clearly knew what they were doing.
Instead of the usual litany of fast food burger vans, which have the tendency of cheapening events, they invested in several meat roasts. Hog, Ox and Beef were all on offer and, as the meat had been sourced locally, the prices were kept relatively low. To pair with these offerings, they’d found some wonderful local providers of Ale and Cider, eschewing the more fashionable city-based start-ups in favour for traditional outfits that have earned their place as some of the best brewers in the county.
Live bands played continually on two different stages, alternating between lively traditional folk music and more upbeat rock’n’roll. The air of the event was more in line with a village fair than a modern beer festival, which made for a refreshing change.