Posted by: Richard Frost | July 8, 2012

Chorlton Beer Festival

Beer kegs at St Clement's ChurchMy head’s a bit sore today.

Yesterday was the eighth annual Chorlton Beer Festival at St Clement’s Church, run by CAMRA (Trafford and Hulme branch). Alarmingly, I’ve realised this was my fourth festival in a row. And the 2012 instalment pretty much followed the same format as all the others.

Ciders and perries and beers – oh my!

So there was a choice of over 100 different beers, ciders and perries on draught (82 beers, 25 ciders and 15 perries to be precise). There was a nice mix of golden ales, bitters, milds, porters and stouts – some of which had been specially brewed for the festival. And there was a point when they completely ran out of everything.

Serial festival-goers will know that Chorlton Beer Festival has a habit of running dry. To be fair, they managed to keep going till 845pm on Saturday (officially, the festival finished at 10pm), which was much better than previous years. All in all, they sold a staggering 8,000 pints over 2 days – more than ever before – which one of the organisers told me was as much as they could physically fit into the church. So I guess we’ve got to let them off on that one.

Tasting times

Nevertheless, there were a few things missing this year that I’d love to see introduced in future:

  • Tasting notes for ciders and perries – As a keen cider drinker, I was disappointed to find there were no tasting notes for ciders and perries again. While beer drinkers could revel in pretentious descriptions like ‘Pale refreshing juicy asparagus nose. Celery and nuts give way to refreshing bite at the end’, we were left with nothing more than a number from 1 (very sweet) to 7 (very dry).
  • Master-classes – CAMRA’s full of passionate beer experts. Why not ask a couple of them to run workshops to teach people more about what they’re drinking? After all, it works brilliantly for the Manchester wine festival.
  • More food options – Why are Tampopo and Kro Bar the only caterers year-on-year?

Minor gripes aside, I really enjoyed the 2012 Chorlton Beer Festival. Not least because the rain stayed away for the whole of Saturday (let’s not talk about Friday…) and most of the day was spent basking in glorious sunshine.

Update: Soon after this post was published, John O’Donnell, press and publicity officer at CAMRA (Trafford and Hulme branch), responded to some of the points raised above. His answers are very interesting but quite long, so I’ve cut them down slightly:

  • Tasting notes for ciders and perries – “The reason why there are no tasting notes for the ciders is because the taste of ciders is unpredictable and constantly changing…so tasting notes written weeks and months in advance would be little use.”
  • Master-classes – “The beer masterclasses is generally a good idea but would be difficult to fit into the festival timescale and space…But I’ll put it into the mix for next year.”
  • More food options – “The reason the catering is always done by Kro and Tampopo is that they have [a] long standing relationship with the church.”
  • More beer – “We actually managed to run out exactly one hour earlier than in 2011 and this was despite having 22 per cent more cask ale than last year – over 1,200 pints more – we really had planned to keep going to the end, but on Saturday you, the customers, were drinking it at twice the rate they did on Saturday last year.” (8 July 2012)

Chorlton Beer Festival photos

I’ll leave you with a few photos I took from a sun-drenched Chorlton Beer Festival:

The Chorlton Beer Fest banner
Chorlton Beer Festival - entry costs £5
Chorlton Beer and Cider Festival family area
Tampopo food stall in Manchester
Chorlton Beer Festival basks in sunshine

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Responses

  1. You have some fair criticisms about the the fest. I’m in CAMRA and one of the volunteers but not involved in the logistics so I can’t comment on some of it. There was actually led cider tasting on Saturday just before we opened which was sadly not very well attended (one to keep in mind for next year if you’re interested). I’ll pass on your comments about cider tasting notes.

    We did indeed have more beer this year, a whopping 22% infact and we still ran out, each year we order more and it’s proven not to be enough. It’s obvious Chorltonites and Mancunians in general love their beer but also testament that the Chorlton Beer Festival has a unique feel as it continually exceeds our estimates. The hall has pretty much reached capacity now as I’m sure you could tell by the wait to get served. One thing to keep in mind also is that we can’t simply buy a few more casks since real ale is live it takes a minimum of 3 days to settle before is ready to serve.

    Master-classes is a great suggestion which I’ll bring up with the branch, I’m not sure where we could hold this as there are parts of the church which we can’t use, but I agree it would be a good addition for the festival.

  2. Good stuff going on .. well done. We’d be interested in co-hosting your beer making masterclasses. Cracking Good Food (www.crackinggoodfood.org) is a Chorlton based community cooking network where we cook up locally sourced seasonal good food from scratch. We run foraging sessions too and have run elderflower champagne / cordial sessions & are planning on making Sloe Gin from foraged fruits this November etc.. If you’re interested in collaborating with us contact me : adele@crackinggoodfood.org . Check out our FB site and blog http://www.crackingcooks.blogspot.co.uk for fuller information as to what we do around Greater Manchester.


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