Early May saw the first ever beer festival at the Heeley City Farm, a fantastic couple of days with a decent selection of real ale. Myself, Poppy and Andy Cullen were kindly invited to judge the home-brew competition on the first evening – an offer not to be refused! Around 20 beers had been entered into the competition, which was split into three categories: under 5%, 5.1% and over, and speciality beers (not forgetting one raspberry wine). All the bottles were blind taste-tested, with the brewers’ identities not revealed until the end. The first category might have seen the fewest entries (apparently home-brewers like their beers on the stronger side!), but the quality on offer was very high. First prize in this category went to Farmhouse IPA, brewed by Jim Scotson. Jim is studying for a PhD in chemistry and brews in his spare time under the name Dr TankNStein (www.drtanknstein.com). He maintains active Twitter and YouTube profiles, featuring interesting science-inspired home-brew videos and recipe break-downs. Next up, we had the most popular category, 5.1% and over. There was a really diverse range of beers entered, from imperial stouts to IPAs and red ales. First place went to friends David Stephenson and Gary Wood with their exquisite Double IPA. David said: “I have been brewing for a while now and won first place at last year’s Autumn show. Gary and I have only collaborated on our brewing for just under a year since we were both made redundant from the National Blood Service, we have found our beer is a lot better working together. For me personally I find the whole process of brewing fascinating and it ties in very nicely to the degree in food technology that I am currently studying towards.” Last but definitely not least was the speciality category, where we were treated to some fascinating brews, including sours, Belgian-style saisons and even a gruit, an ancient style of beer bittered without hops. Our winner was a Grapefruit and Sichuan Sour brewed by Edward Thatcher, a.k.a. Big Ed. A former professional brewer, he now creates recipe kits that allow you to brew craft beer in the comfort of your own home. He currently has ten styles to choose from, available online at www.craftalekits.com or from Turner’s bottle shop on Abbeydale Road. Congratulations to all three of our winners, who all received free beer (what else!?) as their prize, and thank you once again to the organisers at Heeley City Farm for inviting us along. We’re already looking forward to the next festival!