For myself, the last beer festivals attended before Covid closed everything down were the Chesterfield CAMRA event at the Winding Wheel Theatre in February 2020 as a volunteer and the Sheffield Indie Beer Feast at the Old Abbeydale Picture House in March 2020 as a customer.
The August 2021 Bank holiday weekend saw our first festival social since then with the Old Hall Hotel in Hope putting on their Hope Valley Beer & Cider Festival with a marquee in the car park hosting a range of traditional ales and ciders, seating and occasionally live music whilst also outside was a pizza oven and gin & cocktail bar – with the pub itself also offering its usual food & drink.
An official Sheffield & District CAMRA outing visited this event on the Saturday as part of our monthly RambAle programme whilst a number of others including myself took a trip out there on the bank holiday Monday, combining it with the open day at Intrepid Brewery.
The following weekend saw beer festivals in Grenoside and Bolsover.
It has also been good to see a number of events recently that whilst beer wasn’t the focus, had real ale available for visitors, this included Rockin’ the Bowl, Bradway Family Fun Day and Worral Festival.
9-11 September saw the return of the Rail Ale Festival at Barrow Hill Railway Roundhouse near Chesterfield. This normally takes place in May and returns to its normal dates for 2022 following the cancellation of the 2020 festival and the 2021 event being postponed until September.
Rail Ale has a range of over 350 real ales spread across several bars along with craft beer on keg, cider & perry and gin.
Train rides were available on Friday & Saturday afternoon with classic shunter locomotives hauling Mk1 coaches up and down the short branch line from the platform within the festival site and there were plenty of other old trains stabled up outside next to the street food vendors for those interested enough!
Also supporting the fact the festival had something of a transport theme, there was a choice of ways of getting there for those that thought the Stagecoach number 90 was a bit too routine including a free volunteer run shuttle bus from Chesterfield station using preserved vehicles or for those with a bigger budget a locomotive hauled charter train shuttling from Derby & Chesterfield dropping off thirsty visitors inside the beer festival!
I joined a team from Dronfield CAMRA volunteering there on Saturday afternoon with the majority of us working together behind the Derbyshire bar. Whilst both serving and sampling some tasty beers there were bands on the stage next to our bar as well as the Ashover Brass Band on in the marquee and it was just wonderful to be able to be once again involved with such an event and catch up with all the old faces we haven’t seen for a couple of years.
Looking ahead it is disappointing that with the uncertainties surrounding Covid still being a worry during the planning process we aren’t able to bring you Sheffield’s Steel City Beer & Cider festival this October, we’re sure the pubs will do us proud however as part of Steel City On Tour.
The first CAMRA festival to take place in our part of the world will be Nottingham which takes place at its new home of Trent Bridge cricket ground from 13 to 16 October. This is always a fantastic event with a great atmosphere and an absolutely huge range of interesting beers and ciders to choose from!
(header photo: Nick Wheat, Rob Barwell and Andy Cullen behind the bar, selfie taken by Nick Wheat).