Herefordshire CAMRA

FOURTEEN NOT OUT

Even Englandís World Cup exploits couldnít dampen this yearís Beer on the Wye

Back for its fourteenth consecutive year - and following last yearís record breaking 6,600 attendance - this yearís Beer on the Wye was always going to struggle to be bigger than last year, but make no mistake, it was definitely better. In terms of size, it was a close-run thing as more than 6,000 people still trekked down to the festivalís riverside marquee over the weekend of the 6th to 8th July. However, without any doubt, it was the improvements that really caught the eye.

First was the range of different beers, ciders and perries: there were over 320 of them - from every corner of the UK (and the world for that matter), and they were of nearly every conceivable style, hue and strength. Moreover, every drink sold was always carefully chilled to make drinking a real pleasure in the glorious sunny weather that the festival was blessed with. The Cider Bar on its own featured 152 different ciders and perries, with over a hundred of them coming from small Herefordshire producers alone. Adding to this heady mix was an impressive International Beers Bar that featured draught beers from as far afield as the USA. In total around 20,000 pints were consumed in less than two and a half days. Thatís pretty good going!

Banished Forever

Another change for the better is that the old green mobile toilets have now been banished forever, with posh new toilet units making their festival debut this year. Fully plumbed-in, they include integral hand-washing facilities and full lighting. Such luxury won universal approval amongst the festival-goers!

However, there is one thing that never changes from year to year, and that is the wonderful laid-back atmosphere of the festival. It speaks volumes that again there wasnít a single incident of serious misbehaviour. Itís always a delight to see such a diverse crowd of young and old; locals and visitors, and people from all backgrounds enjoying the riverside vibe. At one level itís a festival for a party with friends Ė with eight live bands going down a storm across the weekend evenings. Yet at another level itís also a great opportunity for bringing all the family along to. It was very gratifying to read all the positive feedback on social media after the event. Herefordshire CAMRA enjoys organising it, and it appears you enjoy attending it...which is a real win-win. And if thatís not enough, itís a platform for showcasing the wares of our local brewers and cider-producers too!

Moustachioed Ciderologist

This year the festival was opened on the Friday afternoon by Channel 4ís wonderfully eccentric and moustachioed ciderologist Gabe Cook. Therefore, it was only appropriate that, for the first time the festival hosted the prestigious CAMRA West Midlands Cider of the Year competition Ė which was won by Mayfayre Cider based near Hereford. This was in addition to the Perry of the Year competition which has been hosted for many years, which this year was won by Barkers from Worcestershire.

Gabe also presented certificates to the Herefordshire winners in the National CAMRA Cider & Perry Competition. Tom Oliver is seen in the photo just before receiving his Silver for perry. Steve Leighton of Orgasmic Cider received his Bronze for Cider.

Of further local interest was that a Herefordshire brewery took honours in the Champion Beer of the Festival competition. Also taking the title Herefordshire Brewer of the Year, Wye Valley Brewery was awarded the Silver Rosette for their eponymous Beer on the Wye Ė a 4.0% ABV concoction that had elderflowers added into the final brew that were personally picked at the brewery by no less than Wye Valleyís MD Vernon Amor and Head Brewer Gareth Bates.

Giving HOPE

The festival wasnít just a success for Herefordshire CAMRA, but also for HOPE Support Services, who are the festivalís charity partner. HOPE are a Ross-based charity who provide peer group support to children who have a parent that has been diagnosed with a life-threatening or life-changing illness. They raised over £3,400. Itís great to be able to support such a worthy cause.

England v Sweden

No-one expected the English football team to defy normal convention and progress through to the latter stages of the World Cup, and that included us. Thus the festivalís Saturday afternoon session clashed with Englandís game against Sweden. A large TV was hurriedly tracked down and installed on-site to keep those who enjoy their England football as much as their beer and cider content. Meanwhile, the press were more interested in speaking to our resident Swedish volunteer. Johann Svensson has worked at virtually every Beer on the Wye since 2006, When he was asked by the BBC who he would be supporting in the big match, he cleverly replied that ice hockey was his sport of choice. Good call, Johann!

Annual Party

Beer on the Wye is a great opportunity for Herefordshire to have a party once a year, but it has a more serious side too. It is not only a showcase for what our local breweries and cider-makers can do, but is also a rare opportunity for locals to try many traditional beers and ciders that wouldnít normally be available locally.

However, it takes a lot of work to put the festival on. It requires the efforts of over 120 unpaid volunteers to organise, set-up and run Beer on the Wye. And they enjoy doing it too, so the vast majority come back year after year. Simon Crowther of Herefordshire CAMRA and Festival Co-ordinator has the final word, when he says: ďI would like to salute all those who help us to make this wonderful festival happen. I need to thank our generous partners and sponsors, but most importantly or all, I need to say a sincere Ďthank youí to the small army of people who give up their time for free and who work so hard to make it all happen.Ē

One for your diary:

Beer on the Wye XV will be held between Friday the 5th and Sunday 7th July 2019.