Herefordshire CAMRA


Back for its thirteenth consecutive year, Beer on the Wye came of age this summer with another record-breaking show.

Held at the city’s rowing club in a big top-style marquee on the banks of the genteel River Wye, the award-winning Beer on the Wye festival came of age in style back at the beginning of July. After being opened to the public by the 636th Mayor of Hereford, Councillor Sharon Michael at 2pm on the Friday, by the time the festival closed at 5pm on the Sunday, 6,648 people had crossed the threshold - a record figure, no doubt assisted by good weather across the two and a half-day weekend.

On parade this year were 135 cask beers; 42 World beers, and 142 draught ciders and perries (108 from Herefordshire) across the festival's three bars. Amongst the cask beers were a number of unusual and more contemporary brews, including quite a few from up and coming craft-style brewers based in London. Furthermore, for the first time draught beers and cans featured on the World Beers Bar too - alongside the usual bottles. Judging by the fact it was almost all drunk, it is taken that you approved! Another improvement that also proved to be popular was the provision of free wi-fi on the site. That’s something that is planned to be repeated for next year’s festival.

Overall 24,500 pints of beer, cider and perry were consumed over the festival weekend. That’s also a new record – didn’t you all do well?! And there wasn’t a single incident to report either. It’s so good to have such a laid-back atmosphere amongst all this wonderful beer, cider and perry; a situation no doubt helped by the festival’s fabulous riverside meadow location.

Cider on the Wye

One early highlight of the festival was on the Friday afternoon, when the festival hosted the official launch of 'Press2Pub', a new web-based Herefordshire CAMRA initiative designed to help get more local pubs to stock draught Herefordshire ciders and perries. (see page 16 for more information on this). Mark Haslam, one of the festival organising committee, said about the launch: “It was most appropriate to launch this exciting initiative here, as more than 1 in 3 pints sold at the festival are cider and perry. In fact, the way it’s going the festival is in real danger of becoming Cider on the Wye! And, of course, Herefordshire is considered to be the spiritual home of cider and perry.” Also on the Friday were announced the Champion Beer of the Festival, Herefordshire Beer of the Year and West Midlands Perry of the Year for 2017 (see opposite).

With a good selection of hot, cold and vegetarian food, plus plenty of entertainment to keep the beer and cider company, it was very noticeable this year that many people came earlier and stayed for longer. Eight live bands featured over the weekend. A highlight on the Saturday night was the much-anticipated return of local musician, Neil Ivison, with his new band Stone Mountain Sinners, followed by the headline act - Shamus O'Blivion - who then took audience participation to a whole new level. For those who weren’t interested in the music there was ample opportunity to sit out on the grass and watch the waters of the River Wye slip quietly by.

Family Fun hits the big time

One huge success this year was the Family Fun Day - which runs on the Sunday afternoon, and is aimed at offering families with young children the opportunity to join in with the festival buzz. Another record was broken when the attendance pushed to just shy of a thousand. To place that figure in context, that’s more than attended the whole Saturday session at the festival when it started back in 2005! Mark Haslam explains: “We put a lot of effort into providing entertainment for the little ‘uns, and there were generous discounts on the drinks for the adults. It’s good that so many more people are now starting to appreciate the Family Fun Day. We have always strived to reach out to families with children – it’s only fair that they should be able to enjoy the festival too.”

It looks like it has been a lucky thirteenth festival for Beer on the Wye this year. Festival Co-ordinator, Simon Crowther from Herefordshire CAMRA says: “We are proud to organise and run Beer on the Wye each year. It’s not only a great event for the city and county (bringing in so many people from near and far), but it is also an opportunity for local people to try good quality beer, cider perry from all over the UK. Finally, it is an important showcase of what many of our local cider producers and brewers can do.”

Unsung heroes

Beer on the Wye is mammoth undertaking and requires a lot of effort and time to organise – both beforehand and at the festival itself. It takes the efforts of over 120 unpaid CAMRA volunteers just to put the show on, and needs a whole week to set up from scratch. Simon Crowther takes the opportunity to recognise this contribution, when he finally adds: “It is amazing that year after year we get so many willing and keen volunteers – with many of them returning to help again for the umpteenth time. This year, with the warm weather on the Saturday afternoon, many of them worked on, still smiling, in sometimes stifling heat. For this, and for all their other tireless efforts, I salute our volunteer army. They are the unsung heroes who really make this event possible. For that I say a whole-hearted ‘thank you’ on behalf of the organising committee and the 6,000 people who this year enjoyed Beer on the Wye.”