Herefordshire CAMRA


Rude interruption

Back on the first weekend in July, over 6,550 people downed around 24,000 pints of beer, cider and perry to make for a great Beer on the Wye XV festival in Hereford. But there was one unplanned surprise waiting for everyone inside the marquee down by the riverside…

It was good to witness once more so many people enjoying the beer, cider and perry to a backing track of great live music, good food and a great atmosphere. Whether people were back for the seventh time or were festival newbies, everyone seemed to have an enjoyable time. There was even a bumper turnout for the Family Funday on the Sunday. Beer on the Wye really is the festival for everyone.

However, rudely interrupting proceedings on the Saturday night was nothing less than a phantom streaker. Thankfully, our photograph (where he is seen wearing little more than a festival wristband) manages to spare his blushes. However, within moments of this snap being taken, his evening was brought to an abrupt end after our firm (but friendly) security staff dumped him outside the festival marquee. It was no more beer, cider or perry for him! It was probably fortunate the incident happened after the deadline for admitting children had passed.

This year’s festival was a big occasion for those who enjoy their cider and perry. As in previous years, festival-goers were able to sample over 125 ciders and perries - the vast majority from small Herefordshire producers. And all were served from our seriously-revamped Cider Bar. New bar units, new cider containers, and a new cider-cooling system were all the end result of a lot of planning, effort and investment - and from what you tell us it all met with your approval. Suffice to say the new Cider Bar will be returning next year.

The festival might well be called Beer on the Wye, but 1 in 3 of every pint consumed is perry and cider. So, it was deemed to be an ideal backdrop for the full public launch of ‘Press 2 Pub’, which is Herefordshire CAMRA’s exciting new cider and perry initiative. Having launched it to the trade before the festival, it was time to let people know how to access the Press 2 Pub Trail. This website points you to where to find many of the ciders and perries that were on the Cider Bar (all you need to know about Press2Pub can be found on page 16 of this Hopvine.

Fruity excitement with the Mayor

Staying on a fruity theme, the festival is very fortunate to be able to host two major competitions: one to find the West Midlands Cider of the Year and one to find the West Midlands Perry of the Year. And joining the esteemed judges to decide the champions was the 638th Mayor of Hereford, Councillor Kath Hey (who likes her cider). If that wasn’t enough fruit-flavoured excitement on its own, awards were made to Herefordshire cider and perry-makers Roger Pinnell and Lewis Scott, who had won the exact same competitions last year and had then gone on to receive national awards. Herefordshire is currently the undisputed capital of cider and perry-making in this country and Beer on the Wye was there to showcase it.

But there was beer too. There were competitions amongst the 132 different casks ales that resided on the festival’s 120 foot-long main bar.

This year also featured an eclectic range of music. Nine great bands covered a wide spectrum of genres, from acoustic pop, modern folk, folk-rock, rhythm ‘n’ blues, classic rock, soul and funk all the way through to Dixieland jazz. It seemed that a good time was had by all and the weekend just streaked by.

Competition Time

Champion Beer of the Festival was named as Whirly Bird from Electric Bear Brewery. The unfined 5.2% strength beer is a zingy little pale ale, hopped with Chinook and Vic’s secret. The Bath-based brewery has thrived since the polluting diesel bear was converted to electric some years ago.

The silver and bronze both went to new-generation breweries in Manchester. Well deserving its inclusion in the final judging a beer from Ledbury Real Ales presented a serious challenge to the top three and took the accolade of Herefordshire Beer of the Year. Wai-iti and Citra was a 5.0% strength, early-hopped golden ale that uses local hops from Ashperton, along with the Wai-iti variety from New Zealand. It’s a collaboration with Jonny Bright of the Hereford Beer House.

Herefordshire makers took the main awards in the CAMRA West Midlands cider and perry judging. Best cider and Gold winner was from Gregg’s Pit of Much Marcle. Typical of James Marsden’s style it was a medium cider, made with three specific varieties of apple.

Silver went to Ty Gwyn of Pontrilas, a relative newcomer to the county which migrated across the border from Wales four years ago. The medium-sweet single-varietal cider called Festival Ferret was made with Browns Apple.

Previously believed to come from Wales due to their Powys address, Skyborry cider was judged for the first time at this competition and took bronze for their medium-dry blended cider.

In the perry competition, Gold went to Oliver’s for their medium Keeved Perry. Keeving is a traditional process regularly undertaken by Oliver’s but one that seems surprisingly uncommon in general, maybe due to the extra effort and expense involved. It is used to retain some of the perry pear’s natural sweetness by arresting the fermentation before reaching dryness.

Gwatkins Farmhouse, a sweet blended perry took Silver, and Bronze went to last year’s winner, Barkers of Hallow in Worcestershire for Victorian Orchard Perry, a medium-dry blend.

Festival organiser for Herefordshire CAMRA, Mark Haslam, reflected on the festival: “It’s amazing that Beer on the Wye is still going strong after fifteen years – in fact it just keeps improving. I put that down to the sterling efforts of our army of 140 unpaid volunteers, including a team from our festival charity, who work tirelessly in setting up, running and taking the festival down. Without them we would have no festival at all. I also need to acknowledge the generosity of our numerous partners, sponsors and suppliers. Without their valuable contribution we wouldn’t be able to put on half as good a show.”

One for your diary:

Planning shortly starts for Beer on the Wye XVI, which will be returning to its riverside home in Hereford between the 10th and 12th July 2020. Put the date in your diary now!