Why was nobody talking about Wakefield Festival of Beer?

Okay, maybe the economy crashing and our government falling apart was a more immediate topic but what better than a charity beer festival to soften the blow for the 48%?

When I was asked to work Oakham’s fab little keg bar in Wakefield I thought- why not? I’ve never been to Wakefield before and I always love a beer festival. But I genuinely wasn’t expecting what was waiting for me.

Wakefield Festival of Beer is in its fourth year and raised around £10,000 for charity in 2015. They’re hoping to raising £15,000 over the two day event this year for Wakefield Hospice and Wakefield & District Downs Syndrome Support Group. Housed in Wakefield’s Unity Works the Festival of Beer has 70+ real ales, craft beers, ciders, wines and even a sloe gin cocktail bar. Pies from A. Charlesworth, a local butcher and pulled pork flathead from The Grill Pit were the food choices and local bands provided music throughout the weekend on the huge stage in Unity Hall.

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(above) The utterly delicious flatbread that I purchased with my volunteer food token. (below) The fantastic stage in Unity Hall.

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Unity Works (the irony of the name at this time didn’t pass me by) is a coop owned venue in Wakefield in a building that had laid empty and for over a decade before reopening in 2014. You walk up three floors to get to the festival in the Unity Hall and up a further small flight of stairs to the brewery bar and food rooms. A tucked away staircase in the corner of the brewery bar room led to the balcony overlooking the main hall and stage.

The cask to keg ratio was the most balanced that I’ve seen at any festival. The main room had two sides lined with casks and one side had a rather grand keg wall. Oakham Ales, Thornbridge and Brass Castle had keg bars in the smaller room alongside Five Towns Brewery and Small World cask bars and a bottle/can bar from Bier Huis. Five Towns even had their own wooden cask so we had beer from the wood, keg, cask, bottle and can. It’s not very often you see them all together.

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Five Towns Brewery’s beer from the wood was a delicious 6.7% stout. Rich, thick and smokey, it has a wonderful booziness to it from an addition of rum. Elsewhere on cask I tried the Black Country Victorian Mild from Quantum Brewing. Which despite having a name which may as well say “Suzy, this is for you” wasn’t particularly exciting. I wouldn’t mind trying it again with a clearer palate though.

On the keg side of things I dragged myself away from Oakham’s delicious selection (I love the new 5% Pale!) a few times to hunt out some other brews. Brass Castle’s California Steamin’ (a 5% steam ale brewed with rye and lager yeast) was utterly delicious and incredibly drinkable. I also tried the incredibly strange but rather delicious Custard Porter from Cloudwater. Seeing the words “custard porter” you’d expect someone sweet and creamy yet it really wasn’t. Even Rowan with her enviable palate struggled for any words more than “sorachi ace!!”. A rather fun and very unusual beer.

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With the vast selection of beer, the delicious “street food” and the gig-like atmosphere, Wakefield Festival of Beer reminded me of Indy Man Beer Con and the London Craft Beer Festival. A modern festival shunning the dodgy t-shirts, pint glasses and boring brews of the traditional British beer festival. We need more festivals of this ilk. Independent celebrations of beer that scrap the standard festival model and build it up from scratch. Festivals in beautiful old buildings like Unity Works, the Victoria Baths and the Oval Space that breath new life into a city’s beer culture.

So seriously. Why was nobody talking about this festival? We should have been.

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