Monday, 1 October 2012
Real Ale and railways in Ripley.
on Saturday I decided to make my first visit to the 3rd Amber Valley CAMRA beer and cider festival, at the Midland Railway Centre in Butterley, a short walk from Ripley. I've never been to this festival before so it seemed like a good opportunity to visit a new event, and one at an interesting venue.
Getting there was a doddle - buy Derbyshire Wayfarer, get half hourly train to Alfreton, walk round corner from Station, get on 9.2 or similar bus service towards Derby, using stereotypes work out who is likely going to the festival, get off at the same stop as them if you are unsure where the festival is, and hey presto, you're there. And all this took me about an hour, which was good.
First of all, here are some details about the set up.
The 12.00 til 17.00 session was £2.00 or free if you are in CAMRA and featured it seemed, most of the range of beers that could have been available. You could hire a glass for £2.50 and tokens came on a sheet much like most good fests, this one costing £10.00 (refunds available). There was food in the marquee, and a burger van doing what looked like very tasty snacks and meals in the museum grounds near the Black Bull bar (as I called it) and the train carriages. For those so inclined you could ride on a locomotive, possibly steam powered, about twice an hour during the day. I'm sure it was tremendously exciting, but I had beer to drink.
There were two main areas to the festival - a large marquee in a field on the right, complete with straw in case of a deluge, and a bar in a railway carriage on your left, with plenty of other carriages to sit in and enjoy your beer in comfort. I eschewed this luxury at first, and having spent ages reading the beer list in the programme, I eventually plumped for a Beer Geek - Geek Unique (4.3%) to start. A brown reddish soup which tasted fine, but probably not an ideal starter. Things improved drastically from here on though.
I found myself a spot to sit on the stage and got chatting to a group of drinkers from nearby Kilburn about beer, of course, and also pubs (naturally) inebriation and Morris Dancing. Three of these subject matters were to feature to varying degrees at the festival...
Below, having lost the blasted programme on my way home, is a likely only more or less accurate list of the beers I supped :
Beer Geek Geek Unique
Bump Mill Heart of Gold
Lincoln Green Tuck Porter
Bollington Oat Mill Stout
Oakham Green Devil
Old Dairy Red Top
Amber Ales Barnes Wallis Dry Hopped special (5.1%)
Hop Fuzz the Hawaiian
Titanic Plum Porter.
Beer of the day by far was the Oakham Green Devil. I was concerned that having heard so much about it I may end up being disappointed but it was fantastic. The Lincoln Green and Bollington beers were also excellent, as was the dry hopped Barnes Wallis. It was also interesting that had I wanted to, they were serving third pint measures. This would have been a great idea for trying the stronger beers (although the Green Devil was just too nice to only have a third of)
The Kilburn crew sought out the comfort of train seats about the same time that the Ripley Morris men got started, so I got myself some food (none of the advertised Indian fare was spotted) and sat back down on the stage to eat and sup some more beer. Unfortunately I was turfed off because a band were setting up so decided to seek out the Kilburn crew in the train carriages. Below are a few photo's I took, included not only to show you that everyone seemed to be having a good time, but also to prove to those in the pictures that I've been true to my word...
When I was first introduced to them I pointed out that I was certainly not going to remember all their names, so called all of them Brain, Graham or Dave for the first hour. Now, a few pints further down the line, I was going to try to remember them all! I have, of course, also been to sleep since then but I think there was Sue and Dave, Liz and Phil, Roger, a man who was quite tall (sorry quite tall man), some blokes from the West Midlands (Coventry if I recall, although that of course is Warwickshire....) and Jill. They were great company and made my visit really enjoyable. Its nice to find a group of easy going like minded drinkers, and to be honest that's something that tends to happen at most beer festivals. I certainly don't mind being at a festival by myself.
Eventually the lure of Wetherspoons vouchers and a need for food (happily co-inciding with the fact that Sue had become a trifle tired after several glasses of Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby Mild) saw them disappear en masse, leaving me to ponder my next move. Initially this was to involve trying a couple of strong beers to finish but time got the better of me. I had to leave before 17.00, obviously, because the 18.00 segment of the festival needed to be got ready and that was a more expensive ticket only session, but I could have stayed sat in the comfy carriages if I had wanted. In the end though, I headed off up into the wilds of Ripley, which is another blog post....
Overall the Ripley Rail ale festival was a really enjoyable event with some very good beers, and its unusual location makes for an interesting angle. Its also very good value, and easy to get to. If you get chance, I warmly recommend a visit to next years event.