Atmospheric image of lines and lines of casks

Since our last festival, just a year ago, the beer world has changed beyond recognition in terms of styles of beers that are available. Long gone are the days of just mild, bitter and stouts available on draught and over the years our festival has gradually expanded what we offer to include such as smoked beers, porters, dark IPAs etc. But this year we are adding another dimension of beers to choose from such as milk shake beers, New England IPAs, liquorice stouts to saisons, gose and sours. And all these styles of beers will be available for you to try this year along with all the old favourites. And yes, we will still bring you over a thousand different real ales, more than any other festival in the world.

As usual we have sourced beers from all over the UK and a small selection from Ireland for our main cask bars. As a bonus, we have imported eleven beers from Maine in the USA, plus a cider and a mead, all served from wooden casks that had previously held spirits. Seek out the delights of new North East breweries Crafty Monkey from County Durham and Great North Eastern brewery from Newcastle. We also have beers from Little Giant brewery in Bristol.

We are also having one stillage bay dedicated to Nano brewers. These are small producers who can only brew one or two casks at a time due to how small their brewery kit is. The nano brewed beers include a selection from Bang the Elephant in Long Eaton, watch out for their Caribbean Export Stout amongst others, and our friends at Urban Chicken in Ilkeston will be supplying a range of their unique beers.

This year we offer you a keykeg bar for the first time, which will feature real ales served from these modern containers, stored in bags inside the keykegs and pushed to the tap by using compressed air to squeeze the bag, the air does not come in contact with the beer. This enables us to bring you more extreme styles of beer that are sold in some pubs under the meaningless title of "craft".

The keykeg bar will be able to dispense 26 beers at a time and we have a selection of around 100 beers. We feature a good selection from London brewers, some favourites, a selection from newer brewers in Scotland and beers from Spain, America and Norway. We will also have a selection of beers from local brewers Neon Raptor and Liquid Light. In addition, some brewery bars will be offering their own keykeg beers. Look out for Raspberry Cream ale made with Scottish Raspberries from Brew Toon in Peterhead, Apricots in Belgium from 71 Brewing in Dundee and the almighty Interstellar Hypodrive, a rum and raisin imperial porter from Liquid Light in collaboration with Emporer's brewery in Coalville.

This year we also introduce two new brewery bars. Ferry Brewery are coming all the way down from South Queensferry which overlooks the amazing Forth Bridge, with a range of their beers, we also have Brew York, a modern forward thinking brewery from York with an exciting range of ales both cask and keykeg.

For vegans, once again many beers will not be fined (or cleared) using isinglass, this will be marked on the cask and in the programme. We have also managed to obtain a selection of 29 gluten free beers, which again will be clearly marked.

And finally, good news for you Ginger beer fans! We have managed to find another producer who makes ginger beer similar to the famous Weapons Grade Ginger that was incredibly popular a few years ago. This Ginger beer is described as "Real ginger beer, brewed with 100% root ginger, red chillies add a little warmth". Funfair will also be bringing their unique Teacups ginger beer again so you should not go thirsty.

Happy drinking everyone!

Close up of casks used at 2018 Beer Festival

What are Isinglass Finings?

At the Festival you will notice numerous beers marked as “unfined” and will no doubt be wanting to know what this means. Well it means they are suitable for vegans but there is a lot more to it than that and omnivores will be just as interested to sample these interesting brews.

Given enough time beer will clear naturally, but there is often not time to allow it to settle in the cellar for a couple of weeks or more, while nature does it’s thing. So it has long been the practice to add a suspension of tropical fish swim bladders mixed with sodium metabisulphite (a disinfectant and preservative). This is called isinglass and the majority of beers at our festival will be cleared by this method. The process is known as fining the beer.

However it is becoming accepted by some drinkers that beer does not have to be crystal clear to taste good. We accept that a wheat beer is going to be cloudy and we perhaps expect a very hoppy IPA to have some hop haze – so what’s the difference? Nothing, there is nothing special about crystal clear beer and naturally conditioned, hazy beer has loads of flavour. An alternative to fining the beer would be to filter it, this will clear any haze and it is a vegan friendly method. But filtering also strips out flavour, the one thing brewers have worked hard to put in - ever wondered why mass produced keg beers and lagers are tasteless compared to cask beer?!  So will hazy beer give you a bad stomach? Not if the haziness is caused by yeast suspension, as in our unfined beers (unless you’re allergic to yeast). Brewers yeast is a natural product and a source of Vitamin B and protein. So look out for beers marked as “Unfined” at our festival and give them a try, we think you will agree it is worth it. And of course these beers are suitable for vegans to enjoy.

Pedantic note - finings other than isinglass are available, these alternative finings are not made with animal products, they are chemical in nature and are not quite as affective in clearing beer. A small number of beers will be fined by this process but for convenience these are also shown as "unfined". So "unfined" is our shorthand for "not fined with isinglass" and so suitable for vegans.

Locale Logo

As you might expect from the branch that pioneered CAMRA's LocAle scheme we showcased beer from our local breweries and in 2017 over 25% of the volume of all beer consumed came from breweries located within 20 miles of the festival. We also source beers from all over the country and in 2017 we featured cask beers from 387 different UK breweries.

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The 2018 Beer Festival Beer Listings can be found in .pdf or Word or Excel Spreadsheet format by clicking on the appropriate links. The 2018 list of Gluten Free Beers is available to download here
The 2018 Beer Festival Programme can be downloaded in .pdf format from the Matelot Marketing website here

Page refreshed : 4th January 2019

Image(s) on this page information details and credits : Thanks to Andy Sales for the glorious stax of casks images from the 2018 Festival!