Walsall, West Midlands:
Walsall CAMRA 32nd Real Ale & Cider Festival
Friday 5th April 2013
This was a first time visit to this particular Beer Festival and we arrived within an hour of it opening. There had been an evening session the day before but we were confident that they hadn't run out of any beers yet and this proved to be the case. I was with wife Linda and we had travelled up from London by train that morning, changing at Birmingham New Street station. The festival was held in Walsall Town Hall which was very convenient for the railway station; see below for more transport details.
Entrance was a reasonable £1 for CAMRA members, a saving of £2 on the public admission charge. The festival was held in the main hall and the first thing that caught our eye was the enormous organ behind the stage and I'm glad there wasn't anybody on hand to play the thing, it must be deafening! There were around 110 different beers on offer and they were served from one long bar on the left side of the auditorium, with cider and perry on the end.
There was very little seating, a reflection on how busy the hall gets in the evening. What there was, we found along one wall, yet even those chairs were tied together to prevent them being moved. Having said that; there were a few more seats located in the ante-room where the Foreign Bottled Beer Bar was located. This was where we found Keith, well-known doyen of West Midlands beer festivals. After a quick chat we returned to our precious seats.
There was a very impressive line-up of beers to be had, well over a hundred in total and so we got stuck in. Whilst not in any way obsessive as some patrons, I do like to sample beers from breweries that I have not previously had. Apart from these BeerVisits articles, no record is kept of them. There were quite a few beers that fell in to this category here at Walsall. Please take a look at these breweries, which are those I had never tried before, but I'm sure some of our readers have.
There was Backyard Brewhouse (Walsall); Black Iris (Derby): Blackbeck (Egremont, Cumbria); Bowness Bay (Winster, Cumbria); Byatts (Coventry, West Midlands); Cumbrian Legendary Ales (Hawkshead, Cumbria); Hop N Stagger (Bridgnorth, Shropshire); Nine Standards (Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria); Rock & Roll (Birmingham, West Midlands) and Upham Brewery (Upham, Hants). I thought it was a very good list.
I have only one reservation and this is that we found some of the beers rather flat. They tasted as if the casks had not been hard-spiled overnight. I'm sure that wasn't the case and as this was a one-off situation, I would not want to put off any future visitor as this is a good festival.
This Festival is an annual event run by the CAMRA Walsall Branch. Their website is: www.walsallcamra.org
The venue is in the middle of town about five minutes from the railway station, which has a frequent service to Birmingham New Street, also trains to Wolverhampton and Rugeley.
The bus station is a few steps away.