Elsecar, South Yorkshire:
Elsecar Beer Festival and Steam Up
Organised by CAMRA Barnsley branch
Saturday 3rd May 2013
This is an interesting small beer festival held in the station yard of the Elsecar Heritage Railway. It is part of the adjacent Elsecar Heritage Centre which is located in the former ironworks and colliery workshop of Earl Fitzwilliam, a notable mine owner in these parts. The old buildings contain a museum and lots of craft workshops along with various small shops. We would have like to have visited but the twin demands of travelling on the railway and the beer festival took up all of our time; maybe on another occasion.
Husband Bob and I arrived on the first day of the festival so there was lots of choice of beer and cider. I started with a cider, Abrahalls (Bishops Frome, Herefordshire) Thundering Molly (5.2%), according to the notes: a well rounded medium cider, fresh and fruity with a lovely apple aroma, gorgeous golden colour and a well balanced finish. It's made with 100% cider apples. I thought it OK, but a bit sweet for my taste.
Next I tried a perry, Hecks (Street, Somerset) Hendre Huffcap, 6.5%, a strong pear flavour and full bodied texture, pale gold and enticingly aromatic, and a balanced depth of soft pale fruit. It was also a medium, yet a bit more to my liking, which is usually medium-dry.
Next I joined Bob on the beers. The first was Geeves (Barnsley, South Yorks.) Festival Special (4.0%). We had not tried beer from them before. Our notes say it was dark (black) and bitter; nice!
Other beers we tried were as follows, with our brief observations: Rat Brewery (Huddersfield, West Yorks.) Light Mild (3.4%) was dark (surprisingly!) and tasty; Beeches Brewery of Lochgelly (Fife) provided Cat's Whiskas (3.9%), which was copper coloured with a sweet aftertaste.
Following that we had Scarborough Brewery (Scarborough, North Yorks.) Chinook (4.0%). It was horrible, having been subjected to a dodgy hand pump so the sediment had been disturbed. So after giving that back we had Brown Cow (Barlow, North Yorks.) Three Swans (4.1%) It was pale and hoppy, a bit like Oakham JHB. Then we went for White Rose (Sheffield, South Yorks.) Lighter Shade of Ale (4.1%), which we did not like.
There were still more for us to try and next we had Wentworth Brewery (Wentworth, South Yorks.) Smoke Box Stout (4.8%) which smelt sweet but wasn't, as it was smoky and dry and had a good stout taste, very nice!
This was followed by Acorn (Wombwell, South Yorks.) Dana IPA 5.0% which was strong and hoppy. Fernandez Pierrepoint Drop (7.4%) was next, a bit hazy, strong! but our last at the festival.
On the way through these beers another we had was Oakwell Elsecar Main (4.4%) which was dark and quite different from most of the others, having a hard peppery taste. I believe it was named after the pit at Elsecar that once stood on this site. The reason I've left this till last is that this brewery has now closed, and might even had done so by the time we were drinking this beer.
Why is this important? Well, it is because the company opened in the buildings of the original Oakwell Brewery that closed in 1976 and which was the producer of the famous Barnsley Bitter.
The re-opening came in 1997 when a new brewery was installed in the former distribution depot. The site is slated to be raised to the ground. So popular was Barnsley Bitter that another local brewery, Acorn, also tries to replicate it.
I have one negative comment about the festival and that is that the beer list didn't specify the alcoholic strengths, yet strangely, the cider and perry list did. I found it annoying at the time.
And then there was the Steam train, which was one of our reasons for being there. The engine was an ex-N.C.B. (National Coal Board) locomotive from the Maerdy Colliery in South Wales. It is extremely powerful for its type and was nicknamed the Mardy Monster as a result. Note the change of spelling. This has become more formalised as it now carries the former nickname on its tank sides; one of the volunteers was proudly cleaning the name plate when we saw it. Its works number is 2150, and was built by Peckett of Bristol in 1954.
The first departure was at 14:30 and the second an hour later at 15:30. You were allowed to take your beer which was very handy. The journey was a mile in distance; it cost £4, and took 20 to 25 minutes to nowhere in particular, and back. It runs along the Dearne Valley floor from Elsecar and Wentworth Station to Hemingfield, which is just an over bridge with no access for the public.
They are hoping to extend it by a further ¾ of a mile to the site of the former Cortonwood Colliery, which is where the Miners' strike started in 1984. There was a disused canal on one side and there were signs of unloaded coal but mostly there were just a lot of trees.
Although this railway has never been part of the national network, the volunteers have built a very convincing passenger station at one end of a line in Elsecar, on a line that has never previously carried people.
This was a special event. On the usual Sunday operating days a Heritage Diesel train departs at 12:15 and 16:15, and a Steam Hauled service at 14:15.
Elsecar Heritage Railway, Elsecar Heritage Centre, Wath Road, Elsecar, Barnsley S74 8HJ
Tel: 01226 746746 Website: www.elsecarheritagerailway.co.uk
Elsecar Beer Festival, Station Marquee, Elsecar Heritage Railway
The Heritage Railway is about 15 minutes walk from Elsecar station. After leaving the station turn right and follow the brown signs down the hill to the Elsecar Heritage Centre.
There is an hourly train service from Sheffield through Elsecar to Barnsley and onwards to Wakefield.
Bus 66 runs every 10 minutes most of the day from Barnsley to Elsecar and return,
Mondays to Saturdays, and every 30 minutes on Sundays.