Whether you’re a seasoned real ale or cider drinker, have dabbled in the past or are new to the world of brewing, this could be the February event you’re looking for!

Starting today (21/02/2017) is the 14th Derby Winter Ales Festival.

Hosted by Derby ‘CAMRA’ (the Campaign for Real Ale), it is one of the largest and best loved real ale festivals in the East Midlands.

The four day festival is held at the iconic Roundhouse at Derby College and boasts over 450 ales, ciders and perries.

So if that already sounds promising, here are eight reasons not to miss it…

1. The Ale

Well, the clue is in the name and as always Derby doesn’t disappoint.

The festival will be serving cask ales from all over the country, from bitters and golden ales to porters, stouts and barley wines, there is something for every ale drinker. No idea what any of those are? Not to worry – pick up a programme and you will find a helpful guide to point you and your taste buds in the right direction.

“We try to get a good mix of distant beers and local beers,” reports festival volunteer, Andy Mottram, “of course, we like to support the local beers where we can.” That isn’t hard with such a thriving industry in Derbyshire – this year local names such as the Brunswick Brewery, Peak Ales, Shiny Brewery and Dancing Duck will have their own bars.

2. The Ciders and Perries

Don’t think you have to be treading the orchards of Somerset to enjoy a good cider.

Derby CAMRA provides a cider and perry list to suit every pallet so even if you have never tried real cider before there is something for you.

Like their colleagues on the ale bars, the Derby cider team have years of experience and are on hand to recommend a beverage to suit your taste (and you have over 45 to choose from!) Three Cats and Oakfield Farm are flying the flag for Derbyshire but be sure to check our Nottingham’s Sisson & Smith as well.

3. World Beers and Mead

Of course we British are not the only ones who enjoy a good ale festival. From across the channel and beyond there are beers both bottled and on tap.

Ever tried a Caramel Fudge Stout before? Maybe you should. And while you’re at it, there’s Guinness Special Export to fill you up as well. Feel free to ask the World Bar volunteers for any recommendations.

In a Game of Thrones kind of mood? It’s the mead counter for you. Local supplier Mercian Mead, as well as Lymebay Winery and Lancashire Meadery provide you with a traditional drink that dates back more than 6000 years ago. Some of the meads on offer are also gluten free and are vegetarian friendly.

4. Food

They do say you shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach and you won’t need to worry about that here. As well as excellent hot food served throughout the festival, there are also various food stalls to browse in the main hall including Pipers Crisps and Oddfellows Chocolate Company.

5. The Venue

Ask many volunteers and visitors what makes the Derby Winter Ales Festival different to all others… many will tell you ‘…just look up.’ The Roundhouse is one of the most iconic venues in the East Midlands. It was opened as a college by the Princess Royal in 2010 but has a long and proud history of serving the Derby rail industry.

Festival Chairman, Russell Gilbert, cites it as a defining factor for the festival, he said “It adds just that little bit more to the atmosphere, it’s a building steeped in history,” he explains, “it has memories for many, many people and it gives the festival the opportunity to create a lovely atmosphere for the people that set up and visit.”

6. Transport

Don’t worry about getting to the festival. You can’t really be much better placed than at the back of a railway station. And to arrive at the historical roundhouse by train would be a fitting tribute to its long history.

But if rail doesn’t suit you then help is on hand – a free shuttle bus leaves from Derby Exeter Bridge and from the bus station, go to www.derbycamra.org.uk/winter-beer-festival to check the schedule.

If you’re travelling by car there is limited parking near the venue (but if you are driving please be responsible while attending the festival).

7. Volunteers

Don’t forget that these fantastic CAMRA festivals that you attend are staffed by volunteers and Derby is no different. Many are real ale enthusiasts, many are festival lovers and all of them will do their best to make sure you have a brilliant time.

With the exception of the brewery bars, all of the bars, admission and membership stands are staffed by volunteers.

Please be patient, especially when the festival is busy and they will offer you all the assistance they can.

Interested in volunteering yourself? Head on over to the membership stand or speak to one of the bar managers for a chat.

8. It’s Derby!

What better reason to visit the festival than in celebration of our city? The Derby Winter Ales Festival is a long established date on the city’s calendar.

While we might not be as big as our neighbouring festival in Nottingham, our festival here in Derby offers what volunteer Paul Stanley describes as “more intimate, with a very friendly atmosphere.”

Publicity coordinator Gillian Hough, who is campaigning to be elected to CAMRA’s National Executive, suggests that people make a day of it, she said “The essence of the beer festival is bringing people from across the country to Derby and showing them what Derby does so well… They can come to the festival, be blown away by the five hundred plus beers we’re selling, the forty-five ciders and perries, vast selection of meads and some bottled beers that you won’t get anywhere else in Derbyshire… and then go into town and see what Derby offers. We’ve got a brilliant selection of pubs and clubs as well. It’s a great, great destination to come to.”

For more details, opening hours and admission fees, go to www.derbycamra.org.uk/winter-beer-festival.

Posted by: Heather Knibbs on February 21, 2018
The Roundhouse, Derby, UK
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