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Biggest beer festival expected at St Wulfram's this year

Grantham CAMRA is brewing its biggest and best ever real ale festival for 2019.

The popular event returns during October 17 to 19 for three days and evenings from Thursday to Saturday in the magnificent setting of St Wulfram’s Church.

This year sees several new changes, which follow on from a fresh new team to head the 350-member organisation, elected earlier this year.

Fr Stuart Cradduck at last year's beer festival. (9599788)
Fr Stuart Cradduck at last year's beer festival. (9599788)

Among the changes, the number of real ales will increase from the advertised 60 of last year to a record 80.

Last October’s festival sold 72 casks, helped by reserves and last-minute support from local breweries when stocks started to run short.

There will also be 30 ciders and perries, an increase of ten on last year, again due to such high demand.

Branch chairman Rob Hamnett-Day said: “Last year had a much bigger attendance than before as word of mouth spreads and we increase our advertising and more people from Grantham and further afield are visiting us.”

Rob says the biggest change this year will be a new token-based system, meaning no cash at the main bar, and card payments for tokens.

“As a festival, we want to be seen to be moving along with the times and most people nowadays use card payments.”

There will be several places where people can buy tokens and unused tokens can be returned for cash or donated to charity.

Another change sees the introduction of a bar serving Keg beers.

Keg beers have courted controversy within the wider CAMRA movement, though Rob says the keg beers to be served at Grantham will still be classed as ‘real ale’. This is because they undergo a secondary fermentation in the storage container before consumption and are not artificially carbonated.

The Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) started in the mid-1970s in a bid to stop the increase of Keg beers, as much was not ‘real ale.’ Such beers, like John Smith’s, would be fermented at the brewery and delivered to a bar at its current state for consumption.

Camra saw this as a threat to ‘real ale’ and started to campaign. Since then, Camra has become the largest consumer group in the UK with almost 200,000 members.

In recent years, some breweries have started putting ‘real ale’ into kegs, which allows bars to use dispense systems and chillers to serve the beer differently, but it is still real ale.

Rob further explained that the term ‘craft beer’ has arisen in the beer world, but there is no strict definition of ‘craft,’ but it is a widely accepted term for keg beers with unusual and different beers such as fruit and sour beers.

With such controversies over keg/craft beers in mind, Rob continued: “As a festival we will be ensuring that the keg beers we order and serve at the festival will meet the definitions of ‘real ale’ and uphold the values of Camra.”

Rob added: “This year will also see the return of the gin bar, prosecco bar and live music in the evenings. Plans are also underway to invite a children’s entertainer along for a Saturday afternoon session to help keep the younger generation amused, whilst the visitors can sample the drinks and take in the amazing building that is St Wulfram’s Church.”

Rob’s predecessor as chairman, Neville Lomas, is Grantham Camra’s beer festival organiser and will help choose the beers.

Neville has been involved in organising the Grantham beer festival for almost ten years and recalls how it has grown from just 30 beers and only six ciders and perries. Innovations like gin and prosecco bars followed, and now there will be keg beers.

He also praised the support of St Wulfram’s church and its rector Father Stuart for helping make the event the success it is today.

Neville added: “The festival has grown to be one of the biggest and best beer festivals in the region. St Wulfram’s is a beautiful setting. When it comes to the music, the acoustics are absolutely marvellous and people are wowed by it all.”

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