Saturday, 17 January 2009

More Winter Ales and drinking tales

One of the things to look forward to on January's dull winter days (apart from Spring, that is), is the extraordinary wealth of beer festivals early in the year. Many of these specifically celebrate Winter Ales which, to the uninitiated, are the heavier, richer and usually sweeter brews which were traditionally brewed to help fend off the cold. These include specific brews produced only in Winter, as well as styles such as Porters which are naturally heavier. As well as providing extra calories, they are also packed with vitamins and minerals to help keep body and soul together.

I've already mentioned the Winter Ale Festival in Manchester which starts next Wednesday, but for those in London, the Cambridge Winter Ales Festival - which has actually been running longer - takes place next week too, and may be more accessible.

Once you've got back into the swing of beer festivals, then they come thick and fast in 2009, as the list of a 'A Year of Beer Festivals' on the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) website shows. Two close to my neck of the woods include the Battersea Beer Festival beginning on the 11th February, the Sussex Beer Festival at Hove in Sussex, on 12 March and a week later the 25th London Drinker Beer Festival at the Camden Centre in Bidborough Street, opposite St Pancras station.

But there are plenty of others to choose from around the country if any of these is not convenient. In addition to the large festivals organised by local CAMRA groups, there are also any number of smaller, pub-based festivals, with anything from 20 to 120 beers over a weekend.

So, as if you need an excuse, there'll be one close to you!

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