Last weekend Newbury hosted its 10th annual Real Ale Festival. West Berkshire’s principle town, just 18 miles from Reading, has a very different look and feel. To see if this difference would be reflected in its alefest, Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer rode the rails to their second UK beer festival…
Newbury’s festival site, like Reading’s, is located a short walk from the railway station, which lends itself nicely to a car-less Fueled by Beer trip (Google Map).
And Newbury’s event, being staged in a park setting, looks and feels a lot like the Washington Brewers Festival with its mix of tents and grassy outdoor space, a music stage for entertainment, and a variety of food vendors providing solid sustenance.
The Newbury event however scaled for an attendance of around 4000 people giving it a vibe that feels closer to the Bremerton Summer Brewfest. Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer enjoyed more than six hours of excellent real ale, music, and food.
Attendance was noticably more family oriented and generally more friendly than we encountered at the Reading Beer Festival. And the quality of the musical entertainment was higher too. All in all, about as good as it gets.
Perhaps the most notable difference between the Reading and Newbury festivals derives from the organizers. Reading is presented by the local CAMRA branch and focuses heavily on LocAle breweries. Newbury, on the other hand, is a commercially sponsored event, with proceeds going to several charities.
Newbury’s real ale selection was really quite remarkable with fully 60% of the casks representing Midlands brewers. I guess if you’re one of those world famous Burton upon Trent brewers, sending your casks of Black Country Mild down the A34 is the most direct way to reach pubs spread across the south of England. And it takes you directly through Newbury, not Reading.
Anyway, the cask ales on offer broke down as follows…
Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer adopted the same modus operandi that served us so well at the various Seattle area festivals we attended. Basically avoid the multitude of Pales, IPAs, etc., and focus on Mrs FBB’s preferred Porters and Stouts, while Mr FBB targets less common styles.
From a starting point of 144 cask ales, we narrowed down to 22 that met our criteria. Between us we had 16 tokens each worth a ½ pint. So, 12 went to our preferred brews while the other 4 went on others. Specifically…
Mrs Fueled by Beer
- Box Steam Brewery, Holt, Wilts: Funnel Blower Porter
- Burton Bridge Brewery, Burton on Trent: Bramble Stout
- Howard Town Brewery, Glossop, Derbys: Dark Peak Porter
- Mr Grundy’s Brewery, Derby: 1914 Stout
- Old Bike, Herefords: Old Bike Dry Cider
- Palmers Brewery, Bridport, Dorset: Tally-Ho Strong Ale 🙂
- Purple Moose Brewery, Porthmadog, Wales: Dark Side of the Moose ESB
- Two Cocks brewery, Enborne, Berks: 1643 Puritan Stout
Mr Fueled by Beer
- Black Iris Brewery, Derby: Chai-pa IPA
- Burton Bridge Brewery, Burton on Trent: XL Mild
- Castle Rock Brewery, Nottingham: Black Gold Mild 🙂
- Howard Town Brewery, Glossop, Derbys: Milltown Mild
- Kingstone Brewery, Tintern, Wales: 1503 Tudor Olde Ale
- Springhead Brewery, Retford, Notts: The Leveller Trappist-style Ale
- Titanic Brewery, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffs: Chocolate & Vanilla Stout
- Windsor & Eton Brewery, Windsor, Berks: Eton Boatman Golden Ale
Our personal favorites are denoted by smiley faces.
A word about our public transit experience. It was so reminiscent of our trips by ferry over to Bremerton for their summer brewfest, where numbers were swelled significantly by attendance from Seattle. And it was same at the Newbury festival.
We boarded a train in Reading and a bunch of ‘beer festival types’ got on with us. It’s pretty sad when you can spot beer festival-goers by appearance alone. Anyway, upon arrival in Newbury, there was a solid stream of folks traipsing from the station to the festival ground.
Then, six or seven hours later, when Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer were back at Newbury Station waiting for their train back to Reading, a bunch of the same beer festivalers showed up again. Safety in numbers – gotta love it!