The 37th Summer Beer & Cider Festival is now underway at Admirals Park in Chelmsford. It runs through Saturday and Mr Fueled by Beer has just returned from his volunteer stint working the beer bar on opening day…
Since Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer attended Chelmsford’s Winter Beer Festival in 2014 (read about it) we’ve been wanting to return for the summer event. The winterfest was one of the best organized and most friendly CAMRA festivals we’ve been to and it can now be said that the summer event is likewise.
The Chelmsford summer festival makes for a great Fueled by Beer trip: fast, frequent trains run from London Liverpool Street with typical journey time around 35 minutes. The festival venue, Admirals Park, is an easy 20 minute walk from the train station. Naturally I made my trip using public transit from end to end.
From my front door to the bus to Reading Station, then train from Reading to Paddington, then Paddington to Liverpool Street on the tube, then train from Liverpool Street to Chelmsford, and finally the walk to the venue took all of 2:20. I could have saved maybe 30 minutes by driving but I would have had to drive like a maniac on the M4/M25/A12, not get held up by traffic/accidents/construction, and even then it would cost about £8 more in fuel than taking the train. That’s why Fueled by Beer is also subtitled A Carbon-Neutral Beer Blog.
On the surface the Chelmsford event is just another outdoor beer festival: large marquees, rows of cask beer, real cider, food stalls, porta-potties, entertainment (some provided by the festival, some by unsuspecting festival-goers). However under the surface Chelmsford incorporates several ‘extra mile’ touches we’ve seen individually at other festivals, but never together to this extent in one place. Collectively they make for an altogether better experience…
- CAMRA bar featuring cask ales from around the UK – roughly 260 different beers
- CAMRA LocAle bar featuring Essex breweries – roughly 60 different beers
- Seven dedicated brewery bars (five provided by Essex breweries) – roughly 60 different beers
- Full spectrum of light to dark, session to strong cask ales all racked and ready
- Not all casks tapped at once; a representative sample to preserve a selection throughout festival
- Special one-off commemorative brews celebrating Chelmsford CAMRA’s 40th year in 2015
- International bar – focus on Belgium – roughly 100 different beers notable for draft selections
- More diverse food offerings including Japanese, that’s a first at any festival I’ve attended
- Simple admission policy: free to CAMRA members; free to public before 5:30 pm Tues-Fri; buy/rent glass at entry, pay cash at the bars
- Smoke-free site (including e-cigs)
I took some photos around 5 pm which show a relatively uncrowded opening day. It will get progressively more crowded as the week wears on with Friday evening being especially manic (according to my coworkers who have worked there before). Saturday is family day with a lot more kids in attendance and a more casual vibe.
Obviously, as with any outdoor event, weather can have a bearing however I can safely say the marquees at Chelmsford are large enough to provide shelter to the masses if needed. A couple of brief downpours during my visit provided us with our most busy spells at the bar. Click an image to open the gallery.