The 9th running of the Elysian Winter Beer Festival concluded this past weekend and Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer enjoyed a wonderful weekend volunteering on the bar on Saturday afternoon; closing out the fringe venues with delightful new friends on Saturday night; and exploring Ely’s sights on what turned out to be a gloriously sunny and mild winter Sunday. Words alone don’t convey enough credit to Ely & District CAMRA for organising such an awesome event…
Since our first visit in 2014, @ElyBeerFestival simply gets bigger and better every year. Given the physical constraints of The Maltings, year on year improvements are subtle, but nevertheless every year there are changes that improve the festival in tangible ways. For example, take the cask ale lineup. Although the total number on stillage at any one time—78 casks—was the same in 2018 as in 2017, the number of reserve casks was increased substantially; from 24 to 32. And the number of KeyKeg lines on the brewery bar was increased also; from 4 to 8.
Among other subtle things we observed on the brewery bar were KeyKegs being replaced with more of the same beer, and we saw Three Blind Mice tap at least one fresh cask of Milk Worm porter which was not listed as a reserve. Therein lies the beauty of brewery bars. Despite around a dozen beers that were published in the final list being no-shows, the net result was that more beer was available than ever before. Counting all the cask beer, including reserves, plus the KeyKeg beers, a total of around 110 different beers was offered. For those who may be interested, a copy of the updated final list may be downloaded here.
Year on year improvements weren’t only confined to The Maltings; improvements continued outside the main festival venue with the expanded fringe festival. Previous fringe venues Drayman’s Son and Townhouse were joined this year by 3At3 Real Ale & Craft Beer Cafe; originally a bottle shop and terrace cafe, since 2017 3At3 has added craft beer from KeyKeg to its offering. And longtime sponsor, the Prince Albert pub, continued their support of the festival too.
So, at the end of the day, the Ely Beer Festival is a hybrid event which combines all the familiar features of a CAMRA beer festival with an Ale Trail. If there’s a better example, we haven’t found one. If you think you have, please feel free to comment.