They say that the meaning of life is 42.
But for many, ‘drinking beer’ probably ranks quite highly among the reasons to exist, in spite of The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy reducing things to a number.
So it’s fitting that this year, the 42nd Steel City Beer and Cider Festival, has its largest ever range of beers, ales and ciders across its four days.
The festival began yesterday and continues today at noon, with thousands expected to descend on Sheffield and sink a few ales between now and the final day on Saturday.
The festival is based at Kelham Island Museum.
“Kelham Island is the centre of Sheffield’s real ale scene,” says organiser Andy Stephens.
“Kelham Island Museum is a fitting location for a festival – it seems to work really well.”
The festival will be home to more than 250 beers as well as more than 40 ciders and 20 keg beers.
Fitting with the scifi theme, there will be several drinks with a nod to the Douglas Adams’ film, including a pint of Star Trek – a 4.2 per cent pale ale from Wakefield, a Hitchcock, a 3.8 per cent pale ale from Mexborough and We Come In Peace, a US amber ale from South Wales.
“There is a little bit of a scifi theme because it’s the 42nd festival, and there are a few ales that tie into that” says Andy.
“Friday night is also our staff fancy dress night.
“I can see Louise making a Dalek costume as we speak.”
The museum will be decked out for the festival, including a marquee in the car park and live music in the entertainment room upstairs.
Tonight, northern soul and Motown outfit The Basement will be playing at 9pm.
On Friday, The Vegas Six will play ‘dirty rock ’n’ roll’ from 9pm and on Saturday there is a full itinerary of entertainment.
The Loxley Silver Band will play from 2pm to 4.30pm followed by The Slingshots at 5pm and a quiz at 9pm.
It promises to be a very busy weekend.
“We’re expecting about 5,000 to 6,000 people over the festival. We think it will be the biggest one yet.
“Sheffield has a very good local ale scene with lots of breweries nearby which will be getting involved.
“But we’ve also tried to include drinks that might not have been available in Sheffield before.
“So we’ve got pallets being sent up from Wales, from Stoke and from Manchester.
“It’s a real mix. “
Local tipples include 72 beers or ales from Sheffield, including Abbeydale, Fuggle Bunny, Exit 33 and True North.
There will also be plenty on offer for cider drinkers.
A 5.5 per cent Summer Berry by Derbyshire’s Ashover brewery will be available, as well as a mango cider from Cambridgeshire, a Welsh number called Black Dragon – at a hefty 7 per cent strength – and a Somerset Thatcher’s Big Apple.
Delving into keg beers, why not try a pint of Cloud 9 Wit, a beer brewed with mango and orange peel?
The festival is on from 5-11pm on Wednesday, from 12-11pm Thursday and Friday and 12-10pm on Saturday.
Admission is free all day on Wednesday, while on Thursday will be £1 after 5pm, £2.50 on Friday before 5pm and £5 after.
On Saturday it will be £3.
The museum is expected to be packed out on Friday and Saturday, so get down early, warns Andy.
Several pubs around the area will also be getting in on the action.
Expect watering holes like The Fat Cat, The Kelham Island Tavern, The Gardeners Rest and The Shakespeare to be very busy throughout the festival.
“It’s going to be a really good weekend and I know the people of Sheffield are going to come and support it.”
We’ll drink to that.
Three pubs you should check out near to the festival
What: Proper little pub
Where:Neepsend Lane, Kelham
What:Real ale boozer
Where: Gibraltar Street, near West Bar
The Fat Cat
When: 8pm Mondays
Where: Alma Street, Kelham Island
On Monday evenings, The Fat Cat plays host to a traditional pub quiz alongside £1.50 pints of local ale Kelham Island Best.
It’s also curry night, with £3.50 curries from 8pm.
We tried this quiz, it isn’t particularly easy, but it is a good evening in a top pub.
Local ale picks
There are 72 beers and ales from Sheffield at the festival, and many more from South Yorkshire and wider Yorkshire.
Abbeydale Brewery is bringing five drinks includng an 11% Last Rites, a barley wine style ale with an aroma of caramel.
Bradfield is offering a Belgian Blue, a fruity beer with winter berry overtones and a blue tint to the head.
In terms of being very local, Kelham Island Brewery is offering an IPA Of The Dead, an IPA with hops and citrus fruits, as well as four others.
Steel City is offering a drink called Life The Universe And Everything, a transatlantic pale ale with a tropical fruit aroma.
Sheffield Brewery is offering six pale ales including a chocolatey-infused Sheffield Porter, while Neepsend offers a Coffee Oatmeal Stout.
Drinks you can try at the festival this weekend
Three tipples worth a go
CIDER: LEMON, 5.4%
This Cockeyed Cider concoction is perfect for those looking for a slightly unusual flavoured fruit tipple.
It’s a refreshing blend of tangy citrus fruit and Somerset cider.
BEER: BUTTERMUCH, 5.5% Flavoured stout
This ‘dark winter warmer’ balances sweet and bitter and is said to be very moreish.
The hop bitterness is balanced by butterscotch sweetness.
KEG: GAMMA RAY, 5.4%
This keg beer is a blend of ‘juicy malts and tropical aromas’. It also has whole leaf American hops.
The beer is dry-hopped for days, giving it a punchy aroma ‘so you can smell it from miles away’.