IT’S the biggest event on Sheffield beer lovers’ calendar - and it’s already attracted thousands of thirsty visitors.
Drinkers have been able to sample an impressive 185 different real ales, plus continental beers and 30 ciders at the Steel City Campaign for Real Ale Beer and Cider Festival, held this year in Ponds Forge.
Crowds who have attended the event ranged from serious beer tickers, who travel the country discovering new real ales, to couples, students and groups of friends - some of whom were in colourful fancy dress.
The three-day festival, which started out at Sheffield University’s Tapton Hall of Residence in the 1970s, has been taking place for the 37th time - more than a decade before organiser Dave Williams was even born.
The 26-year-old, who works as a barman at Kelham Island Tavern, said: “It’s our biggest year yet and we hope that over the three days since we opened on Thursday, we will have attracted 5,000 people.
“We decided to hold the festival at Ponds Forge this time because it was in Cemetery Park, Sharrow, last year, in a marquee and it rained and rained.
“Now we have organised for it to be indoors, the weather has turned out to be fantastic but as far as venues go, you don’t get any more central or higher profile than Ponds Forge.”
Dave said the festival normally attracts beer lovers from across Britain and as far afield as continental Europe.
This year’s festival is twice the size of last year’s and has been organised by a team of 12, plus 80 volunteers from among CAMRA’s 1,200-strong Sheffield membership. They took four days to convert the leisure centre’s sports hall into a drinking venue.
Dave said: “Almost everyone behind the bar is an expert in different types of beer and can recommend anything that suits different people’s tastes. There are people here aged from 18 to 80, from enthusiasts to novices who just want to try different types of beer available.”
The highlight of the final day today, which is open from noon until 11pm, is a presentation of prizes to the best ales. There is also entertainment including a pub quiz in aid of Mencap this afternoon and music from the Yorkshire Teabags Skiffle Group tonight.
Bradfield Brewery’s Farmers Blond will be awarded Beer of Sheffield, while Thornbridge Brewery’s Raven black IPA beer is to be named Beer of the Festival.
Among those trying the beers - which cover a whole spectrum from pales to porters and stouts, and even feature a chocolate and chilli ale - was Sheffield University student Christie McIntosh, 18.
Christie said: “The only other festival I’ve been to was at Holmfirth where there were just 200 people. This is great - I’ve been trying to mix between dark and light beers.