Beer Events Beer Festivals

Willingham Beer & Cider Festival

We’re getting involved in my (Yvan’s) village’s new beer festival. This shall mainly be a fun beer event for Willingham locals – with a great range of drinks available, live music, and a summer BBQ. But we’ll have some special stuff on the draught system too…

Presently looking at, hoping to justify, about 20 different cask ales plus 10 keg beers, and 10 good ciders and one or two keg ciders.

Seems early days yet – but I know 29th June will be upon us in the blink of an eye!

There will be more information on the festival website, so keep an eye on that:

Or on the social medias: @WillinghamBeer or /WillinghamBeer

Beer Events Beer Festivals Beer News

Putting the KEG into CAMRA

Slimline 30L KeyKegWow… what a difference a few years makes. I joined CAMRA about 8 years ago – becoming an active member in the North Hertfordshire branch, and eventually branch cellarman for our beer festivals. Despite moving away to Cambridge I have still filled this technical role for the branch over the last few years. I was a software¬†engineer back then, now I run my little beer distribution business – and most of my volume is kegged beer. I’m surprised I didn’t get barred from CAMRA already – spreading the keg love as I do!

But what is really changing is CAMRA – stepping forward into the future. The CAMRA Technical Advisory Group (TAG) passed “KeyKeg” as being “real ale”-compatible some years ago, and in fact I had KeyKegs hooked up to handpumps at the Letchworth Garden City CAMRA beer festival in 2011. Last year support for KeyKeg was further reinforced by a CAMRA AGM motion being passed stating that CAMRA should support KeyKeg as a real ale format. (Much like supporting “real ale in a bottle” for example.)

Coming out of this the Manchester winter beer festival in January may well have been the first CAMRA beer festival to feature a dedicated British kegged beer bar. And KeyKegs have been seen at CAMRA fests here and there since the original TAG decision.

Now in my role supporting North Hertfordshire CAMRA beer festivals combined with my role promoting great beers (that I sell, obviously) I am being allowed to sponsor and run a “real ale in a keg” bar at the inaugural Stevenage Winter Beer & Cider Festival which kicks off this Thursday 4th of February. Easy to get to from Cambridge and London – if you’re into beer, and interested in this historic time in the history of CAMRA you should come along and marvel at there being a KEG bar at a CAMRA beer festival! And, of course, enjoy the awesome beers.

Stevenage Fest AdKeyKeg allows breweries to produce well carbonated, pressure-dispensed beer that falls within the definition of “real ale” when unfiltered, unpasteurised, and “live” – because pressurised CO2 does not need to come into contact with the beer for dispense so it doesn’t suffer from the “extraneous CO2” problem. It isn’t quite so simple however – as filtered beer can be put in KeyKegs too. At the end of the day I judge a beer by how it tastes and don’t worry much about how “real” it is. But within the CAMRA context one must be a little more sensitive to the technicalities. So I have selected beers for the festival that I know to be “live” – and equivalent to the same beers as they would/could be packaged in cask. (There is a grey area around “tank conditioning” in this… but this grey area affects cask as well as keg so we base our judgement on the “live yeast” factor more than anything.) The beers I have selected to showcase KeyKeg are below – featuring mainly styles I think only, or at least best, work with the higher carbonation and cooler serve temperature of keg dispense. What do you think – a good intro to the concept of keg beers for the uninitiated I hope. If it is popular I may have some specials in reserve to sneak on too ūüėČ

Brewery Beer Name ABV Notes
Cloudwater AUS Hopfen Weisse (Winter 2015/16) 6.5% Rich NZ/Aus Hopped Wheat Beer
Cloudwater Dark Lager (Winter 2015/16) 5.5% Dark Yet Curiously Light & Hoppy
Cloudwater IPA (Winter 2015/16) 8.0% Best Cloudwater IPA Yet
Hammerton Islington Lager 4.7% Steam Lager
Pig & Porter Elusive Pig II 5.7% Black IPA (Comet dry-hopped)
Pig & Porter Honey Hill Wit 5.0% Honey Witbier
Siren Calypso ‚Äď Citra/Centennial/Equinox 4.0% Dry-Hopped Berlinerweisse
Siren Pompelmocello 6.0% Sour Grapefruit IPA
Weird Beard MAC Spreadsheet Ninja 5.5% Mosaic/Amarillo/Centennial Dry-Hop Pilsner
Weird Beard Saison 14 6.0% Dry Hopped Saison
Wild Weather Khareef 2.4% Small Beer, Big Hops
Wild Weather Message in a Potel 7.5% ‚ÄúOversized Stout‚ÄĚ
Wild Weather Peach of a Weekend 5.6% Peachy Hoppy Sour

I was also asked to write some text for the festival guide to explain KeyKeg, so I reproduce that here:

Real Ale in KeyKeg

Keg?! Why is this dirty word seen at a CAMRA beer festival? The history of CAMRA begins with keg – when breweries decided that cask was too expensive and difficult and keg was the future. But if expense is all that matters then a lot of other corners get cut – lower quality ingredients, cheap adjuncts used instead of malt – and the product is then filtered and pasteurised to give it a long shelf-life. This is the horror of insipid kegged beer that was taking over in the 70s and necessitated the founding of CAMRA to campaign for the survival of good beer. The big brewers gave keg a bad rap!

BUT – keg need not be this way. Many microbreweries today are experimenting with keg – especially for beers more suited to higher carbonation levels and cooler serve temperatures. This new wave of microbrewery kegged beer is unpasteurised and unfiltered, full flavoured live beer – much of it keg-conditioned and produced the same way as cask. There is still a problem however – by CAMRA definition CO2 top-pressure is not compatible with ‚Äúreal ale‚ÄĚ. Even cask conditioned beer doesn‚Äôt qualify when CO2 aspirators are used – so a standard top-pressure keg certainly cannot.

Which is where the KeyKeg comes in. In a KeyKeg beer is contained within a ‚Äúbag‚ÄĚ inside the keg. And the gas pressure squeezes the bag to push the beer out. The gas can be CO2 – or simply compressed air – but has no contact with the beer inside the bag. We now have a type of kegged beer that meets the CAMRA definition of ‚Äúreal ale‚ÄĚ – unpasteurised, unfiltered, live, and unsullied by ‚Äúextraneous CO2‚ÄĚ. Think of it being very much like ‚Äúreal ale in a bottle‚ÄĚ – ‚Äúreal ale in a keg‚ÄĚ! Approved by the CAMRA Technical Advisory Group (some years ago in fact) & there was a vote in favour of CAMRA supporting this form of real ale at the 2015 AGM – so this is all above board! KeyKegs have already been seen at various CAMRA festivals in the last few years, we had two at the last Letchworth Garden City festival – in that case vented to lower carbonation and served via handpump.

Do not worry about the future of proper cask ale however! Many beers work best in cask Рyou won’t find many breweries kegging bitters and best bitters for starters. The KeyKeg format suits zesty hop-forward pales, sours, wheats, saisons, lagers, and some stronger beers. However 1-way recyclable KeyKegs add to costs and a 30 litre KeyKeg has similar (if not greater) overheads to fill as a 41 litre cask. Which is one of the factors behind the higher pricing of these kegged beers. Cask ale is quite safe.



Beer Festivals

London Vegan Beer Festival

#LVBF14 logoI’m neither a vegan or a vegetarian – so it was with some trepidation that I decided “yes” to Jolly Good Beer being invited to the¬†London Vegan Beer Festival. I respect people who choose the option to forgo meat in their diet, doubly so if it is¬†meat and all other animal products as vegans do. I even¬†sometimes wish I had the resolve to make the same sacrifice, but cheese would be my downfall, and probably seafood. So I do my best to eat ethically – but whilst knowing there will always be ethical compromise in participating in the animal products supply chain.

One area where there need be no compromise is with good beer. Use of animal products in good beer production is, in my opinion, non-essential. The non-vegan nature of a lot of beer is a¬†result¬†of a market that “drinks with its eyes” to create a demand for an ideal of beer that is “pin bright”. And a fine technical achievement that is too… however my experience of side-by-side tastings of fined and unfined beers shows no real advantage to using finings. (It is, of course, far more complex than this in reality… feel free to have a chat about it if you’re interested.)

Anyway – enough technicalities. Vegans can celebrate the new wave “craft beer movement” with everyone else as, for the most part, it is a world of vegan friendly beers. We also have more and more breweries going 100% unfined for everything including cask. Of the breweries Jolly Good Beer deals with we have three that are 100% unfined: Bexar County Brewery (Peterborough), Moor Beer (Somerset), and Weird Beard Brew Co¬†(London). Moor is a strong proponent of unfined beer – arguing that it reliably tastes¬†better than the fined alternative. This is widely debated – but with Moor beers being amongst the most highly rated in the British craft brewing scene¬†there seems to be some substance to Moor’s argument. Then there is the growing keg market, nearly all progressive flavourful keg beer is vegan friendly. We have several examples of vegan-friendly keg beers from breweries who fine the cask equivalents due to market demand for cask beers to be bright, or rather the perception that hazy beer is “off”. (Beer being vegan-friendly is not only about finings of course, and some of these breweries will produce things like lacto/milk stouts and beers with things like chocolate in them that may not be vegan friendly.)

Anyway – on to the important stuff: the beer¬†-our main strategy for the beer we’re bringing to LVBF is: bring far too much¬†(we hope), and the more people drink the more different beers we will be able to present… *hint*hint*!¬†Additionally there is a focus on providing a diversity of¬†styles; lager, nitro stout, hoppy pale beer, hoppy red beer, hoppy dark beer, wheat beer, farmhouse ale…¬†The confirmed beer lineup, including “backups”, is as follows. But please note that as some beers benefit from settling time we cannot guarantee the order they’ll be on nor that they’ll be on at all. We won’t serve anything we don’t think is 100% fantastic to drink.


  • Waen LlagerThe Waen Brewery¬†– Llanidloes, Powys, Wales

    Llager (4.2%) a fantastic Welsh lager Рunfiltered, unfined, uncompromising.

    backup: more Llager! Llager, llager, llager!

    All Waen bottled beers are vegan friendly, as are all their porters and stouts  Рas is the Llager of course!

  • Infra RedHardknottMillom, Cumbria

    Infra Red¬†(6.2%)¬†There are Black IPAs all over the place these days, so why not a Red IPA? “Some people like beers that are pale and hoppy. Some people like beers that are darker and sweeter. Some people just see red whenever they hear the words ‚Äúcrystal malt‚ÄĚ We‚Äôll be honest in saying that not only is there a huge amount of hops in this beer, but also a healthy chug of crystal malt.” Deep ruby red, earthy orange and caramel nose, sweet toffee start, peppery dark roast parsnips and a long bitter finish.

    Azimuthbackup:¬†Azimuth (5.8%)¬†A clean flavoured IPA made with a mix of hops from around the Pacific rim, Some West Coast USA C hops, but rounded off with a balance of NZ hops just for the hell of it. At 5.8% it‚Äôs a perfect beer geek’s session beer.

    All Hardknott beers in bottle and keg are vegan friendly.

  • Moor¬†Somerset¬†(depends on settling*)

    Moor-IllusionIllusion¬†(4.5%)¬†Illusion is inspired by the awesome beer style created in the States known as Imperial Black Ale (or Black IPA, or whatever you want to argue it should be called). Moor source the special malt required from Germany and the hops from America to create a beer of stunning depth and complexity.¬†The result is a beer that wraps all the wonderful hop profiles of a pale ale inside a silky black exterior. It is truly an Illusion that deceives your eyes and dazzles your taste buds.¬†Initially brewed as a special release, we love drinking this beer so much that we keep it on year-round. It is great on its own or with food ‚Äď particularly at BBQs, including vegan ones!

    Moor-Radiancebackup:¬†Radiance (5.0%) “This is the one I love to enjoy with friends on warm summer evenings. On cold winter nights it takes me back to those great times. Radiating a beautiful golden hue, the fresh herbal aroma invites you in and insists that you stay. Lovely cereal flavours give way to a clean, dry finish. As good by the fire pit as by the fireplace.” – Justin, Brewer/Owner Moor Beer

    All Moor beers (keg, cask, and bottle) are vegan friendly.
    * Moor beers are keg conditioned – which means they have a lot of sediment in the keg. If we treat them carefully in transit they may be good to go on the day. If we are not happy with them we will switch in some of the other backups instead. We shall try our best!

  • Wit-Marie_kegIlkley Brewery¬†– Ilkley, Yorkshire

    Wit Marie (4.5%) Originally brewed for the inaugural IndyManBeerCon in 2012, it became a firm favourite nationwide and is now a recurring special from Ilkley Brewery. Wit Marie is a naturally hazy Belgian Wit Bier, brewed using specially sourced yeast. Ilkley also add orange peel and coriander seeds to compliment the floral aroma and to give the beer added depth of flavour. Delicately delightful.

    SiberiaKegbackup: Siberia (5.9%) Brewed in collaboration with Melissa Cole, we have used world famous Yorkshire Rhubarb to add a hint of sourness. There is earthy spice, and fresh vanilla from this naturally hazy Saison. Refreshing on the palate, with a long, satisfying bittersweet finish. Proving a big hit in the USA, this version is brewed specifically for keg dispense, and the carbonation lifts all of the composite flavours beautifully.

    Ilkley’s bottled beers are all vegan friendly, and¬†of their keg the¬†Wit Marie and Siberia are as well.

  • lanterne kegSummer WineHolmfirth, Yorkshire

    Lanterne Rouge (4.0%) –¬†Tour de France Special! It is a red farmhouse ale – a classic French beer style more commonly known as “saison”, this is brewed using French Aramis hops. I have no brewery notes for this but I’d expect typical saison richness, slight funky fruit, and spicy tones from the Aramis.

    backup: TBC

    All Summer Wine beers in bottle and keg are vegan friendly.

  • Axe EdgeBuxton¬†– Buxton, Derbyshire

    Axe Edge (6.8%) Full flavoured, strong India Pale Ale. Now hopped with Amarillo, Citra and Nelson Sauvin. This beer has a pale straw-amber body, and pours with a full creamy head. Its complex flavours include mandarin orange, schnapps, pineapple, and juicy tropical fruits. It is warmingly alcoholic with a dry finish. [It will take all my willpower not to drink all of this one myself!]

    Wild Boarbackup: Wild Boar (5.7%) Wild Boar pours a pale straw colour with a fluffy white head. It has aromas of spicy lime and mango, with distinct flavours of honey malt and fruit punch, followed by a dry bitter finish.

    All Buxton beers in bottle and keg are vegan friendly.

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  • Outstanding StoutOutstandingBury, Lancashire

    Stout (5%) A true “nitro stout” – think the fantastic texture and look of Guinness but with bundles more flavour and vegan friendly. Brewed to be truly outstanding.

    No backup… we have 50 litres of the stout!

    All Outstanding keg products are vegan friendly.


Bexar County Brewery –¬†Peterborough, Cambridgeshire

We have three cask ales supplied “bright” by Peterborough’s Bexar County Brewery, huge thanks to owner-brewer Steve for sorting this out for us! Bexar¬†produces a lot of fun beers that are usually a bit different and exciting – and our¬†three beers from him¬†certainly shows this I think. Bexar is a 100% unfined brewery – so all beers they produce are vegan friendly aside from some specialities that should be obvious (i.e. lacto/milk stouts that use lactose).

  • San Antonio de BejarSan Antonio de Bejar (4.1%)¬†Bexar’s take on the “pale and hoppy” style. With a silent “j” in the name. Like the brewery name it is pronounced “bear”… what is it with Texans…?! ūüėČ





  • Coffee Mild Pump ClipTexas Pecan Coffee Mild (3.9%)¬†Non-traditional mild with a hint of pecan coffee imported from San Antonio specially for this brew. Dark and delicious with the taste of coffee. A hint of pecan to finish.





  • Vegan Vampire Juice (blueberry)Vegan Vampire Juice (Blueberry) (6.0%) ¬†A refreshing wheat beer with a fruity twist, this is the blueberry version – made by adding real blueberries to the cask! Not¬†a special just for this event, Bexar has been doing various editions of VVJ for a while. A regular find at East Anglian beer festivals. We only have a “pin” of this, that’s 4.5 gallons, so get in quick!



Apple Cottage LogoApple CottageBaldock, Hertfordshire

Last, but not least, and also not beer… we have some fun vegan-friendly ciders from my friends at Apple Cottage. A pint of cider – one of your 5-a-day, right? Maybe your doctor wouldn’t agree, however it makes for a fantastic drinking option for people with gluten, wheat, and barley related allergies. We only have 20 litres of each of these – enjoy them while they last!

  • Apple Crumble (Med Dry)
    This cider has been made with apples from local orchards from around Baldock using a blend of different varieties with no chemical additives. This is a medium dry cider that has a distinct flavour.
  • Ginger Whinger (Sweet)
    This cider is made from local orchards around Baldock using a variety of apples with no chemical additives. slow fermentation keeps all the natural flavours to this fruity cider, smooth, sweet with plenty of flavour, matured in ginger storage containers giving it an extra ginger taste. The first barrel out went to Hitchin Beer Festival 2013 and won Cider of the Festival.
  • KT (Medium/Sweet)Made from a blend of Katy apples, fruity, appley aroma, well balanced finish, very light straw in colour with exceptional taste easy to drink.
  • Rumble – rum cask cider (Sweet)
    This cider has been made from local orchards from around Baldock using a blend of apple varieties, made without any chemicals or additives. Similar to Swish Cider, this Cider has been matured in Oak Rum Casks for a number of months giving it a blackcurrant sweet and fruity flavour.

Now, I’ve got to finish building the bar for this event…

Beer Festivals

Spring Beer Festivals

Spring Blossom at Coniston
Spring Blossom at Coniston

I love a good beer festival – they’re excellent ways to explore a greater range of beers than are normally available. Part of the inspiration behind Jolly Good Beer is to help beer festivals out – in both expanding their range, supplying special requests where possible, and for those new to festivals we can also lend a hand and technical knowledge.

No need for the latter in the following cases however, three excellent festivals run by some of the most knowledgeable cellar folk in North Hertfordshire. Jolly Good Beer is helping out with all of them to varying degrees – from simply filling in the Coniston gaps in the Half Moon’s “every CBoB winner since 1996” list through to supplying a majority of the Our Mutual Friend’s list.

The Our Mutual Friend is an excellent pub on the edge of Stevenage – a multiple North Herts CAMRA “Pub of the Year” winner owned and run by beer lovers. They seek variety in their festivals lists and have asked Jolly Good Beer to help out with their festival that starts next week¬†Thursday April 24th. Here’s what we have going to them:

  • Coniston Bluebird¬†(3.6%) –¬†1998 Champion Beer of Britain & still going strong
  • Elland¬†Nettlethrasher (4.4%)¬†– copper coloured traditional “strong bitter”
  • Five Points¬†Pale Ale (4.4%) – a fresh, zesty, aromatic pale ale
  • Hardknott¬†Continuum (4.0%) – robust golden bitter with a big hop punch
  • Hardknott¬†Lux Borealis¬†(3.8%) – pale straw session beer with Aurora hops
  • Ilkley¬†Joshua Jane (3.7%) – nut-brown traditional Yorkshire bitter
  • Ilkley¬†Gold (3.9%) – perfectly balanced golden session ale
  • Ilkley¬†Fireside Porter¬†(4.2%) – wickedly warming porter
  • Mallinsons Indulgence (3.7%) – pale with loads of the¬†4 classic “C” hops
  • Mallinsons Kiwi Classic (4.4%) – pale with loads of NZ hops:¬†Pacific Gem, Motueka, Nelson Sauvin
  • Weird Beard, Black Perle (3.8%) – milk coffee stout brewed with real coffee and Perle hops
  • Weird Beard, K*ntish Town Beard (5.6%) – hoppy “American Wheat Beer” brewed in collaboration with BrewDog’s Camden bar staff.
Our Mutual Friend beer linup
Our Mutual Friend beer linup
Coniston beers
Coniston beers

Moving a little north of Stevenage we have the Half Moon in Hitchin, another repeat PotY winner who’re regaining the trophy for 2014. This is Howard and Wendy’s “10th Anniversary Beer Festival” – celebrating a decade running the pub – and it’ll feature an amazing 60 different beers. This festival also starts next Thursday April 24th! (A good time for a train trip to North Herts?) A highlight of this festival is that Howard has collected together EVERY “CAMRA Champion Beer of Britain” since 1996. Jolly Good Beer helped out here by running all the way to Coniston to fetch:

  • Coniston Bluebird (3.6%) – 1998 Champion Beer of Britain and even now, 16 years later, it maintains a “99-for-style” in RateBeer. Fantastic.
  • Coniston No.9 Barley Wine (8.5%) – 2012 Champion Beer of Britain

That’s all we’re doing for the fest… but we’re very happy to have helped out and think the full list is absolutely fantastic. It was an excellent excuse for a bit of hillwalking followed by refreshments in Coniston Brewery’s own Black Bull pub.

Looking down on Coniston from the Old Man
Looking down on Coniston from the Old Man
Black Bull, Coniston
Black Bull, Coniston

Finally, a little further north again, we have the¬†Baldock Independent Beer Festival¬†starting on Friday May 2nd and running through Saturday and Sunday. This excellent festival is run by local enthusiasts to raise funds for charity. We haven’t finalised the list but it’ll feature many of the breweries already mentioned plus Summer Wine Brewery and Redemption Brewing Co¬†beers will be making an appearance. Perhaps some other goodies from London as well if we get our hands on them in time. The photo below shows a selection of what we have lined up for Baldock.

Some Baldock Beer Festival beers
Some Baldock Beer Festival beers

Currently we also have beers at or destined for the Bank (Willingham), Mill (Cambridge), Maypole (Cambridge), Orange Tree (Baldock), Strathmore Arms (St. Paul’s Walden). And we’re working on getting the good stuff out further and wider and continuing to vary the range… as mentioned Summer Wine already teed up, we have an eye on Great Heck too, and Bristol Beer Factory down south – plus a wide-roving set of eyes focused on London. We’re always open to your suggestions… don’t hesitate to send your requests to @JollyGoodBeer on Twitter or via email to¬†– or just use the comment form below!