A friend of mine keeps joking that I must be semi-retired. As I’m sure you realised from my recent posts, I have spent a lot of time visiting beer festivals! With Craft Beer Calling and Sheffield Beer Festival visited and written up, last week I visited Hull for their local CAMRA beer festival.
Steeped in History
Hull has been celebrating its UK City of Culture title this year. The city has held numerous events and activities to mark the occasion. One of the changes that has happened as part of this is that the Holy Trinity Church is now Hull Minster. An upgrade in title for a grand building, and what a superb venue to host a beer festival.
The festival had been delayed by a few months due to renovation work. To be honest, it still had a bit of a building site feel to it when you first walk in. However, once passed the threshold, a stunning interior greets you. Grand churches are something the English do very well. At 600 years old, Hull Minster has a great story to tell and inside it is steeped in history. The marble font, for example, dates to 1380. There are stunning stained-glass window displays that, although may not be medieval, are vibrant with colour. It survived two World Wars.
As with many other CAMRA beer festivals, Hull CAMRA kindly provide discounted/free entry for CAMRA members. So, this meant I just needed to part way with £1 for a half glass, which also had a third pint measure. Good news for the beer ticker! I say glass, due to venue restrictions, it was re-enforced plastic. Immediately to either side, there was a presentation of food stalls, including the Minster’s own offering of teas and cakes. There was also familiar CAMRA festival fayre in the form of Piper’s Crisps and Merry Berry Truffles (Oddfellows).
The bars were set up along the North, East and South aisles around the chancel. Two bars were hand pull, one bar was gravity dispense. Gravity dispense is directly from the cask that is usually horizontally racked to around hip to head height.
Complex Token System
Before I talk about the beer, I’m going to share the rather complex beer payment system that was in operation at this festival. Tokens were available at £1.60 each, which worked out at one token per half. This made perfect sense when I started walking round the South and East bars that were hand pull bars only. No prices, just one token for a half. Then, as I rounded to the North Bar, confusion hit. There were signs saying that thirds, halves and pints were available for this bar! Your token payment here was supplemented by you giving them money for a higher measure (pint), or vice versa for a smaller measure (third).
I quickly sought one of the volunteer staff to get some clarity on how the system worked here, and here’s what I was told. The South and East hand pull bars offered half measures only, priced at one token. The beers here were less than 4.5% ABV. The North Bar had beers above 4.5% ABV, and here you had the flexibility of choosing a different measure, with your token being supplemented as required. Clearer, but still a complex way of dealing with beer payment. It was exacerbated when I noticed that, despite pints being an available measure here, there didn’t seem to be any pint glasses!
I’m not entirely sure why there were measure restrictions on some bars and not others. I also think, this wasn’t a particularly easy system for beer festival veterans to follow, never mind a novice. Next time, I’d love to see this simplified. I’ve mentioned before, I’m a big advocate of the bingo card payment style, where money is crossed off the card as you buy beer. I think this would’ve been perfect here.
Payment complexity aside, there was a terrific range of beers. All of which were in better than average condition I would expect at a beer festival. Perhaps the time of year and environment suited the beers to condition well. These are my top three picks of the day.
Thornbridge – Jaipur (5.9%)
Ok, this is a bit cheeky as Jaipur is one of my all-time favourite beers. The reason I’ve listed it specifically here was the condition. It was high quality, super tasty and on the form that made me first fall in love with this beer.
Arbor Ales – I Speak for the Trees (5%)
This was a tropical fruit flavoured American Pale Ale. Hopped with Mosaic, amongst others, this was always bound to be something I’d enjoy. Again, the condition quality was very good.
Yorkshire Brewhouse – Faithful (4.7%)
This is a new micro-brewery from Hull, who also have beers called “Reet” and “Eey’up” in their portfolio! This was a cracking, traditional, full-bodied stout. Very warming in a fairly chilly chapel.
Not Long Until the Next One
Worthy of mention, after finishing at the festival, I had a wander over to the Lion and Key. Just a few minutes away, this is a cracking alehouse which has 14 ale lines. They predominantly serve beers from their own Cathead brewery, supported by other local producers. The interior is well decorated with beer memorabilia, in a friendly, cosy environment.
Next year, Hull beer festival will be returning to its April slot in the calendar, so not long to wait! This one is well worth the trip, even if it’s just to drink beer in an unusual venue.If you enjoy reading our content, please consider sharing with your friends using the sharing buttons at the bottom of each post. Also, you can subscribe to receive notifications about new blog posts via email. Simply enter your email address into the 'Subscribe to Mike's Tap Room' box at the top left of this page.