34th LUTON BEER and CIDER FESTIVAL Report

The 34th Luton Beer & Cider Festival was held, as usual during the February Half Term week was as popular as ever.

Over the three days of the festival, we welcomed more than 2000 visitors who enjoyed the 109 real ales, 22 ciders & perries and 33 different bottled beers that were on offer. Over 840 gallons of ale, 342 gallons of cider & perry and 509 bottles of beer were consumed during the festival!

The ale of the festival, as voted by our visitors was Fyne Ales-Jarl Fyne Jarl - Scotlandclosely followed by Loch Lomond-Southern Summit and Chiltern-Earl Grey IPA. We always produce an award certificate for the winning brewery and we like to organise a branch trip to present it in person. The Fyne Ale brewery is however in Glen Fyne in west Scotland so it's a bit far for the meagre funds of your local CAMRA branch, the certificate has therefore been posted!

For those cider fans out there wondering why we don't have a cider/perry of the festival, that's because not enough of you voted for one - so you know what to do next time!

On Thursday evening we presented the branch Pub of the Year award to Stev and Nikki of the Black Lion in Leighton Buzzard. Apologies are due to Nikki, Stev and all of those present for my Norman Collier (remember him?) impression on the mic - technical gremlins - sorry.

Shooting StarsThe musical entertainment (without technical gremlins thankfully) was provided by the excellent Shooting Stars on Friday evening and local institution Cerberus on Saturday night.

We'd like to thank all those who visited and especially those who provided valuable feedback via comments forms and/or Twitter. We have to say that the comments were pretty overwhelmingly positive, especially regarding the choice and quality of the beers - we are glad as this is the aspect at which we work the hardest. At the same time we acknowledge the less positive comments regarding the food (out of our direct control, honest); we are however seriously planning to change this for the next festival so watch this space.

We went for a simpler festival programme this time being a single A3 sheet as opposed to the traditional A5 booklet. We're glad that this was well received being easier to find the basic information needed without having to wade through the pages. This format is considerably easier for us to produce and also could be printed at the last minute enabling the beer lists to be more accurate.

Every year we also get negative comments about the lack of seating available, especially in the evenings. Unfortunately we only have so much space and we don't want to start removing tables and chairs halfway through the open sessions so we're really sorry but there's not a lot we can do about this.

CraftKeg BarFor the first time we had a 'Craft Keg' bar, don't be fooled by the name, this was real ale, just served via a different method. The beers on this bar tend to be those of more extreme flavours and styles from more modern breweries using more expensive ingredients. For example, the Three Blind Mice Russian Blud, at a whopping 11% ABV. Also the Boundary Filthy Animal, a hot chilli porter - this was the first Craft Keg beer to sell out! Our thanks go to Jolly Good Beer for all of their help with this bar. We think the beers on this bar went down well despite the higher prices so we'll look to do this again.

We must thank all of those local businesses and individuals who took the opportunity to sponsor a barrel. Do you know anyone with a special anniversary coming up sometime near next February? This is a great gift for them as the included festival beer tokens go down very well.

Mike Coombes, Festival Organiser