Pubpaper 868 – The Cross Keys Beer Festival

Posted: 14th August 2016 by santobugtio in Pub Paper, Writing
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The Festival Crowd at the Cross Keys

I’d not drank a lot over the last couple of weeks apart from my Saturday session at The Grayson Unity I detailed last week which then partially resulted in sleeping 18 hours on the Sunday. I don’t shift colds and infections quickly any more due to having an immune system less reliable than a Russian Anti Doping Lab, so it was only Friday last week before I felt like actually going to the pub again.   Luckily it was perfect timing for the Cross Keys Annual Beer Festival.  Friday night I’d done a 6 mile walk from Littleborough, past Summit, before returning to the Thwaites owned Summit pub for a pint on the way back, trying one of their seasonal beers it hit the spot for a halfway pint as a decent session ale.   Before heading home I stopped at the Cross Keys for a couple of halves from the selection of 24.   I sampled Blue Bee Sorachi Pale and Raw Brewing Solstice Summer Ale from the back room, both really nice beers.  On the Saturday I popped in for a few halves in the afternoon.  These included Yeovil British Summer Time and Stockport Ginger Tinge from the back room plus a couple from the main bar I forgot to note the name of, all four beers again being rather nice and perfectly kept as you come to expect from Hugh and his team.  He’s scaled the beer festival back from a couple of years ago when he ran 30 additional pumps in the back garden and it works better for both him, the pub and in my opinion the customer as well.  By Sunday tea time they were down to 12 or 13 beers, a decent range still, but showing healthy sales over the weekend.  There were still some great beers on tap, over the afternoon I had Revolutions Disintegration, VOG Light Headed, Brightside Boston Vienna Lager and VOG Miami Vice, taking home Titanic Nine Tenths Below as a night cap.  In total I’d tasted 11 beers from the festival and all were good beers.  All credit to Hugh, Ruth, Aimee, Tom and the rest of the team for the long hours over the weekend to make this a success.  The bands of Friday night, Saturday and Sunday afternoon also made a great atmosphere as people enjoyed their beer.  Hugh said this was the best beer festival so far and I am inclined to agree with him.

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The Back Bar at the Festival

Sitting there on Friday evening and Saturday / Sunday afternoon I noticed one thing, the split between men and women drinking the real ale is closing, I’d estimate at times it was 60-40 male / female, a split that you’d not have seen 5 or 10 years ago.  For people of all socioeconomic classes and age, real ale is the social leveller.   You’ll find it in the estate local, gastro pub in the shires, in big cities, and small villages.  Some might be serving mainstream brands such as Copper Dragon, Black Sheep etc, but drinkers of these relatively blands beers will be customers for less mainstream beer when elsewhere.   When you offer 24 real ales like the Cross Keys was over the weekend, you attract a typical social mix as a localised microcosm.  People were trying a range of beers, a fact bore out that only two beers had ran off by early Saturday afternoon and 13 beers were still on by Sunday afternoon.  A range of styles, colours and strengths gave something for everyone, something that you see in their regular selection of 7 pump ales all year round.   Women are not just going for easy drinking ales, they are going for the stronger stouts, the heavily hopped IPA as much as the traditional ale drinking gender.  It is going the other way, men are going for wine and spirits such as gin, of which I am a great fan.  IMG_20160814_160103_01The crossover in alcohol consumption means brands cannot advertise to a gender any more, they have to market across the board.    The Al Murray Pub Landlord stereotype is dead.  It’s about time too!  Some brands are trying to market their beers for women, mainly the bigger brands, but a lot of it comes across a condescending.  Your primary market is the beer drinker, your secondary market is the pub to ensure the drinker can get your beer.  Look at Vocation, their beers are getting everywhere in the Calderdale area and beyond and are frankly working flat out to keep up with demand, but Tom from there can still find out to help out the Beer Festival on and off all weekend, that is called supporting your pubs and therefore your customers.  Dedication is what you need, and those that are dedicated at all levels of the trade succeed.