Tuesday, 10 July 2012


I will say at the outset that I love visiting a beer festival. However, I have to say I was quite flabbergasted to hear that the Nottingham Robin Hood Beer Festival has promised to be the first festival to have a THOUSAND beers on offer! Bloody hell, that is going to be a real 'head scratching job', strolling around the venue on the 10-13 October.
It raises the question, what is your ideal or favoured number to choose from?
I have to say around a hundred real ales is my type of ideal festival and more than enough to choose from. Although our jolly jaunt to the annual Winter Ales Festival in Manchester, was a delight, and had 200 beers available. (A date for the diary, 23-26 Jan., for 2013). 
Another favoured festival is in Colne, Lancashire. The Pendle Beer Festival boasts around 150. Just about a perfect number for many real ale fans.
Smaller festivals are also many people's choice. Perhaps in the 60-100 range. Skipton's annual event in North Yorkshire is superb, with a high percentage of local beers available. 
Which brings me back to the Robin Hood Festival. I really cant get my head round a choice of 1000 beers. I take my hat off to the organisers, and wish them every success. I am sure it will be a great festival, held in the grounds of Nottingham Castle. 
Phew...1000 beers! I just have the feeling that I will be frustrated by not being able to sample lots of my favoured beers, that will be on tap. I know that sounds a bit barmy, but I think you know where I am coming from. 
I was a little stuck for choice at the Winter Ales Festival, which had 200, although the range of quality ales was excellent. So a thousand beers at Nottingham! It's too many for me, it would be mental torture! However, would be interested on your views, in relation to the number of beers at this mega beer festival. :-) 



  1. well maybe my half pint is half full on this but for different reasons, my experience of festivals that go for such a large choice of beer (and Nottingham is one I include in that) isnt that you get frustrated with so much choice on offer, you get frustrated that so few of the ones you wanted to try are still left on.

    last year Nottingham beer festival sold around 80,000 pints, if we say on average a festival gets about 65 pints out of a cask to allow for spillages etc, thats around 1230 casks they need. so you can quite easily pick 1000 unique beers, but only around a quarter of them would then have more than 1 additional cask as backup.

    now you might say but still 65pints is alot beer, and it is, but Ive seen even in reasonably busy pubs whole casks consumed in under 3 hrs, and Nottingham beer festival is far from just a reasonably busy event at times.

    so ok they dont put them all on at once (not the space), and sensibly they realise you need to keep some back for Fridays/Saturdays (and Im still surprised loads of big festivals dont universally do that - GBBF being one) but you can quickly see the headline 1000 beers isnt quite necessarily the opportunity to sample 1000 beers, unless you literally camped at the place for the whole event.

    last year I think by Saturday there werent more than 200 unique beers on sale, in previous years theyve actually run out on Saturday, and I cant believe there are ever more than half
    their beer total available in any one session, though its probably somewhere between the two.

    so its not necessarily the number of beers they have, but the amount of those beers thats more important IMO, Id rather see less choice & more volume

    1. Cheers pal your positive comments are much appreciated :-)Thanks for taking time to respond to my blog.

  2. As the guy who orders all of the beers at Nottingham, a job I have been doing for well over 20 years now, I thought I should explain. Firstly though you might be surprised to learn that I don't necessarily disagree with your comments, in fact even though I must have organised at least a couple of hundred beer festivals over the years I am not particularly a fan of them, I much prefer visiting pubs and I really enjoy doing a pub crawl in a new town and discovering pubs I haven't tried before.
    Nottingham has always offered a very large range of real ales, we had 946 in 2011 and we passed the 400 mark at a festival in the late nineties. It was because until five years ago we had a grotty venue with very little to attract customers, it was even a bit of a hike out of the city centre and so we hit on the idea of going for a wide range of beers back at a time when nobody else was doing it, in fact we always offered more than the GBBF. This proved surprisingly popular and when we moved to our incredible new venue in the castle grounds right in the city centre our customers were lobbying us to offer even more beers than ever.Since moving attendances have trebled to over23,000.
    Over the years we have developed systems to handle a large number of casks so we don't find it too difficult to set up, although the ordering, programme notes and beer sign production have me burning the midnight oil.
    Every year we still get many customer asking for a larger and larger range and when we did 946 last year (we set out to do 850 but then had to bring in extra supplies) there was a clamour to go for a thousand this year - and we thought why not?
    Will we continue with over a thousand in future years? Who knows, it all depends on customer demand, trying to give customers what they want and we will try to respond to that in an effort to keep the beer festival successful. It is 36 years old this year and it is only by continually making changes and trying to improve it that we have kept going that long.

  3. Its really pleasing when people such as Steve who is so heavily involved in the Nottingham Beer Festival respond in such a positive manner and take your views on board.Much appreciated pal :-)

  4. Its a bit of a difficult thought.

    To some extent, I can see what you mean. Too much of a selection, means a lot of good ales will be missed out on.

    Then on the other hand, that many ales at a single festival is a very unique thing. People who live near by will go regardless of the amount of ales on tap, but it also attracts a huge amount of people who dont live local.

    Personally I live just over 2 hours from Nottingham. Have never been there in my life, but this festival appeals to me. Guaranteed ill be drinking ales I love and ill be surrounded by 1000 of them to choose from.

    For the £40 cost of the train and £20/£30 for ales its the same amount I would pay for a day out exploring another town.

  5. .thanks for sharing