Rolling out the barrel for Beer Festival

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HARTLEPOOL Round Table is rolling out the barrel as final preparations are carried out for its annual Beer Festival at the weekend.

Organisers promise the festival, which is now in its 16th year, will be the best yet.

The festival is the biggest in the North-East and last year more than 800 people raised their glasses on each of the two nights in its regular venue, the Borough Hall on the Headland.

But Round Table chairman Graeme Smith says they hope to smash last year’s takings of £16,000 by at least £1,000, which will then be handed out to good causes in the town including the Ocean Youth Trust, Hartlepool & District Hospice and the RNLI.

Graeme says preparations for this year’s event are going well.

He told the Mail: “Obviously it’s very busy right now and I’m basically living and breathing the beer festival. The phone never stops and nearly all my emails relate to it in some way, but it’s just a matter of making sure that everything is done and done right.

“Because there’s such a lot to organise, we actually started as soon as last year’s event finished by booking the venue and working out which of our volunteers will be doing what.

“The biggest job over the last few weeks has been sourcing the beer itself to make sure we’ve got a good range to keep everyone happy.”

That enviable task falls to real ale lovers Kevin Cox and Derek Wheatley, who are constantly on the lookout for beers for the festival through a combination of trying something different when they’re out for a drink, using tried and tested brews that have gone down well in previous years and sampling beers from new breweries.

The pair visit breweries around the North-East when deciding what to order for the festival, although Kevin says having a drink at every one of them is impossible.

But he admitted to enjoying his research throughout the year, especially at his local which has eight to 10 different beers each week.

Derek, who will be handing over the reins in the next couple of years, said: “To me, beer is very much like food. Keg beers, like lagers for example, are like fast food, whereas real ales are much more like going to a restaurant. You can give the same basic ingredients to different chefs and they will all create a different tasting dish.”

Derek and Kevin’s thirsty work means the beer festival, to be held this Friday and Saturday, will be graced by no fewer than 48 beers, ranging from light to dark and varying in strength from three to nine per cent.

They will include a special brew donated by Camerons, while the other 47 beers will all be sourced from within a 60-mile radius of Hartlepool.

There will also be speciality bottled beers and even a range of ciders, meaning there will be something for everyone.

But for now it’s all hands to the pump for the 30 or so volunteers who give their time to the festival and support the generosity of the sponsors, who this year include Hartlepool-based waste management company Niramax and Middleton Grange Shopping Centre.

The event kicks off at 6pm on Friday with an appearance by North-East band The mOObs, while Saturday night will be headlined by The Right Stuff.

There is also a session on the Saturday afternoon, between noon and 4pm and the night session starts at 6pm.

Admission for the festival is £12 for each of the evenings and £3 for the Saturday afternoon.