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FestivALE; Making its Mark in Bailiffe Bridge....

I first got to know Mark Feasey about 8 years ago when he took over The Olde Ship Inn on Bethel Street in Brighouse. This was the cleaned up and re-named Prince of Wales, a place whose fearsome reputation played no small part in helping the town acquire the nickname 'Dodge'.

Hand pumps had recently been installed in the Ship but it is fair to say that Mark's background as a manager for the Harvester chain hadn't given him the experience of real ale that he was looking for. So he was always willing to listen to advice on what beers to stock, and I remember going in regularly where a couple of the regulars, Tony and John, would be reeling off beer after beer which Mark would always try to get in.

The beers were consistently spot-on, the customer base grew to such an extent that it was hard to get in at weekends. It became the default place to meet in Brighouse, a unique spot in a town whose centre had lacked a clean, friendly place where people could go and enjoy great beer with great company. There was always a friendly welcome and a smile from the bar staff, so if you went in on your own there was always someone to talk to. Not that that would be for long; The Ship was a place that people gravitated towards.

Live music became a regular feature with the likes of Roger Davies, Blood, Sweat, and Beers, and Dave Kennedy in the pre-Rainey Street Band days all appearing regularly. One year, I would guess 2009, Mark decided to put on a beer festival. And so the FestivALE was born!

With fixtures and fittings borrowed from Richard of the now-defunct Brass Monkey brewery, a bar was erected in the back room, meaning there was something like 18 beers on at any one time. This gave Mark the chance to bring further eclectic beers to the pub, and with a band of enthusiastic volunteers helping to man the pumps, the FestivALE managed to draw in ale drinkers from far and wide.

Sadly, after a few wonderful years, the Ship began to struggle and finally closed with Mark moving on and out of the trade. But the FestivALE continued to live on, and next weekend, October 7th and 8th, it is on again at the Bailiffe Bridge Community Centre!

Back in 2011, whilst still at the Ship, Mark had been approached by the Community Centre committee about organising a beer festival to help raise funds for both charity and the recently-opened Centre. It has run every year since and so this year is the 5th Anniversary at the Centre. It has continued to raise money for charity as visitor numbers have grown and last year was the most successful, with over £4,000 raised for the Overgate Hospice in Elland. This year Overgate is again being supported, along with the Forget-Me-Not Children's Hospice.

The Community Centre is a great venue, light and airy with plenty of room, and thus makes an ideal location for a beer festival. In terms of the beers on offer, Mark has given me a sneak preview, and as usual, he has sourced a range of 18 beers from around the country catering for all tastes. So, for example, there is Battledown Porter from Cheltenham, Chuffin' Ale from Box Steam in Wiltshire, Welsh Gold from the Great Orme Brewery, Coastal Hop Monster from Cornwall, plus beers from more local breweries like Trinity and Mallinsons. I can't wait! Cider drinkers are also catered for, and food will be available with the likes of pies, hot sandwiches and potato wedges on the menu.

FestivALE opens at 5pm next Friday 7th October, and 2.30pm on Saturday 8th, closing at 11pm both days. Entry costs £5, including with this is a programme with full tasting notes, a 5th Anniversary commemorative glass, and a free pint.

Over to Mark for the last word: "This is a brilliant event, I am really proud of the work we have put into this over the years, and we are all working hard to ensure this is the best year yet. I've moved on from the pub trade now, and is great to back behind the bar once a year. The FestivALE was an annual event at my pub, and now to see it 'living on' is great and it seems to be getting bigger and better every year. I really hope this is another great success and we continue to raise a lot of money for Overgate Hospice and Forget-Me-Not children's Hospice, as raising money for charity makes all the work worthwhile. I look forward to seeing everyone at this year's event and sampling one or two of the ales myself!"

Festivale, Bailiffe Bridge
Bailiff Bridge Community Centre, Victoria Road, Bailiff Bridge, Brighouse HD6 4DX


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