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Festivals and Celebrations at the Keys and Calan's....

It was the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia last week, and by all accounts, visitor numbers were down quite significantly on last year's figures. But when you think about it, holding a festival in central London in the middle of summer is not the best idea, with the cost - and time - required to get there, accommodation, and meals, and that's before you even sip your first beer, enough to put a lot of people off.

And when you have a great beer festival on your doorstep at around about the same time, why would you bother traipsing all the way down to London? The festival I am talking about was this year's Cross Keys Beer Festival, at Siddal, near Halifax, which was held last Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and where scores of happy people drank some great beers and ciders, ate, chatted, laughed, and listened to some excellent music during a memorable weekend at the friendly and popular pub.

Some people had though travelled a good few miles to be there; one of the first people I saw when I arrived later than planned on Friday evening was my good friend in beer, Hugh Kelly, who had prised himself away from his beloved Wath Tap to be here....
One of the reasons I had come this evening was to see my good mates, the Rainey Street Band, who were playing their excellent, heady mix of Americana and Bluegrass on the stage outside. Despite the heavy showers, it was completely dry, as the other Hugh, landlord Mr Kirby, had had the foresight to erect a roof involving scaffolding and tarpaulin which covered the entire beer garden. I had a couple of halves as I was in the car, chatted to a few people and the band as they came off for their half time break, and after a few more songs in the second half, I headed off home, with the plan to visit for longer on Saturday after the football....

And that is just what I did. Town had made it 3 wins out of 3 in a hard-fought win over Dagenham & Redbridge to retain top spot in this nascent National League season. I bumped into Kev Barker who had also been to the game, and we walked down the cobbled road past the mills to the bridge at Paris Gates and up Whitegates Lane, and were soon back at the Cross Keys again. Acoustic Dogz were just finishing on stage as I arrived. Some of my friends from Brighouse - Paul, Janette, Mary and Harry - had come over for the afternoon and were clearly enjoying themselves. It was even busier than it had been the previous evening, and already some of the pump clips on the long outside bar were turned around as their beers had run off. I tried several beers that I really liked - most of the beers seemed to be from small breweries in Yorkshire and the East Midlands, and I particularly enjoyed the Pacifica from Tollgate, who are based on the National Trust's Calke Abbey Estate on the Derbyshire/ Leicestershire border, although top beer for me, as mentioned last time, was from Greenfield's Donkeystones, Javanilla, a 5.3% coffee/vanilla stout, which was a deliciously wonderful, complex, and well-rounded beer.
Enjoying the craic at the Cross Keys
The atmosphere throughout was excellent, and it was a shame I couldn't make it the following day, when the Paddy Maguire Band were providing the musical entertainment, and who by all accounts were as brilliant as ever. All the beers sold out over the 3 days, and with a beer festival as good as this on your doorstep, why would you travel to London? It was a great effort by Hugh and the team, and I have to say that the festivals at the Cross Keys just get better and better....
Another Festival success: The Cross Keys
Hugh and his partner, Georgie, are due to get married next month, which is just what Nadine and Damian, who run Calan's in Hebden Bridge, did a few weeks ago. Not only that, they got married in the micropub that was the first one to open in Calderdale back in 2015. I popped in last Sunday when I was in town to see Bodega and Working Men's Club at the Trades Club, and Damian was telling me that having got the premises licensed for their own wedding, they decided they would extend that out so that they could provide the same facility for others, and so the Micropub Wedding Company was formed, with the aim of catering for couples who are looking for somewhere a little bit different to hold their ceremony. I wish them well in this enterprising new venture!
Now available for weddings....
I had time for a couple of beers before the gig, There was a Hop Back beer on the bar, so I went for a half of the 4% Fugglestone, a slightly sweet copper coloured beer with hints of spices and citrus fruits. We don't see Hop Back beers in these parts very often these days, which is a shame. It doesn't seem that long ago that Summer Lightning was a fixture at the Richard Oastler in Brighouse! I then had a half of Calan's house beer just before the bar shut - 8pm on a Sunday - and it was time to head off to the gig. I always enjoy popping in to this chilled out, friendly bar, and I am looking forward to calling in when I am next in the area.

Back on the local festival front, this next weekend - Bank Holiday - the annual Indyfax Festival takes place across several venues in Halifax, including the Victorian Craft Beer Cafe, the Grayston Unity, and the Lantern. Expect some excellent beers on both cask and tap, with no doubt a few surprises and specials, whilst looking ahead to the last weekend in September, the Halifax and Calderdale CAMRA Beer Festival returns to the town after a few years in Hebden Bridge, this time at a new venue, the Viaduct Theatre in Dean Clough. And so, whilst the national Beer Festival may be in decline, there is still plenty of appetite for them at a local level.

Well, around these parts at any rate....

Follow me on twitter: @realalemusic


  1. I'd never heard of Donkeystones till last week!

    Hope the Fax can make it back to the League.

    1. Cheers, Martin, not sure it will be this season though!


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