It was with some trepidation that I decided to make a trip down to the CAMRA beer festival in the glorious Light Waves leisure centre in Wakefield.
Why trepidation? Well the fact that I hadn’t been to Lightwaves since sometime in the early 90s as a wee nipper didn’t help, nor my fairly strong memories of it being like an utterly improvised man’s Metrodome – which itself wasn’t all that. To me, Lightwaves means a crap leisure pool (only one slide? pah!) and unattractive changing rooms, and certainly not a venue for trying quality real ales.
But, go and I did, CAMRA membership card tight in hand, with the hope of enjoying a couple of decent half pints.
Alas, I made the mistake of going on the last day of the festival – a Saturday – by which point many of the beers I did want to try had already flown out of the barrels. This Jaipur IPA I keep hearing so much about passed me by, as did every single beer by relatively little-know Wakefield brewery Five Towns – all of which I’d heard were damn good.
I had five tokens for half pints (at £1.20 each) and damned if I was going to use them. So what to buy. Well, it’s not an easy choice to make. There were some 80-odd beers available (or not available if you go down on the last day) and while some tasting notes were great, others barely went further than “a golden session ale” or a “traditional best bitter”, which doesn’t really help when trying to make choices.
Fernandes (always a reliable and very local brewery) had a decent dark bitter by the name of Pikeman and Ilkley (I like drinking local beer) did a splendid caramel-flavoured, slightly spicy Darwin’s Tipple. Best of the bunch though was an imeprial stout from Barnsley’s Acorn brewery (which is normal reliable but unspectactular). While their Gorlovka may have required paying an extra 20p on top of the token (it being 6%) the rich, malty fruit stout was well worth that slight extra cost.
As is customary there was also a raffle and tombola, and as is customary I won nowt at either of them. I shan’t hold that against the festival though, and at least I now like Lightwaves just a little bit more.