Festival moves to real ale’s ‘spiritual home’

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The Steel City Beer Festival celebrates its 40th anniversary with a move next week to Kelham Island – the ‘spiritual home’ of Sheffield’s real ale community.

It is switching from Ponds Forge to Kelham Island Museum, from next Wednesday to Saturday, November 1.

The festival is one of the oldest in the country organised by the Campaign for Real Ale, helping to underline Sheffield’s claims to be the UK’s capital of real ale.

The city’s reputation is being further enhanced by the return next year of BeerX, the Society of Independent Brewers’ annual celebration of British beer, which includes a festival open to the public. The event will be held in a purpose-built conference and exhibition village on Don Valley Bowl.

Kelham will feature 115 beers from 44 breweries, with up to 9,000 pints being pulled at three bars, in the Upper Hall, the Millowners (the pub in the museum) and a marquee.

Live music, pub games, food and stalls are also being organised by Camra.

Before Ponds Forge, the festival was held in the open-air at Cemetery Park in Sharrow. Local members describe the new venue as “one that hopefully will provide a character appropriate to the occasion to celebrate Sheffield as the ‘Beer Capital of the UK’.

Camra spokesman Mike Rose said: “We feel the move to the Kelham Island Industrial Museum is a great step. Kelham Island is the heart of Sheffield drinking, with some of the best pubs, and the spiritual home of real ale in Sheffield. We feel this will be a huge improvement on Ponds Forge.”

Mike added: “We are optimistic we are going to get a lot more people. It’s a better venue for us, and it’s going to have a nice feel about it. People are going to love it. They can also go to the Fat Cat, Kelham Island Tavern, Shakespeares...”

The festival starts with evening sessions next Wednesday and Thursday and then is open from noon on Friday and Saturday. Live music comes from the Amelia Carter Band (Thursday), Soulfaces (Friday) and Do$ch (Saturday).

Despite pub closures across the country, Mike said real ale continued to do well in Sheffield, being sold at more pubs in the city centre and attracting more young people. “There are lots of new breweries opening with great beer and they are good at marketing it.”

The SIBA conference is returning from March 17 to 21. Last year it was at iceSheffield, next to Don Valley Bowl, and the year before at Ponds Forge.

About 700 delegates and exhibitors – brewers, licensees and suppliers – take part in the showcase for the UK’s burgeoning independent brewing industry.