THERE’LL be some serious drinking in Sheffield this weekend.
More than 1,200 members of the Campaign for Real Ale will be in the city for a mix of business and, of course, pleasure.
It’s the largest turnout for the national members’ weekend in the 40-year history of Camra - and a fillip to Sheffield’s claimed reputation as the beer capital of the UK.
Motions will be debated during the day at the University of Sheffield’s Octagon Centre, leaving plenty of time for real ale enthusiasts from across the country and further afield to visit pubs and breweries.
“For 1,200 people to descend on Sheffield is going to do a lot for the economy,” said Mick Moss, Camra’s Yorkshire regional director. “The idea is there is a lot of business, but members will be supping beer, spending time in pubs and restaurants. It is going to be phenomenal.”
Last year’s event was held in the Isle Of Man, with estimates of a £250,000 boost for its economy.
Specially printed maps will guide visitors to dozens of real ale pubs, while trips are being organised to breweries such as Kelham Island, Abbeydale, Sheffield, Crown, Bradfield and Thornbridge.
There will be chances to learn some local history, with a Steel City Ghost Tour calling at historical pubs, and a Flood Walk, based on the events of 1864, led by local history enthusiast and real ale drinker Ron Clayton.
Sheffield’s claim to be the country’s beer capital is based on the number of real ales in its pubs and the small breweries that have sprung up in the area in recent years.
It is supported by Mick, who lives in Rotherham. “Being a Yorkshireman, I’m 100% behind them, although Derby thinks it them.”
One of the magnets for real ale drinkers is the Kelham Island area - dubbed the Valley of Beer - where pubs such as the Fat Cat, which started the barrel rolling, and the Kelham Island Tavern, which was voted national Pub of the Year twice in a row, can be found.
“My favourite in Sheffield is the Bath Hotel (in Victoria Street, off West Street), although I also like the Harlequin (in Nursery Street),” said Mick. “They are the two I gravitate to. But there is something for everybody.”
So after staging the Liberal Democrat spring conference, Sheffield will now finds it hotels filling with beer enthusiasts, some from across Europe and a sprinkling from places such as Australia, New Zealand and Argentina.
Camra’s national chairman, Colin Valentine, said: “It is a pleasure to be back in Sheffield for the Camra members’ weekend and AGM following a 20- year gap.
“It seems appropriate that we return to the Steel City to celebrate our 40th birthday given the city’s unrivalled choice of real ales and pubs in which to drink them. As a native of Motherwell, Scotland’s steel town, it is particularly pleasing that I am chairman on our return. It should be a great weekend, and we are honoured to have the Lord Mayor opening proceedings on the Saturday morning.”
The Octagon Centre will be ‘dry’ for the conference, although there will be a fringe festival at University House.
Among motions will be one pointing to “the beneficial health effects of real ale” and the “significant and measurable” differences with beers with chemical and gas additives that can have “a detrimental effect on public health”.
There will be moves to “condemn the growing practice of breweries selling beers under a different brewery name, giving the impression that the beers are from a separate independent brewery”, and to support “the recent growth of real cider and perry flavoured with added fruit, spices and herbs, providing that the cider or perry maintains at least 90% apple or pear juice and the fruit, spices or herbs are real”.