Pubs bonanza as real ale fans head for Sheffield

Steel City Beer and Cider Festival,  Cemetery Park.'Festival organiser Dave Williams
Steel City Beer and Cider Festival, Cemetery Park.'Festival organiser Dave Williams

MORE than 1,000 beer enthusiasts from across the country are set to head for Sheffield in April for the annual national conference of the Campaign For Real Ale.

Three days of talks, debates and meetings will be held at the members’ weekend and annual general meeting – and local pubs can expect to feel the benefit.

“Last year’s event was held in the Isle Of Man, and the estimates are it pumped £250,000 into the economy there,” said Dave Williams, spokesman for Camra’s Sheffield branch, who is co-ordinating the event.

“And the indications are this year is going to be the biggest in Camra’s history. Certainly I would say it’s the largest beer-based weekend to be held in Sheffield and we’re looking at about £300,000 being spent here in the region.”

The event – the first time it has been held in Sheffield since 1991 – will take place from April 15 to 17, based around a ‘dry’ conference centre at the University of Sheffield’s Octagon Centre and a fringe festival at University House, serving local ales and ciders from Friday evening through to Sunday night.

It’s the latest fillip for Sheffield’s self-styled reputation as the Beer Capital of the UK, reinforced by an array of award-winning pubs and breweries. Camra’s national Pub of the Year for two years in a row was the Kelham Island Tavern in Russell Street.

Specially printed maps will guide conference visitors to real ale pubs including the Kelham Island Tavern, the Fat Cat in Alma Street and the Rutland Arms in Brown Street, while trips to breweries at Kelham Island in Sheffield, Oakwell in Barnsley and Thornbridge in Derbyshire will be organised.

“It’s been incredibly hard work organising it all,” said Dave. “But there’s no doubt it will be a massive boon for Sheffield.

“We’re talking about 1,000 people coming here for three days – booking hotel rooms, eating out and drinking at the city’s pubs. There’s a lot of Camra business done over the weekend but it’s also a time for socialising and if there’s one thing Camra members like to do, it’s spend their money at local pubs.”

He added that in previous years local ales showcased at such conferences had gone on to sell well around the country, suggesting the economic benefits could be further-reaching than simply the weekend itself.

The conference, the 39th in Camra’s history, had been due to be held in Norwich but problems with the city’s venue meant it had been relocated. Next year it will be in Torquay.

“There’s a lot of pressure on making sure everything runs smoothly,” said Dave.

“But I’m looking forward to it – there’s so much to offer here that I think our visitors will have a great weekend and be really impressed.”