Updated: Wednesday, 1st July 2020 @ 4:56pm

Last orders at the bar! CAMRA's National Winter Ales Festival leaves Manchester for first time in 15 years

Last orders at the bar! CAMRA's National Winter Ales Festival leaves Manchester for first time in 15 years

| By Tim Hyde

The highly-anticipated National Winter Ales Festival begins this week, yet for the first time in 15 years it won't be in Manchester .

Ale lovers’ favourite festival will still have a significant Manchester influence, as the event had been staged in the city since 1999.

However organisers decided to move the ‘ale fest’ southward to Derby in order to appeal to a larger audience from across the United Kingdom.

As part of the festival, brewers will have the chance to pick up some awards if their brews stand out from the crowd.

Unlike a typical awards show, the best contenders are chosen rather than being formally submitted.

John Costello, from Dunham Massey Brewing Company, told MM: “National Winter Ale Festival is a really big deal as beers are selected and aren’t submitted.

Usually for awards you pay to submit a beer but at this event you are up against every brewer in the country.

“It was nice having the festival in Manchester, but it is out of my hands now it has moved to Derby.

“I don’t mind where it is as long as there is one. But I probably won’t be going this year now it has moved.”

There are more than 1,150 breweries in the UK which produce in excess of 8,500 unique ales.

The festival, which runs from Wednesday February 19-22, will offer more than 350 beers and ciders for punters to whet their whistle, all sourced from across the UK.

The festival started in Glasgow in 1997 before moving to Manchester – where it found a home for the next 15 years.

In its first appearance in Derby the festival will be staged at the Roundhouse.

Built in 1839, the Grade II* listed building, is the World’s Oldest Roundhouse and following £48million renovation, it has been returned to its former glory with original features being restored.

Despite the upheaval to Derby, beer enthusiasts are still expected to flock to the prestigious event.

A spokesman for CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) told MM: “We expect plenty of people from Manchester to continue visiting the festival. There are also plenty of Manchester breweries still involved in the event despite its move.

“This year we are expecting around 11,000 people to attend which will be an increase of more than 2,000 compared to last year.”

John believes that Manchester brewers will still have a strong presence at the show, and won’t be put off by making the journey to Derby to show off their prized ales.

“With it being in Derby it isn’t a million miles away, I probably would have been a bit annoyed if it moved to London,” added John.

“These awards are by far the best awards as it means something and people don’t pay for it. CAMRA’s experts and judges nominate the beer which means there is no bias.”

Last year’s Best ale in Britain was awarded to a small brewery from West Yorkshire, Elland, who pipped Suffolk’s ‘Bartram’s Comrade Bill Bartram’s Egalitarian Anti-Imperialist Soviet Stout’ to the title.

Another popular pick, which came third, was ‘Kelburn Brewing Dark Moor’ which was brewed in Scotland.

As well as being treated to the finest ales in the land customers will also have the opportunity watch live performances from tribute bands, Kins of Leon and Antartic Monkeys.

A spokesman for the event added: “The festival has always been planned to move around, it had a few really successful ears in Manchester, but the organising committee decided it was time to move and now Derby will the pleasure of hosting it for a few years before it moves on again.”

Organisers expect there to be a female presence at the festival as the number of women trying real ale has grown from 14% to 34% in the last three years. 

Image courtesy of CAMRA, with thanks.