11 beers you must try at York Beer Festival 2016 (and everything else you need to know)

Waiting for you… the beers racked up for the 2016 festival. Photograph: York Camra
11 Sep 2016 @ 9.01 pm
| Food & drink

The marquee is up and the casks of beers have arrived and that is when you know as an organiser and festival volunteer that you’ve got a festival to put on. The excitement is palpable.

York CAMRA Beer & Cider Festival

York Racecourse, Knavesmire Road, York YO23 1EX

Wed Sept 14 5.30pm-11pm; Thurs Sept 15-Sat Sept 17: noon-11pm


Festival website

This coming week is the culmination of planning and preparations that started in December last year and all of us in the York Beer Festival crew believe we’ve got an absolute cracker waiting for you.

In short we’re going to be serving over 490 beers and 100+ ciders in a new location in a huge marquee opposite the York Racecourse grandstand.

It is Yorkshire’s biggest annual beer festival and for 4 days have Europe’s longest bar at nigh on 300 feet long.

The festival attracts a good natured crowd of all ages from all walks of life and from some 20 different countries – such is the attraction of both the range of beers, the venue and no doubt York itself, with many visitors incorporating the festival into their holiday plans which include staying in York to visit the attractions.

I myself am running the Foreign Beer Bar again this year (come and say “Hi”) and had a great time last year talking to visitors from the likes of Germany, Sweden, Iceland, Canada, New Zealand and the United States.

A party from Denmark had arranged a trip especially and were having a ball. Everyone commented on how friendly the festival was and on the mind boggling array of beers that completely blew away the stereotypical myth of warm bland British beer.

The key to a successful festival is having something for everyone and hopefully we’ll achieve that this week with an unparalleled variety of different real ales, ciders, foreign beers as well as wines, meads, fruit wines, bottled beers, alcohol free beers and a huge array of different foods from catering outlets in Yorkshire’s biggest beer garden.

There will also be plenty of live music to keep you entertained as well.

In the marquee will be more stands selling more foods and merchandise as well as our Tombola and Membership stand so you can join at the festival and get a beer on us. We’ll also be selling local pub books including the latest by pub expert Dave Gamston on Yorkshire’s Heritage Pubs at a very special price.

Eleven to try

When looking at the beer list of 470+ real ales it is sometimes invidious to single out specific things to look out for but for some pointers I sought the views of our resident real ale guru Allan Conner, who is responsible for ordering all of the real ales you will try and he came up with some pointers.

Bingham’s Vanilla Stout is the current Champion Beer of Britain so definitely worth trying as demand will probably exceed supply
Northern Monk Black Forest Strannik is making a rare appearance as a cask beer
Wilde Childe beers are both excellent and rare due to the small size of the brewery
North Brewing beers are making a rare appearance in cask as most of their beers are in keg only
Steampunk and Horbury Ales are rarely seen outside their local area being very small breweries
The Art Brew beers are from their new location in Devon having relocated recently from Dorset
Our two York Beer Festival specials – Brew York’s Tonkoko and Ghost’s Elysium are one off brews so unlikely to be seen again once stocks run out
The cask of Brass Castle / Half Moon Lunatic is the last in existence and has specially been held back for the festival
Take a look at the keykeg bar (a first this year) for some pretty exotic and rare beers. (Note – do not mistake keykeg for “keg”. Keykeg is real ale but dispensed by a different method to cask.)

A full list of all the beers and ciders, which includes the largest array of Yorkshire beers ever available in a single venue, is available to peruse at our website.

Your beery questions answered

Where is the festival?

In a giant marquee on York’s famous Knavesmire just off Knavesmire Rd, York, YO23 1EX. We’ve moved to opposite York Racecourse grandstand by the winning post. Entry will be at the top of Knavesmire Rd by the owners and trainers entrance and will be signposted.


What are the opening hours?

5.30pm -11pm on Wednesday 14th and midday -11pm on Thursday 15th to Saturday 17th.


Can I buy advance tickets?

Advance tickets have now finished. We have done this to ensure that anyone who just wants to turn up to any session will be guaranteed to gain entry by paying on the door. There may be a short wait at busy times but nothing drastic.


How do I get to the festival?

It is a 30 minute stroll from York Rail Station, or you can also take a taxi or catch bus service 26 from the station which stops opposite the Knavesmire pub or Campleshon Rd. From York Stonebow and York Station you can catch bus service 11 and get off on Bishopthorpe Rd (just past Reginald Grove and cross over the road and walk 10 mins up Campleshon Rd to the racecourse.


Let’s get down to business, what is there to drink?

There will be over 470 real ales; over 100 real ciders and a Foreign Beer bar selling a selection of 20 draught foreign beers (draught and bottled beers including lagers). There will also be a selection of wines and soft drinks.


What beers are you stocking at the festival?

All the beers, ciders and foreign beers are listed on our website now.


What are the admission charges?

Wednesday 18th – Public £3.50, CAMRA members £1;
Thursday 19th – Public £4.50, CAMRA members £2.50;
Friday 20th/Saturday 21st – Public £5.50, CAMRA members £3.50


Why do I have to pay to get in?

The cost of putting on a festival of this scale is very significant and admission charges go towards covering just some of the outlay on things such as marquee hire, fencing, generators, toilet facilities, bar equipment & scaffolding.


Do I have to buy a glass?

You will need to buy a souvenir polycarbonate festival pint or half pint “glass” for £2 when you arrive (licencing conditions do not allow real glass) which can be refunded should you choose, when you leave the festival.


Are there beer tokens or is it a cash bar?

There will be no beer tokens – you pay cash for your beverage, as you would in a pub.


How much is a pint?

Visitors in previous years will know that we keep prices as reasonable as possible. Beers will be priced individually to reflect their strength (ABV).


Do you sell drinks in thirds of a pint?

Yes, glasses are marked for third and half pint measures as well.


Will there be a programme available?

Yes, for just 50p you can buy a programme listing all the available beverages with tasting notes.


Will all the beers in the programme be available at all times?

We will endeavour to have the greatest range of beers on at all times but reserve the right to keep beers from sale due to them not being ready for drinking. The range will of course diminish as beers sell out.


Do you sell lager?

Do not expect the mass produced brands that you would see in your local! Although this is primarily a real ale festival there will be a selection of premium world lagers available at the Foreign Beer Bar.


Can I bring my own beer?

No – soft drinks only in plastic bottles.


Can I bring children?

Under 18’s will be admitted with a responsible adult but will be required to leave by 8pm.


Will I be able to buy food at the festival?

Yes, there will be a wide variety of 9 different hot and cold foods encompassing cuisines from around the world including vegetarian options.


Will there be parking available?

There is plenty of parking for bikes. There will be limited on-street parking for cars adjacent to the festival on Knavesmire Road, but of course we do not recommend driving to the festival unless you are a non-drinker.


Is there a smoking area?

There is a very large beer garden that accommodates smokers.


What about dogs?

Dogs are not allowed to smoke.


No, I meant can they come to the festival too?

Oh, sorry! Dogs that are kept under control and on a lead at all times are allowed.


Is there live entertainment?

There is a varied programme of live music covering most sessions – exact details of the music acts and various sessions are still being finalised and will appear nearer to the festival.


What if it rains?

There is plenty of standing room in the marquee as well as plenty of seating.


Will I have to queue to get in?

Most of the day there will be no queue (apart from opening time). In 2015 the peak was 10 minutes on Friday night. If we reach our safety limit then we may have to go to “one out – one in”.


Do you still need bar staff?

We are still recruiting volunteers (CAMRA members) to work in all areas of the Festival. If you work a full session at the festival either behind the bar or in any other capacity we will give you a food and drink allowance as a thank you. Contact [email protected]


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