Leeds International Beer Festival 2012

My thoughts

Last night I attended the first Leeds International Beer Festival. Yep CAMRA do one in Pudsey and I have had a number of boring times there but this is new and actually in Leeds city centre.

Running until the Sunday (9th September 2012) at Leeds Town Hall, Leeds International Beer Festival have curate an interesting but small list of breweries to showcase from the UK. On the list are Magic Rock, Hawkshead, Quantum, Buxton (on one single small bar) along with individual bars for Ilkley, Kirkstall, Hardknott, Ossett, Thornbridge and oddly Timothy Taylors.

The venue was in the rather small yet grand main hall, a place where I graduated from University and also spent many evenings watching wrestling with my Grandma when I was a child. Back then it felt huge but now as an adult it seems much smaller. Bars lined the walls and a stand selling lovely treats and beer snacks from Friends of Ham stood in the middle. Along with some of the highlights from the British beer scene was a bar selling US Craft beer put on by Vertical Drinks selling the likes of Odell, Ska and lots of Sierra Nevada.

For me the venue was a bit small and badly laid out, it felt like they didn’t use the space very well. I did like how they had a small amount of food stalls indoors but you could pop outside and get some other things to eat all from high quality vendors.

There were a number of pleasant sounding indie rock/ folk bands playing on the stage. Personally I can do without live music at a beer festival, I’m there to drink beer and talk to people. I guess this was one of the key components of this festival to make it new and different, cool breweries (for the most part) and cool bands instead of some ragtime or a brass band you are likley to find at the average CAMRA festival. If the idea of making a beer festival more suitable to younger people it worked but something about it seemed a bit unfinished.


The ticketing system was a bit of a mess. You buy tickets online then queue up to give your name and postcode. Why book ahead if the queue is 10 times as long as paying on the door. The entrances were badly labeled, “Advanced Tickets” and “Box Office”. I’d bought my tickets but didn’t have a physical ticket…do I got to the box office to collect my ticket or stand in line with people holding paper tickets.


The ticket price was far too expensive; I paid £6 then an extra 50p for handling? My mate Chris paid £7 for a paper ticket from Jumbo Records. £6.50 and I just get a glass that I don’t really want? Only one size of glass too, I’ve got too many pint pots from beer festivals as it is. Id have preferred at least the option of a half glass and as this was supposed to be an alterative to CAMRA festivals why not a nice tulip glass?


We were drinking this on keg not bottles but I couldn’t find a photo of the tap front.

On to the most important thing… the beer. I’d have like to have been given an option of buying a third of each beer and my current hangover may have been lessened by that option. The beer was a bit pricey too, £2.50 a half is a bit pricey even for my beloved Kernel brewery’s pale ale. Beer Festivals usually are pretty well priced and these prices were more like bar prices. I did like the Monopoly money idea for tokens, it worked and beats the pants off those stupid cards you get at most festivals.


So what beer did I drink?

I drank mostly keg Kernel beer, I’m a massive fan of Kernel and I wasn’t going to pass up on the chance of drinking more of their beer on keg. One of the nice things about this was having cool beers with a bit of life to them unlike tepid ales from a barrel on stillage like most beer festivals. YES! That’s right a beer with a head at a beer festival…SHOCK HORROR!


Chris loves Kernel’s Export stout!

Lets get down to it.

First up was Kernel Pale Ale 4C, a wonder fresh tasting pale ale jam-packed with orange, grapefruit, mango, pineapple all the touchstones of my favourite types of beer. Next on to a beer that left quite a big impression on me when I first had it about a year ago, Kernel India Pale Ale Citra. Such a tasty IPA like a fruit bowl in a glass and dangerously drinkable for its sizeable abv.

For my next choice I moved back up North with a sampling of Ilkley Brewery’s Dinner ale, a 3.3% their version of an old Victorian style but hopped with hops from UK, New Zealand and Australia. I remember the headbrewer/owner Chris telling us about this when my homebrew group visited the brewery a couple of months ago.


This pattern continued for a while, a couple of Kernels and then something else. Back to Bermondsey we go for Kernel’s amazing Export Stout London 1890. My mate Chris is visibly giddy drinking this beer exclaiming, “This is the best beer in the world”. This beer is absolutely divine, oozing quality and rich roasted malt flavours. After another Kernel 4C I headed over to see Ann and Dave on the Hardknott stand. Very busy all night the twosome from Cumbria had a great range of beers on offer and I opted for a “Thank Chinook it’s Friday” on keg a lovely and quaffable session ale with a bit more “Oomph” and a big blast of hops.


Breaking from the routine I wandered over to the US Craft Beer bar where I nabbed a glass of Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Saison. A solid beer if a bit unremarkable.


Ending then night off I once again visited Chun at the Kernel bar hoping on another 4C Pale Ale which had just finished and been replaced by Pale Ale Columbus and very nice it was too. Finishing the night on another Export Stout London 1890.


Leeds International Beer Festival was a good first effort but was certainly flawed. I urge you to go and check it out this weekend and make your own minds up and if all else fails just go to set up camp at the Kernel bar.

5 comments to Leeds International Beer Festival 2012

  • adam

    I agree with most of your comments about the organisation, layout, food and music (not bothered & too loud). The poor bloke on the Magic/Buxton/etc bar must have had the busiest night of his life, there was always a queue. Why didn't they split those breweries? The general layout was poor with very ineffective planning.
    Yes it was pricey to get in and i was very surprised to be handed a pint glass.

    BUT. the beer was excellent and that's what I went for. hopefully they'll learn a few lessons for next year.

  • Stu

    I really enjoyed the Thursday night session, didn't have to queue long before getting in (I've seen much bigger beer fest queues).
    I thought the venue was great, I didn't see any problem with the layout, the breweries with there own individual bars had paid for the privilege and set there own price's, I thought for the quality of the beer available that the they were reasonably priced.
    The mixed brewery bar had beer from the breweries who couldn't bring there own bar equipment and staff, so the organizers had bought the beer in and set up a bar for those beers.
    I think they definitely need to look at the glassware I agree a half stem glass would be great!
    One issue I had was with the mixed brewery cask bar, they the right type of chiller equipment set up but with no jackets on the casks, I would have liked the casks to have been 2 degrees colder.
    I'm really looking forward to this event next year! hopefully I can go on the Saturday and actually have a drink (I had to drive).

    • hopzine

      Thanks Stu, its good to get the insight from someone who was involved, I was a bit confused why Magic Rock, Buxton, Quantum and Hawkshead were sharing a bar. But from what others said that bar was extremly busy.
      All in all I had a good time, its a good start and I agree I'm sure they will improve things next year. I did enjoy it much more than the average local CAMRA festivals.

  • Eddie

    You were lucky to have visited when the more unusual Kernel beers were still available as they'd gone by Saturday lunchtime damnit. My only real gripe was that with the higher gravity beers it would've been nice to have tried small measures – i.e a third pint. A classy tasting glass such as the type used in Belgian festivals could've been offered as an alternative to the pint pot. Whilst it was great to sit on the steps in the sunshine spare a thought for those couples getting wed on the same day. Imagine their wedding photos of happy couple…. plus 300 pissheads!

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