Dozens of drinks, all personally sampled

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Preparations are well under way for the sixth Alnwick Beer Festival, which returns to the town later this month.

More than 30 beers and almost a dozen ciders will be showcased during the two-day event at Alnwick Town Hall, organised by the town’s Round Table.

And this year, all the drinks on display have been produced in and around Northumberland.

Round Table member Nick Lewis, who co-ordinated the selection of beers for the festival, says he has personally sampled most of the brews on show, while a few have been carefully selected by local experts.

“There’s going to be a huge range of drinks on offer,” he said. “Last year we had a Scottish theme, and this year we’ve changed it around a bit to go for entirely local beer.”

There is also a particular focus on local independent and micro-breweries, which have been popping up around Northumberland in recent years.

“That’s the main theme, these micro-breweries that are just starting out – that’s particularly exciting,” Nick said.

Breweries under the spotlight include the Coquetdale Brewery in Rothbury, Alnwick Brewery, which also produces Alnwick Rum, and Brew Star micro-brewery in Morpeth.

The event is held on the same weekend as the town’s Food Festival , which has grown to become one of the North East’s biggest culinary showcases.

“It made perfect sense when we combined the two,” said festival director Iain Stewart.

“Without a shadow of a doubt we benefit from people going to the Food Festival and saying ‘We’ll go to the Beer Festival as well’.”

The festival began in 2007 as a small event held at the town’s cricket club. In preparation, members of the Round Table conducted what Iain terms ‘extensive research’ at the Tynedale Beer Festival in Corbridge.

The first outing was a success, and the following year the festival moved to the Northumberland Hall thanks to an offer of exhibition space by the Freemen of Alnwick.

“Since then it’s just got bigger and bigger,” said Iain.

Visitors to the festival are given a half-pint glass, which they can use to take their pick of the beverages on offer.

And while there are also ciders and flavoured brews on display, Iain says that the festival is very much a real ale affair.

“We’ve had converts over the years who say, ‘That’s it, I’m not drinking lager again!’” he said.

The festival takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 22 and 23. Tickets are £5, available on the door.