Following the successful first run of the Willenhall Beer Festival last year, the event was back for 2018. A couple of us went along (purely for research purposes of course) to check out the beers and entertainment on offer, and generally take a few moments to relax in the sunshine. Well that was the intention

At last year’s inaugural Willenhall Beer Festival the winner of a competition to name a brand new Willenhall Ale was announced, and we were amongst the first to sample ‘Umpshire Gold, brewed by Wolverhampton’s Broughs Brewery. That beer returned for this year’s festival, along with a good selection from a number of other breweries.

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Having looked at the selection (20 ales, and 4 ciders) we decided to concentrate our efforts on half pints of the stronger IPA style offerings, at least initially. Since we’d been at the funeral of our Rotary friend PDG Peter Gay only a couple of days ago, it seemed only fitting to start with a half of ‘Jaipur’, a beer from the Thornbridge brewery in Derbyshire. Peter was a big supporter of the excellent Jaipur Limb project, hence the choice. It was a good start, an American hoppy style, but not too overpowering, and really rather smooth. We sat and enjoyed that in the beer garden at the back of the 442 Lounge, and the sun was shining …

From Derbyshire to neighbouring Nottinghamshire, and National Treasure, brewed by the Welbeck Abbey brewery. According to the tasting notes this used calypso hops which allegedly gave the beer zesty high-notes and a black-peppery finish. Well, we couldn’t particularly pick up the pepperiness, but it was a perfectly pleasant if not overly memorable tasting. And the sun was still shining …

Our third choice had all but run out, but we managed to get enough to split for a little taste. It was back to Derbyshire and the Dancing Duck Brewery for ‘Abduction’. This was nice, and it was understandable why it had finished so early. Our loss, but there were plenty more to choose from. And the sun was almost still here, but it was certainly a little darker and cloudier than earlier …

We stuck with the same brewery and moved onto ‘Duck A L’Orange’. This divided opinion, I liked it, my drinking partner not so keen, with the phrase ‘like cheap orange squash’ not likely to be used on their marketing materials. We were both agreed it was not something you’d drink as your ‘regular’ pint, even if for different reasons. This had been awarded as SIPA National Champion Speciality Pale Ale 2018, and I could understand why. The sun had gone, and it had started spitting with rain …

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Our next choice was ‘Crackendale’ also by Thornbridge. Another fine choice, and almost enough to make you forget it was raining. By now most of those outside had moved to stand under the roof eaves of the building hoping it was just a small shower …

We decided to match the sky, and switch to the darker choices. We were by now the only ones outside, partly due to the weather and partly due to ‘Yam Yam Elvis’ who was starting his set having relocated inside because of the rain. ‘Centwealian Milk Stout’ was dark and creamy, and a pleasant offering despite the rain, from WEAL Ales in Staffordshire. Our final choice for the day was the ‘West Midlands Beer of the Year’, Dark Raven, which I’d forgotten I’d tried previously. A dark mild, with overtones of coffee and chocolate, and a fitting last drink before we decided to leave. On the plus side, it had just about stopped raining before we left, so we were able to walk through Willenhall without getting soaked!

Hopefully this small but friendly festival will return for 2019.