The history of Skipton Beer Festival
This is the history according to Ian and Anne, organisers of festivals 4 and 5, with help from others along the way. Not a true history in the academic sense, just how we remember it.
In 2006 the Skipton Town Hall Manager wanted to put the town hall on the map a bit more and organize some events there. One idea was a possible beer festival, but how? She decided to contact local brewery, Copper Dragon, to see if they could help.
“Well, no, we can‘t help, but we know somebody who might be able to: our local CAMRA branch.”
A couple of phone calls later the Town Hall Manager discovered that one of our members worked at the Town Hall, which led to (something like) the following conversation:
“I want a word with you.”
“Oh! What about?” - our member frantically thinking: What am I in bother for? Not changing the empty loo role? Leaving a muddy foot-print in the hall?”
“I believe you‘re a member of CAMRA?”
Suspiciously. “Yes . . ”
“I want to organize a beer festival and I‘ve been given your name as somebody who can help.”
Thus began Skipton Beer Festival. As was the pre-occupation with logos and sheep....and eighteen-gallon casks.
Skipton Beer Festival 2007
Town Hall 25th to 27th May
Organising the first festival was hard. How much beer do we need? When should we hold it? Which days should we open? Where should we put the beer? The decision was taken to hold it over the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, so we had a chance of drawing in enough people to make the event worth-while. The main worry was that public transport links are not as good in North Yorkshire as they are in West Yorkshire, so there are fewer options for people from the surrounding area to get there for a drink. After lots of careful analysis ... we guessed ... and we guessed wrong. The festival was supposed to run Friday to Sunday, but we totally sold out on Saturday night. Every year since, a rumour has gone around Skipton on the Saturday night: “The festival has run out of beer .... again”. This has always (after year one) been incorrect and we don‘t understand how or why it originates. After all, nearly every festival from year 2 onwards has finished with more choice of beer than any pub in Skipton offers on a regular basis!
As for the logos? A useful thing for any event is a logo, and, as Skipton is Sheep town, what better to use than a sheep? Besides, if we do it again it‘s something we can build on: when setting out, we never anticipated we‘d end up with so many sheep we‘d need a dog to round them up!
The eighteen-gallon casks? The other fateful decision at this first festival concerned the location of the main bar. There are several excellent technical reasons for putting the beer in the annex (the side room). The expensive sprung floor in the main hall and it‘s cooler in the annex. But the main reason we couldn‘t set the beer up in the main hall was purely due to circumstances. “Tumbling Tots,” a kiddies play group had use of the main hall on the afternoon of the day we were due to open. And the only way we could squeeze the quantity of beer we (under)-estimated we needed into the annex was if much of it was in bigger casks i.e. eighteen-gallon casks rather than the usual nines.
Skipton Beer Festival 2008
Town Hall 23rd to 24th May
The logo was, well, an obvious progression: two sheep, for political correctness, one male, one female (leaving open the possibility for year 3 of our 2 sheep with a little one). For everything else, you don‘t change a winning formula. Again the beer was in the annex. It was fortunate we had made this decision as our beer-ordering guru had the bright idea of ordering a strawberry beer. This was just a bit lively and, when an inexperienced volunteer tapped it, there was a lot of swearing as the beer hit the ceiling, and sprayed into the bar manager‘s face. (We never did find out which upset her most.) Had we been in the main hall, it might have brought all the crumbling plaster down! As it was, it just left a red stain on the ceiling. (Don‘t tell the Town Hall Manager!) Our bar manager now has a strange aversion to fruit beers.
Skipton Beer Festival 2009
Town Hall 23rd to 25th April
Year 3 was probably going to be the last year in the venue. The council were planning to refurbish the town hall and the plans had a smaller main hall and annex, so we would no longer fit. We looked at other venues in Skipton and the only one big enough to cope was the Methodist Hall, who were more than happy to accommodate us ... as long as there was no alcohol involved.
Our logo for year 3: “Three sheeps to the wind“ said all that needs to be said about organising a beer festival in Skipton. This is what started the sheep puns which have run and run and gets harder every year to come up with something new and imaginative.
Skipton Beer Festival 2010
Town Hall 22nd to 24th April
This was probably going to be the last year in the venue. The plans for the refurbishment of the town hall had been postponed, so we could hold a festival after all, but it would definitely be the last one.
As for organisation, we seemed to be getting the hang of it now. The festival had new organisers but they changed very little, as the saying goes
"If it ain't bust, don't fix it."
apart from, it goes without saying, the logo: “Four sheeps a jolly good fellow” (and so say all of us).
Skipton Beer Festival 2011
Town Hall 19th to 21st May
Oddly enough, this was probably going to be the last year in the venue. The council had gone off the idea of refurbishing and wanted to off-load the Town Hall to an outside organisation. It was doubtful any future commercial venture would let us have all the space.
Being unable to think of a logo ourselves, we decided to let somebody else have a go and held a competition. Alas, once involved there is no escape; that year‘s logo designer ended up on the organising committee.
Skipton Beer Festival 2012
Town Hall 19th to 21st April
We‘re still at it and, guess what, it may well be the last one in the current venue ... The logo was again designed by competition rather than committee. We‘ve now reached the stage where we need so many sheep that they won‘t fit on the glasses or t-shirts. And, yes, we were still batting away with those two perennial complaints: Why isn‘t the beer in the main hall, the annexe gets so crowded? Why do you get so many eighteens when, if you had more nines, you could get an even wider range of beers?
Skipton Beer Festival 2013
Town Hall 11th to 13th April
All went reasonably smoothly same committee same organisation we were getting the hang of it and each person operated like a well-oiled machine. Our main problem was the new development behind the town hall which had blocked where our deliveries arrived and we lost our outside area at the side of the Town Hall. This year we did run out of beer or to be more precise a stag party came in and drank us down to the last solitary pint (bother, none left for the staff after closing). Oh, and yes, the logo went coloured.
Skipton Beer Festival 2014
Rendezvous Hotel 29th to 31st May
The pirate theme looked like it could get silly, plans for a fancy dress publicity crawl and spot prizes at the festival. It was going to be the spring bank holiday, we anticipated even more people so we were coming up with all sorts of ideas to get even more beer in. BANG! The Town Hall refurbishment built a large chair cupboard which effectively wiped out 1/3 of our beer area. Complicated plans were developed to serve beer from the stage, not good but workable. BANG! A health and safety inspection condemned one of the fire exits and the revised Town Hall fire limit dropped from 450 to 160 and the work to repair it would almost certainly not be completed by the end of May. Is somebody trying to tell us something?
Thanks to Rendezvous Hotel who were able to accommodate and to a group of bus enthusiasts who kindly ferried people between the station, town and Rendevous the festival went ahead in the hotel ball room, the grandest venue we have ever had. It's a big thank you to both for stepping in and keeping the festival going.
Skipton Beer Festival 2015
Ermysted's Grammar School 28th to 30th May
For various reasons we wouldn‘t be returning to Rendezvous Hotel or the Town Hall this year. We had tried everywhere else in the past so that was it; no Skipton Beer Festival 2015, after so many years of thinking that last year's festival would be the last it finally was. Suggestions were put forward for possibly a small specialist winter ales festival but there was no real enthusiasm.
Somebody had the bright idea: “Why don't we ask the places that are suitable and said ‘no‘ last time we asked?” We did and Ermysted's Grammar said ‘yes‘ so the beer festival organisation started to wind back up into action. The building had its own quirks and foibles that needed to be ironed out and being a school added its own problems to be addressed but it worked and generally got the thumbs up from festival organisers and customers. It had to be the week of spring bank holiday and we had to be completely clear of the premises by the end of Sunday but we did it. When we arrived on Tuesday morning it looked like a school refectory and when we left on Sunday it looked like a school refectory with a gleaming floor (thanks Julie) and everything back as it was. Not as central and historical as the Town Hall or as grand as Rendezvous' ballroom but it‘s handy for town and transport and has the biggest outside area of any of our venues.
Skipton Beer Festival 2016
Ermysted's Grammar School 2nd to 4th June
We were back at Ermysted’s and everything went smoothly. The nice weather encouraged people to go outside in the sunshine; one person, complete with knotted hanky. Skipton Beer Festival seems to be on the political map, not only did we get our regular visit by Julian Smith our local MP; but Nigel Evans and Ken Clarke also came along at different times during the festival.
The popular vote for beer of the festival was jointly won by local brewery Naylor's for their Toffee Mild and Tiny Rebel brewery from Wales with One Inch Punch.
Skipton Beer Festival 2017
Ermysted's Grammar School 20th to 22nd April
New headmaster at the school, would he not support the festival or permit it? Yes: all was OK and the festival went ahead and ran (relatively) smoothly. Our main issue was a lot of the beer arrived late so it was a mad rush when it did arrive so it would be on good form ready for Thursday. This year we had two lines being the 11th festival we had "support the thirst 11" and we were definitely "Tup of the league!" Again the regular and wrong rumour that Skipton Beer Festival has run out of beer went round town on Saturday night, we actually had 20 different beers left when we closed so we had a good range. We have no idea where it originates. Note we are ordering the same amount next year!
The public vote for Beer of the Festival went to Bridgehouse Rum Porter. We had joint winners with the cider and perry with Millwhites Rum Cask Cider and Grumpy John's Dry Cider two contrasting styles. We raised £500 for Yorkshire Air ambulance.
Skipton Beer Festival 2018
Ermysted's Grammar School 12th to 14th April
Our pun this year was "Dozen it look good to ewe" which somehow ended up in the logo of Sherlock Sheep peering at a pint through a large magnifying glass. We were again at our new regular venue of Ermysted's Grammar School, the venue works very well for us and we know what we are doing there to get the setup and take down organised, plus the school caretaker helped all run smoothly.
The big cloud hanging over the festival was: "Was this is going to be the last festival? (where have I heard that before?) Our organiser for the majority of the twelve festivals had decided it was time to call time for the last time. It looked like the 13th Skipton Beer Festival was going to be unlucky for some because it wasn’t going to happen . . . .
Skipton Beer Festival 2019
Ermysted's Grammar School 25th to 27th April
A new person stepped into the organiser's shoes (or should it be hooves?) for 2019 so yes the well oiled mechanism rolled smoothly into action again. Our pun this year "It's number 13 - a bakers dozen" As the numbers go up it's getting harder to come up with a relevant pun.
All went smoothly, we had quite heavy rain on the Friday so only the determined braved the weather but Saturday made up for it. The number of people was fewer than last year but those that came drank more beer though we did not run out.
Beer of the festival went to Wishbone - Greenflute and cider/perry of the festival was Harry's - Scrummage.
Skipton Beer Festival 2020
Ermysted's Grammar School 28th to 30th May
Cancelled due to Covid-19.
As it was going to be the same year as the Olympics our sheep was a gold medal winner (of course) with the slogan "Get yourself down for some championsheep beers". However with Covid-19 and the resulting 'lock down' imposed in March, the festival was cancelled. We all stayed thirsty until the gradual easing of restrictions in July allowed us temporarily to venture back to the pub followed by further lock downs into 2021.
It also meant that any festival plans for 2021 were a non-starter.
Skipton Beer Festival 2022
Skipton Town Hall 28th to 30th April
It was back to the Town Hall where Skipton Beer Festival started. The Town Hall had been redeveloped and was now very different to what it had been in 2007 when we started. While it was the same venue, the layout it was very different which meant we had to rethink the festival layout. In the past the beer had to go in the annex, now the annex was gone and so too was the sprung floor in the main hall so the beer was now in the main hall. The stage gone, giving more space but less storage space.
Also, after our enforced break, we decided to make a few other alterations. We were struggling to come up with ideas for the ever-increasing herd of sheep in the logo so an earlier logo was ‘reinvented’ (I leave it to you to find which one) and it was decided to stick with it for a few years at least. We introduced keg beers, still CAMRA approved, as carbon dioxide is not added to the beer just it’s natural carbonation for fizz. We were a little nervous as to how things would go, would people come back after the pandemic, or would people stay away? We are pleased to say people did return and the festival went well.
Beer of the festival: Revolutions Swoon (4.5%) with joint runners up Chantry Special Reserve (6.3%) and Lamb X Mild (3.2%). Cider/perry of the festival: Ampleforth Medium Dry Cider.
Skipton Beer Festival 2023
Skipton Town Hall 18th to 20th May
Herd of sheep? Course I’ve heard of sheep! However as already noted we don’t have a herd, just the one again. It was getting too complicated to find a pun and draw so many sheep, especially to fit on a glass, so as last year we were staying with one.
After 2022 we were more confident that people would return to the festival, and hopefully in sufficient numbers to drink all the beer. All went well, and again it was a successful festival.