Browsing articles in "beer festivals"
Nov 5, 2014
Freddie Kitson

Belgian Beer Festival set for Saturday

Belgian Beer Festival

Belgian Beer Festival

The third annual Belgian Beer Festival is set for Saturday, Nov. 8, in downtown Cambridge.

Posted: Wednesday, November 5, 2014 11:42 am

Belgian Beer Festival set for Saturday

CAMBRIDGE — The third annual Belgian Beer Festival will bring area brews and brewers to downtown Cambridge on Saturday, Nov. 8.

The outdoor street festival, hosted by the High Spot Gastropub, will feature Belgian and Belgian-inspired brews from Evolution Craft Brewing Company, The Brewer’s Art, Burley Oak Brewing Company, Union Craft Brewing, Eastern Shore Brewing, Flying Dog Brewery, Stillwater Artisanal, Heavy Seas Beer, Tall Tales Brewery and Cambridge’s RAR Brewing.

“Cambridge continues to grow as a destination for beer and food lovers, and our beer festivals are part of the reason why,” said Chef Patrick Fanning of the High Spot. “We’re happy we’re able to give people the chance to sample some great brews from Belgium and from right here in Maryland.”

The festival will take place from 1 to 6 p.m. in the 300-block of High Street, which will be closed to traffic during the event. Admission is $20, and includes a tasting glass and unlimited tastes.

Local band Blackwater will provide music.

Food will be prepared by local restaurants, including the High Spot, Stoked, Ocean Odyssey Seafood Restaurant and Portside Seafood Restaurant. Crabi Gras will serve orange crushes and Bloody Marys.

Nov. 8 is also Second Saturday in downtown Cambridge, with shops and art galleries staying open late with free receptions, sales and more.

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Wednesday, November 5, 2014 11:42 am.

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Nov 5, 2014
Freddie Kitson

Beer Guy: Weekend Brew fests in Tryon, Greenville – Asheville Citizen

After a very busy year for local beer festivals, we are just about at the end of the outdoor celebration season. But first, two more events are happening this weekend — one in Tryon and the other in Greenville. They couldn’t be more different, but you can’t go wrong at either festival.

The third annual Tryon Beer Fest is noon-6 p.m. Nov. 8 at the Tryon Depot Plaza. Turnout has grown from 450 in 2012 to 750 last year and 1,000 tickets will be sold this year. Still, that’s small compared to festivals such as Tryon’s Blue Ridge BBQ and Music Festival, which pulls 20-25,000 each June.

But the Tryon Beer Fest folks are happy to be community based. Tickets are $30 advance, $35 gate and $10 designated driver, with proceeds benefiting the Tryon Development Association and the Polk County Chapter of Big Brothers and Big Sisters.

The ticket covers music and beer samples. Most of the breweries are from North and South Carolina and include the new Boojum Brewing Co., soon to begin production in Waynesville, Pisgah, Highland, Thomas Creek, Swamp Rabbit, Rockers, Hi-Wire and more. Also featured is Britain’s Ilkley Brewery, and Tryon’s very own Bottle Tree beers, contract brewed at Thomas Creek in Greenville.

The Foothills Oompah Band will do Bavarian tunes, followed by rock from the 176 band. For an extra $20 per person, dig into a big Low County Oyster Roast starting at 12:30 p.m. Or you can buy a $2 oyster and beer shooter. Order your tickets online at This is for ages 21 and older only, so leave youngsters and pets at home. Bring that photo ID.

Cheer beer at ballpark

Baseball season may be over, but Greenville’s Fluor Field at the West End, 945 S. Main St., will return to action for the second annual Greenville Craft Beer Festival noon-5 p.m. Nov. 8. Organizers will sell up to 1,800 tickets.

There are 35 breweries confirmed, and a nice selection of Upstate favorites: Thomas Creek, Quest, Brewery 85, Blue Ridge, Swamp Rabbit and RJ Rockers. Other South Carolina breweries are Holy City, Palmetto and Free House (all from Charleston), River Dog (Ridgeland), River Rat and Conquest (both from Columbia) and Carolina Bauernhaus (soon to open in Anderson). Many other breweries will be there too: Bells, Founders, Allagash, Red Hare, Green Flash and more.

Beer stands will be on the ballpark concourse and while there’s no access to the field, feel free to sit in the stands. Leave pets and children at home, but bring your photo ID. Food will be plentiful, from veggie hummus wraps to pretzel sticks, brats, burgers, dogs and fried mac and cheese, so bring your spending money.

The festival also features an education element with classes including South Yeast Beer College at 12:45-4:15 p.m., Home Brew Basics at 12:45 p.m. Growing Grain to Glass at 1:40 p.m., Love and Hoppiness at 2:35 p.m., Yeast Fervor at 3:30 p.m.

Beyond the beer, one of the big draws here is the ballpark setting. Fluor is a miniature replica of Boston’s famous Fenway Park. As baseball fans know, the Greenville Drive is a Boston farm club. Fluor is one of the nicest ballparks in the South Atlantic League.

There’s free parking at County Square, about a 10-minute walk from the ballpark, and a free shuttle will run to the Field Street Gate. You may find some parking in private lots around the ballpark area. Some may be charging admission.

Tickets come in various levels. General admission is $50. A Thomas Creek growler and admission is $60. The Liberty Taproom VIP and Beer Brunch ticket is $75 and the Allagash Brewing VIP Meet and Greet Tasting and Beer Brunch ticket is $100. Designated drivers are $20. Order at

Cold Mountain release party

Asheville’s Highland Brewing will host three release parties for its wildly popular Cold Mountain Winter Ale, 4-8 p.m. Nov. 13-14, and 2-9 p.m. Nov. 15. Take-home packages of Cold Mountain will be available all three days, and visitors may buy a maximum of one 12-pack of 12-ounce bottles, one 22-ounce bottle and one liter bottle. Get there early to get a good spot in line, because the beer will sell out each day. On Nov. 15, Highland will have a Cold Mountain brunch, noon-2 p.m. Tickets for that event are $50, which include the meal, a pint of both Cold Mountain and Thunderstruck Coffee Porter and a take-home liter bottle of Cold Mountain. Order those tickets at Cold Mountain should start showing up in stores Nov. 17 in the Asheville and Greenville areas.

Bottled beer at Fonta Flora

Fonta Flora Brewery, 317 North Green St., Morganton is releasing its first bottled beer Nov. 8 to celebrate is anniversary. Echoview Estate Ale is an 8.5 percent “Appalachian tripel” with blackberry honey and lemon balm. All the ingredients came from Echoview Farm in Weaverville and it’ws the first beer to carry the Cerified Appalachian Grown label. Also out the same day is Doubloe Hop Beard Extra Hairy IPA.

Follow Beer Guy Tony Kiss on Facebook at Carolina Beer Guy and on Twitter at BeerGuyTK. Email or

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Nov 4, 2014
Freddie Kitson

Bayou Beer Fest set for Nov. 15 in Houma: 5 things to know before you go – The Times-Picayune

The New Orleans beer scene is hopping, but the fervor for craft brews extends well beyond the city and its suburbs.

The second annual Bayou Beer Fest, set for Nov. 15 in Houma, will feature more than 200 beers, including at least 25 on tap, offering crowds a chance to sip samples from around the U.S. while also getting a taste of what’s brewing in bayou country.

The festival, organized by the Houma-based Bayou Beer Society, runs from noon to 5 p.m. on the grounds of Southdown Plantation and Museum, 1208 Museum Drive in Houma. General admission costs $30 in advance or $35 at the door. The event is open to ages 21 and up only; IDs will be required. For information and tickets, visit the event’s Facebook and web pages.

Last year’s fest inspired some local beer fans to make the drive, which takes just more than an hour, and this year’s edition is expected to draw even more attendees from around the region.

“We’ve been getting some really good feedback,” said Joel Ohmer, president of the Bayou Beer Society.

Before you head to Houma, here are five things to know about Bayou Beer Fest:

The festival has grassroots and continues to grow.

The Bayou Beer Society, and in turn the Bayou Beer Fest, began with a couple of neighbors gathering to sip brews next to an old cypress barn along Bayou Black.

Ohmer said he and his neighbor at the time, Jim Barrett, started inviting others to join them at the barn to sample beers and discuss brewing. In 2012, the Bayou Beer Society began as a blog aimed at supporting the local beer scene and sharing information with other craft-beer enthusiasts.

The barn has since been torn down, but the beer-focused mission remains.

The nonprofit society has no official membership list but does have a board of directors, a website and a couple of Facebook pages with roughly 3,000 to 4,000 followers, Ohmer said.

As Ohmer, Barrett and others regularly traveled to other cities for beer festivals, the group began tossing around the idea of starting a similar fest closer to home.

When the organization threw the idea for a Houma beer festival out on the blog and social media to gauge local interest, “it went crazy,” Ohmer said.

On the morning of the inaugural Bayou Beer Fest, held last November at Southdown Plantation, Ohmer and other organizers stood near the gates waiting for people to appear.

“We said, ‘If nobody shows up, we just bought us a lot of beer,’” Ohmer said.
Organizers thought the festival would reach about 200 attendees at best, he said.

Instead, 900 people walked through the gates.

Last year’s fest drew beer fans from bayou country as well as from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, other Louisiana cities and neighboring state—and Alaska.

A man working in Houma had been asking his father to travel in from Alaska for a visit, but to no avail — at least, until the Bayou Beer Festival was mentioned, Ohmer said.

This year’s fest involves triple the sponsors and double the beers and judging from the growth rate of other South Louisiana beer festivals, organizers expect about double the attendees, Ohmer said.

The festival includes beers from all Louisiana breweries and lots of homebrews.

Every brewery open in Louisiana will be represented at Bayou Beer Fest, Ohmer said, including two Shreveport breweries that, as of now, have not reached the New Orleans area.

Great Raft Brewing plans to debut its three flagship beers and fall seasonal in local restaurants and bars Nov. 9-14 with a series of launch events, which means the brews ]likely will still be brand-new to some fest-goers. (For details on Great Raft’s launch series in New Orleans, visit the brewery’s website and the Facebook event page.)

Red River Brewing has not announced a specific timeline for reaching into Southeast Louisiana, which makes the festival a rare chance to try those brews.

Mandeville-based Chafunkta Brewing, which last summer expanded its distribution, and Arabi-based 40 Arpent Brewing and Hammond-based Gnarly Barley, both of which opened within the last year, represent new Louisiana additions to the festival.

The fest also includes a set of brews not available in bars or stores: beers made by more than 20 homebrewers, which tends to generate excitement.

Other treats include beers from respected breweries across the Gulf Coast, including Mississippi-based Crooked Letter Brewing and Houston-based Saint Arnold Brewing.

“We have a lot of ciders,” Ohmer added. “Ciders are really popular right now.”

The variety of beers forms a major draw, he said.

“If that’s what you’re into, this is the place to be,” Ohmer said.

The fest’s title sponsor is Mudbug Brewery, set to open soon in Thibodaux.

When Mudbug Brewery in Thibodaux signed on this spring as the fest’s title sponsor, brewmaster and co-owner Leith Adams thought the brewery would surely be ready to serve beer by November.

But “unforeseen delays” related to the permitting process have slowed the brewery’s schedule, which means no Mudbug brews at this year’s Bayou Beer Fest.

“We will still be there to support and represent,” Adams wrote in a Monday (Nov. 3) Facebook post announcing the lack of beer for this year. “Stop by and talk to us!”

The announcement comes as the highly anticipated brewery prepares for a visit this week from the state health department, which could set the final parts of the permitting process in motion, Adams said.

“It’s the beginning of the last step,” he said.

Mudbug will debut in the Houma-Thibodaux area along with limited distribution to major craft-beer bars in the New Orleans area, Adams said. Expansion to Baton Rouge and Lafayette could follow, he said.

Excitement has been building for the brewery, which plans to launch with four flagships on draft: King Cake Ale, Cafe Au Lait Coffee Milk Stout, Pelican Pilsner and Intracoastal IPA.

Several fall and winter seasonals are also planned for the launch, Adams said, including a pumpkin porter; Cajun Stout, an American stout brewed with cayenne pepper; and Burning Saison, a smoked saison made with molasses, a tribute to the annual fall sugarcane harvest.

Mudbug is still expected to open before the end of the year, Adams said. He hesitates to give an opening date, but said, “It’s awfully close.”

For more on Mudbug, visit the brewery’s Facebook page.

Brewers will be on hand to discuss beer—and play music.

Brewery founders, head brewers and other representatives will be on hand to talk beer with festival crowds. Some of those brewery folks are set to take the Bayou Beer Fest stage in other ways.

Louisiana fiddler Louis Michot, known as frontman for the Lost Bayou Ramblers, often collaborates with Arnaudville-based Bayou Teche Brewing and will perform at Bayou Beer Fest with his side project, Soul Creole.

Audiences can also watch Leith Adams of Mudbug Brewery play drums as part of Nonc Nu and Da Wild Matous, a Thibodaux-based band that mixes zydeco, country and rock with comical lyrics about life on the bayou.

Proceeds benefit veterans and military families

As crowds enjoy an afternoon of craft brews and upbeat tunes, they’ll also be supporting military families and homeless veterans.

Proceeds from Bayou Beer Fest go to the Tri-Parish Veterans Shelter, a service founded in 2013 to provide homeless vets with temporary housing and help applying for federal benefits. Last year’s beer festival raised $5,000 for the group, doubling its operating budget, Ohmer said.

This year’s fest also raises money for the Louisiana Military Family Assistance Fund, an organization that helps families of active-duty Louisiana National Guard and Louisiana Military Reserves with financial needs.

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Nov 4, 2014
Freddie Kitson

Sidel: ‘Perhaps beer in PET packaging will not be unusual for the next generation’

The younger generation of drinkers could boost the popularity of beer packaged in PET, but consumer preconceptions need to be overcome before the format is widely accepted, says Sidel.

Franck Hancard, packaging director, Sidel, told manufacturers and bottlers are already interested in the light and unbreakable properties of the packaging. However, they have adopted a ‘wait and see approach’ while they watch how consumer perceptions develop.  

A beer bottle still needs to look like a beer bottle

“If consumers were happy to choose beer in PET over glass or other materials, the switch would happen very quickly because of all the other sustainability and cost benefits,” Hancard said. “That is why the focus on addressing consumer perceptions, which are undoubtedly changing, is so important.”

He said consumers should be offered packaging that still resembles traditional glass bottles, and drinkers need to be shown that ‘beer in plastic works.’

“This is about the performance of the bottle in terms of maintaining the beer’s quality and taste. It’s also about the aesthetics, so the consumer gets a product packaged in a way that retains familiarity with what has gone before.”

Down with the kids

A shift to PET plastic from bottles and cans is already happening in specific areas, Hancard said. He gives the examples of music festivals, sporting events, and other outdoor occasions where glass is considered a safety hazard.

“PET bottles are the preferred packaging format here because they do not readily break. Even when crushed, there are no harmful shards or sharp edges to cause serious injury. 

“The sale of beer in plastic bottles at these and other events also avoids the need to pour beer into plastic cups, making service at the bar faster, and giving the consumer a container that is easy and safe to carry and use. 

“So the consumer is already, in some small part, experiencing beer in PET bottles. It is interesting to note it is often younger people who attend such events, and so perhaps beer in PET will not be considered unusual for the next generation of consumers.”

Sidel PET beer bottle

Lightweight and pasteurisable bottles

PET packaging specialist Sidel launched a PET beer bottle
earlier this year, which it claims is the first pasteurisable, lightweight PET bottle with a non-petaloid base.

“The glass-like flat base is more attractive to consumers to help them make the switch,” Hancard said. “The pasteurisation strength means it can be used for the most common lagers brewed worldwide, and the lightweight means it can save brewers costs by reducing raw materials.

“Previously a PET bottle could not do all these three things at once.”

Soft drinks, water, dairy… and beer?

PET packaging is light, unbreakable, and 100% recyclable, Hancard said. The packaging has made inroads in juice, liquid dairy, sauces and edible oils, and has become established in the carbonated soft drinks and water categories.  

“However, because of the perceived complexities involved in beer, particularly with regard to consumer perception, brewers have adopted a ‘wait and see’ attitude to PET bottling,” said Hancard.

“The convenience, costs savings and practical advantages the plastic bottle has brought to producers and consumers of other liquid foods are, therefore, not yet widely embraced.”

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Nov 3, 2014
Freddie Kitson

London Beer Festival Roundup: November 2014

Hawkhurst Vault Ale Fest Our November selection of beer festivals within the M25 is well dispersed between Watford, Caterham, Waltham Forest and Heathrow (with a couple in Zone 1 too), so you’ll need to top up your Oyster if you’re planning to visit them all. As always let us know in the comments if we’ve missed anything worthwhile.

1 November: The Hawkhurst Vault Ale Fest

To celebrate having been open for six months, Brick Lane’s Hawkhurst Vault cafe is partying with beer, food and music this Saturday. The beer is provided by East London Brewing Company and the Redchurch Brewery, food is prepared by Raw Stories, and several live acts are coming up with the musical goods throughout the afternoon and evening. This event will almost certainly be more modest in scale than most traditional beer festivals, but you don’t have to be big to be beautiful, and judging from the details on the Facebook page it looks like it could be a fun party.

6-8 November: Watford Beer Festival

Out to Watford, where the local CAMRA branch is staging a beer festival at the West Herts Sports Club. Somewhere in the region of 80 real ales (plus a compulsory handful of ciders and perries), largely originating from London or Hertfordshire, will be served, alongside hot and cold food (at certain times). Entry is £2.50, or free for members of CAMRA or the sports club. See the festival’s website for more details.

7-9 November: Winter Brew Fest

BL-NK, a short walk north of the Old Street roundabout, plays host to this decidedly upbeat-looking festival. Following a suspiciously similar model to the London Craft Beer Festival, Winter Brew Fest is serving more than 40 beers from 11 London brewers (and a cider from Scotland) in several five-hour sessions. Entry to a session costs £25, and includes a tasting glass and 12 tokens that can be used to taste a third of a pint of any of the beers — we’ll let you decide for yourself what sort of value that represents. Food (and further beer, if needed) can be purchased for more cash, and music is provided throughout the festivities by live bands and DJs.

12-16 November: Waltham Forest Sports Social Club Real Ale Festival

Beers from Wales are the focus of this festival, which runs from 5pm on the Wednesday until 6pm on the Saturday. Aside from a selection of about 20 beers, ciders and perries, entertainment is provided by a live band (terrifyingly named The Bikini Beach Band The Action Men) on the Friday night and, unconventionally for a beer festival, a screening of the England v Slovenia match on the Saturday. Entry costs a mere £2 (free for CAMRA or club members).

21-22 November: Caterham Beer Festival

Down to Surrey for the Caterham Beer Festival, where a £5 entry fee gives you access to more than 50 beers, ciders and perries, which the organisers hope will include some of this year’s Champion Beers Of Britain (although this is not yet confirmed). The festival is split into three five-hour sessions, however the first hour of each session will be restricted to those who have purchased tickets in advance.

28-29 November: Heathrow Beer Festival

West Middlesex CAMRA joins forces with BA Clubs for the Heathrow Beer Festival, taking place at Imperial College Heston’s ‘Concorde Club’. More than 35 real ales and ciders feature, as do silent films, televised sport and live bands. Entry costs £4 (or £3 for CAMRA, BA Clubs or NUS members), although entry prices rise to £10 (or £8 in advance) from 6pm on the Saturday, to cover the costs of the live bands.


There’s still time to reserve a ticket for the tail-end of the Wandsworth Common Halloween Beer Festival, which we mentioned in October’s roundup.

If you’re a lover of beer or pubs, why not buy the Londonist book of London pub crawls for less than the price of a pint.

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Nov 1, 2014
Freddie Kitson

Brewery 85 honors traditional beer

There was a time when these parts had only one significant craft brew festival — Asheville’s big Brewgrass throwdown. Now, the beer festivals

At Brewery 85 in Greenville, beer is made the German way. The brewery sticks with Bavarian tradition and uses water, malt, hops and yeast to make its line of ales and lagers. It’s made them a favorite in the Upstate. Brewery 85’s line of draft-only brews can be purchased in Greenville, Clemson, Anderson, Greenwood and Greer is next. The taproom is at 6 Whitlee Court.

“By next year, we would like to be in Spartanburg and Rock Hill,” said Brewery 85 president Will McCameron, who opened the operation in January with his brewer Taylor Lamm. For now, they are Greenville’s newest brewery. Eventually, they want to sell beer in Western North Carolina, but not until they’re ready, he said.

McCameron and his crew like to have fun. They answer the phone with “Home of the High Fives,” which is indicative of the joyful approach they take to beer.

McCameron and Lamm both studied brewing in Germany. “We use traditional German technique and marry that with Southern craft beer culture,” McCameron said. There’s even a Bavarian-style beer garden in the back.

Their beer line includes a 5 percent alcohol Bavarian Weizen, a 7.5 percent German Style Helles Bock, a 5.5 percent American Pale, a 6.4 percent American Brown Ale, a 7 percent GVL IPA and the high-gravity 9.4 percent Country Quad.

Brewery 85 takes its name from the busy interstate highway that slashes through the Upstate. “It’s a hard-working highway,” McCameron said. And a hard-working brewery too.

come one after another, both in Western North Carolina and in the Upstate of South Carolina.

Asheville’s Burnpile Harvest Festival happens 2-10 p.m. Nov. 1 at Burial Beer Co., 40 Collier Ave. in the South Slope brewing district. The festival will feature 25 breweries — many from outside this area — with a selection of enticing beers and two ciders.

From Durham, Sub Noir Brewing will have its Eccentrica, a 9.7 percent alcohol ginger tripel. Old Mecklenberg will be pouring Mecktoberfest Marzen. Full Steam from Durham will have a 10 percent alcohol persimmon ale. And so it goes. “What’s cool about this event is that there is something here for everyone,” said Jess Resier, Burial’s co-owner.

Burial will tap its Slasher Sweet Potato Porter made with local sweet potatoes from Paper Crane Farm smoked by 12 Bones and Press Apple Tripel made with Hickory Nut Gap Farm Fuji apples and aged on Defiant Whiskey oak spirals.

Burnpile will be different than most brew festivals in that it’s not an all-you-can-drink for one admission price. First you buy a commemorative $4 glass. Then purchase $2 tickets, each good for a single beer sample. The Hermit Kings band will play at 6 p.m. and the Nude Party performs at 8:30 p.m.

Next up on the brew fest scene: The Greenville Craft Beer Festival Nov. 8 at Fluor Field in Greenville ( and the Tryon Beer Fest Nov. 8 on the Tryon Depot Plaza ( More on both of those next week.

Follow Beer Guy Tony Kiss on Facebook at Carolina Beer Guy and on Twitter at BeerGuyTK.

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Oct 31, 2014
Freddie Kitson

Get into the spirit of Halloween with zombie walks and beer festivals

Ale lovers are in for a treat – or should that be a trick or treat – this weekend?

Following its huge success in recent years, The Peterborough Zombie Walk, where locals dress as their favourite zombie and walk the streets of Peterborough is back even bigger this year.

The walk will start from Charters Bar at 4pm on Saturday, November 1, finishing at the Brewery Tap. Organisers are expecting an increase in potential Zombies who will come in all ages, shapes and sizes – punk rockers, policeman and horror brides will descend on the popular riverside bar.

Getting into the spirit of Halloween, Charters Bar will have a selection of themed ales available for zombies and non-zombies alike, as well as a number of Halloween themed cocktails and shots.

“The local community are enthusiastic and really get in the ‘spirit’ of the event, there were some fantastic outfits last year and the special effects make-up used could have come direct from any big screen horror film.” says Natasha Gollings, assistant manager of Charters.

At The Brewery Tap, the living dead will have the chance to dance to some ghoulish music and sample some ‘spectre-acular’ food until 10.30pm.

A live DJ set for zombies in the Elixir Room (aka The Tap Room) will commence at 6pm and the first 50 zombies will receive a complimentary green vodka jelly.

Meanwhile, on Friday night (October 31) Zombies will be out in force in Werrington.

The Dragon in Werrington is hosting a “spook-tecular” beer festival with more than 20 ales this weekend with proceedings kicking off at its sister pub The Ploughman at 6.30pm with a fancy dress gathering before walking to The Dragon at 7.30pm.

There’s free “bats blood” shots for all in fancy dress.

The beer festival lasts all weekend with a barbecue and music from Hooker on Friday (October 31), The 707 and High Rollers on Saturday, and Radius 45 and Children Of The Rev on Sunday.

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Oct 30, 2014
Freddie Kitson

Are the big beer festivals beaten?

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October already and if the incredible speed at which this year seems to be passing, it seems unbelievable that the annual Stoke Beer and Cider Festival is almost upon us yet again. Now in its 34th year there will, as always, be a vast array of real ales to sample as the ‘proper’ pint juggernaut appears to maintain its momentum. The continued interest is apparent with over 19,000 different cask ales now brewed in Britain with around 634 million pints sold annually. In the UK we now have more breweries per head of population than any other country in the world. As punters look for something a little more special each time they head to the local, pubs have to keep up with the real ale revolution and adapt their bar accordingly.  Back in February of this year, Martyn and Ginny Ford took over my local The Hop Inn, revitalising the former tired pub on the site in Albert Street in Newcastle. The couple bought the premises from Punch Taverns determined to turn it into a haven for real ale lovers and they have done just that…and some! With 8 beers on the bar (more are in the pipeline – pun very much intended) and the guarantee of the always excellent Oakham or Mallinson’s breweries represented, the stalwart Bass and a rotating board of 6 other options, a varied and vibrant collection of ales are always available. Said haven they wished to create has therefore become a permanent beer festival in itself. Which begs the question as to whether the days of the big beer festivals are numbered? The sight of halls packed by blokes with beards busily scanning the list of choices on offer before sampling a previously unknown tipple are surely in decline. The Stoke shindig and others will always receive my support as such events draw people to the area, generating income and raising awareness  of our City; however on a local basis I am able to enjoy a similar experience every day if I so choose. The beer board that greets you at The Hop always throws up a surprise, whether it is a hitherto unheard of or as yet untried brewery or a new product from one of the old familiars. Combine that with exceptionally reasonable pricing and a landlord and family that are as enthusiastic about their product as the customer and you have an award winning formula – an award that is surely imminent in this particular pub’s case.

Follow Adam on Twitter @adscomms

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Oct 29, 2014
Freddie Kitson

Dining Review: Florida brews, Creole dishes to choose at Cajun Café

The toughest thing about dining at Cajun Caf on the Bayou is trying to decide what to pick from the menu.

Alligator slathered in spicy Cajun sauce?

Deep-fried Cajun meatloaf?

Made-from-scratch crab cakes?

Jambalaya? Crawfish etoufe? Gumbo?

Tucked away in a ramshackle building that juts out on Cross Bayou in Pinellas Park, this small eatery has attracted a loyal following over the past 11 years.

Diners come for the Cajun cuisine. Beer hounds come for the brews and annual craft beer festivals. Some come for both.

Eating on picnic tables on the screened-in porch over the water while sharing appetizers such as the Boudin balls (pork, onions and rice rolled in cracker meal, dunked in ale and deep-fried) makes you forget that you’re not far from a major highway lined with strip-malls.

Spot an alligator or dolphin swimming by in the brackish water and it’s almost like being in Louisiana.

The Boudin balls and a crawfish-filled cornbread with cheddar cheese, corn, onion and jalapeno are the restaurant’s signature starters. And a whiskey bread pudding is the signature dessert here.

The menu also includes Po’Boys, fried catfish, fried frog legs, fried chicken livers, fried green tomatoes, Cajun popcorn crawfish, mammoth burgers (including one made from gator meat) and more than can be listed here.

There’s an eye-popping array of sausages, too, made from crawfish, gator, duck and chicken, creole, pork Boudin and beer-marinated beef and pork.

Located on Park Boulevard, the caf is adjacent to the Wagon Wheel Flea Market. It was originally a fish camp in the 1940s. In 1996, Joe Thibodaux, of Thibodaux, Louisana, converted the fish camp into a simple eatery.

Thibodaux’s son-in-law and daughter, Paul and Rebecca Unwin, took over in 2003 and kicked up the menu and the beer list. Paul Unwin, a Brit who knows his brews, keeps the place stocked with more than 75 craft ales in bottles and 15 mostly-Florida-made beers on draft. He holds three beer festivals a year with the next one coming up Nov. 1.

On a recent visit, four out of my party of five came away with full and satisfied stomachs but one was disappointed by the shrimp creole.

After sharing four appetizers – pork Boudin balls ($10), fried green tomatoes ($5), the crawfish cornbread ($9) and crab cakes a la Cajan Caf, I tried the “Catfish T-Red Crawfish Lagniappe” ($21), fried catfish fingerlings on a bed of rice smothered in crawfish etoufee. It was delicious and spicy but not too hot on the taste buds.

My wife ordered and enjoyed the Creole roasted pulled pork ($12) that was slow-cooked and marinated in Creole garlic sauce and butter with a hint of spices. Moist and flavorful, the roasted pork and beef here are popular.

Our friend, Alex, ordered one of his favorites, the Creole roast beef Po’boy ($13) while Mark went for the dirty rice bowl ($9) which is roux-based with ground beef.

Friend Nicole liked the appetizers but turned thumbs down on the shrimp creole ($16) because she found the sauce too thick, the peppers and onions under-sauted and the shrimp too small and overcooked. “Hard as a wine cork,” was her comment, adding that she had ordered this on a previous visit and it was good then.

We all shared the sweet whiskey bread pudding ($7) soaked in vanilla cream and whiskey-butter sauce.

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Oct 28, 2014
Freddie Kitson

FREEBIE FRIDAY: Deals including beer festivals to massages and flu shots – WMC


A beer festival, shoulder rubs, and flu shots. What do they have in common? They are all part of this segment of Freebie Friday! WMC Action News 5′s Kym Clark found a grab bag of goodies to help kick start your weekend.

Chair massages

Gould’s Academy of Massage students are ready to loosen your muscles a bit every Friday through Nov. 14. You can get your free 10 minute massage from 9 in the morning until 12:15 at the Academy’s Ridgeway location. Click here to learn more:

Flu shots

Shelby County Health Department is offering free flu shots at Hickory Ridge Mall Food Court from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. to anyone over the age of 6 months on Saturday, Oct. 11. No identification is required. Go to the health department’s Facebook page to learn more:


Once you’re vaccinated, head to the Tower Courtyard at Overton Square for the inaugural Oktoberfest Squared. There’s a stein hoisting competition, plenty of good music, and a lot of beer and brats. Admission is free for the whole family from noon until 10 o’clock Saturday night. Click here to learn more:

Newspaper subscription

How would you like to try out the Commercial Appeal newspaper for free? The Memphis paper is offering free two week subscriptions with 7-day home delivery plus online access. Click here for the deal:

Contact us

Do you know of a local business that would want to participate in the Freebie Friday segment? Send an e-mail to or contact us via Facebook here: Make sure to catch Freebie Friday every Friday during WMC Action News 5 at 6 a.m. for new deals.

Copyright 2014 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved. 

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