MORE than 120 beers and 40 ciders and perrys are on offer at the Durham Beer Festival.
The festival, in Dunelm House, New Elvet, Durham City, has been held annually in the same venue 32 times, apart from a break in the 1980s when there was no festival due to declining interest in real ale.
“It’s a very different picture today,” said Peter Lawson, chairman of festival organisers the Durham branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra). “There are 10 micro-breweries in the county with five or six new ones in the last couple of years.
“Branch membership is the highest I’ve known and while pubs are having a hard time, it tends to be the ones offering real ale which are doing better.”
Among the micro-breweries represented at the festival will be the Leamside Brewing Company, based at the Three Horseshoes, Leamside, near West Rainton.
“We have their Five Quarter and Brockwell beers,” said Mr Lawson. “The names are taken from the pit which used to be nearby – Five Quarter was one of the coal seams.
“Leamside is doing well. They are struggling to keep up with demand from the three pubs in their group.”
Festival goers this year will be able to lean on new bars, thanks to sponsorship from recycling company AVC Weeeco.
“The bars have given us a much more professional look than the old scaffolding,” said festival director Lindsey Wright. “All the beer is served through hand pumps after passing through a proper cooling system.
“We are grateful to the Tyneside and Northumberland branch of Camra for their help with equipment and setting up.
“JD Wetherspoon gave us 10 staff for a day which meant we could get ahead with the preparations. No one else is paid and it takes about 60 of us to set up and run the festival.”
Opening times are 11am to 11pm today and 11am to 9pm tomorrow.
Admission £3, and £1 for a glass, then £1.50 for each half pint token, or there is a £10 admission package including a glass, four tokens and a programme.