Unfortunately, already making arrangements for the Mad Hatter Brewery Tap opening on Friday evening and for a trip to Bispham Green into West Lancashire, it left little time to head elsewhere such as the Aigburth Cricket Club Beer Festival. There was however, a chance on a Sunday afternoon to wander down to the Old Christchurch in Waterloo to indulge in the embers of the seventh festival held at the remarkable environs.
Journeying by train out to Ormskirk from Liverpool and then onward to the Eagle and Child pub in Bispham Green, between Mawdesley and Parbold is now an annual treat for me and a few other regular accomplices. The pub is owned by the Ainscoughs (also of Racquet Club fame) and run as a ‘gastropub’ – the term usually makes me shudder, but it isn’t too ill fitting here as the pub does indeed present some superb, honest and fairly priced meals. The tranquil settings are excellent at the beginning of our session, from 4pm onwards things tend to get noisier, with the live music sound checks and a larger number of locals heading down to the venue. A single large marquee is stationed to the rear of the pub, with the bowling green and other patio areas soon populated with revellers, getting in early with picnic blankets is highly recommended.
The beers were of a usual standard for such beer festivals, alas none of them were listed in the festival programme. Sadly, the first festival where they have left it out, this was a glaring omission from previous festivals, where the presence of the list made planning your beers a much easier and stress-free task. Breweries such as Propsect, Southport, Allgates and Burscough, Frodsham and Phoenix all have a heavy presence at this festival; producing some excellent English pale ales, best bitters, red ales and stouts, although there wasn’t too much of variation beyond this. Coach house Brewery from Cheshire did supply many fruit infused beers such as the very drinkable ‘Pineapple’ and supermarket friendly ‘Blueberry’ – again though, these beers are all pale ale, where the Coconut they brew jarred with the hopped pale ale style when best paired with a darker ale in stout or porter style.
An extra two hours was added to the session at Waterloo by the Liverpool Organic Brewery guys, making an 8pm close the order of the day. Luckily the session was not sold out, so being able to pay on the door was a blessing, although many of the first choice beers had gone in the previous sessions. With allegedly some 200 beers on offer (and excellently, some keg for the first time at the Waterloo iteration) alongside the ciders, Liverpool Gin, Peninsula Pies, Liverpool Cake Company and the ever-present Liverpool Cheese Company.
As with many other festivals, there is live music alongside the beers, but the main attraction is the well organised and well stocked feel the festival has. As the festival has grown, attracted sponsorship and added a greater variety of beers to the repertoire it has also very gradually increased the cost of the sessions, sadly with overheads spiralling in all industries, this is sadly inevitable, but the festival does remain good value for visitors with the added attractions of great food from the aforementioned contributors. Attendance does feel as though it has slipped ever so slightly in the last two years most likely due to a saturation of the marketplace for Beer Festivals (where demand is thankfully still remarkably high), but the event still sells out on the Friday and Saturday evening sessions in a heartbeat, meaning slightly easier going sessions during Thursday, Friday and Saturday daytime and Sunday can be less crowded to get around.
The beers at the Waterloo festival are again, as with the Eagle and Child, all run off stillage, aside from two groups; the Liverpool Organic Beers on cask hand pull and the craft keg beers from the likes of Mad Hatter, Saltaire and Tiny Rebel.
Long may these two excellent festivals continue to provide a gateway for new beer enthusiasts, great beers and a convivial atmosphere in which to enjoy them.
Eagle and Child
Malt Kiln Lane, Bispham Green, Mawdesley, Lancashire. L40 3SG
Telephone:01257 462 297
Liverpool Cheese Company
29a Woolton Street, Woolton Village, Liverpool. L25 5NH
Telephone: 0151 428 3942
Liverpool Cake Company
Telephone: 0151 734 0761
Mobile: 07864 069 105