VIDEO: Brewers go for gold and punters drink in Derby's 'new heritage' at winter beer festival
Yesterday, the 12th Derby Camra Winter Beer Festival got under way at the Roundhouse. Chris Jones reports.
ANY brewers wondering how to grab attention when exhibiting at their first ever Derby beer festival could learn a few tips from Pedro Menon.
The banker-turned publican, who only started brewing in November, stood stripped to the waist at his stall, face and body covered in glittering gold paint.
As a result, Pedro, who runs The Furnace, in Duke Street, literally outshone everyone else on the opening day of the 12th annual Derby Camra Winter Beer Festival, which opened yesterday.
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His spectacular decoration – which also included his spiky hair – drew in a constant stream of punters eager to try the beers he has made at his Shiny Brewery.
Pedro had never even tried brewing before being made redundant from internet bank Egg in 2011.
He said: "We've never done anything like the festival before so I wanted to draw some attention, get noticed and it seems to be working.
"Since we took over at the Furnace in May, this whole year has been a whirlwind. I wanted to set up a brewery with the severance money from Egg but then the opportunity to run The Furnace came up.
"I thought, pub first, brewery later, but in November we started brewing and were selling the first beers on New Year's Eve.
"So I haven't had time to get nervous about the festival. It's weird but brilliant."
Pedro's selection of beers were among 300 on show at the festival, which opened to trade at 2pm yesterday and to the public at 4pm. It runs at the Derby Roundhouse, in Pride Park, until Sunday and is organised by the Derby branch of the Campaign for Real Ale.
Along with the beers, local food and snack exhibitors, all arranged in a huge, giddying circle around the majestic Roundhouse, there is a big marquee tent outside which will play host to range of acts, including tributes to bands like Muse, The Jam and The Killers.
It is the third time the winter festival has been held at The Roundhouse, after switching from the Assembly Rooms, and the new location has proved a massive hit.
Brewer John Baldock, who runs Derventio brewery, in Darley Abbey, said he was particularly familiar with the building.
He said: "I used to work here, right here in the Roundhouse, as a fitter for the rail works.
"It was quite different then and we would doing maintenance on the rail cranes in here. But what they have done to transform it but keep the amazing spirit of the place is brilliant.
"The winter festival started to bridge the gap between the summers but now this Derby winter one is actually more popular than many other cities' summer ones, which is just unheard of."
At about 2.30pm, Les Baynton, Derby's Beer King, dressed in flowing red robe and golden crown, stepped on to a low plinth and drew the attention of the hundreds of visitors.
He read aloud a short ode and officially launched this year's show.
He said he never tired of his role: "I've always been a bit of a show-off, so I like the robe and the crown. Only Derby has a beer king, so it's quite an honour.
"This year we've decided to have the entertainment out in a marquee because last year it was in this main Roundhouse and it all felt a little cramped.
"I think that gives this room space to breathe and lets punters sit down in the middle and chat and enjoy it; gives the whole event a more relaxed atmosphere.
"And it is easy to see the event is growing. We have 12 Derby brewers here today, which is just great."
One of the food exhibitors was Lyndsey Morgan, who runs sandwich shop and delicatessen G. Morgan and Sons, in the Eagle Market.
He said it was a vital show for the business.
"You just get to see so many customers," he said. "We will sell some cheese while we are here but, more than that, we will draw attention to the business, which is vital."
He pointed out some of the more popular cheeses to enjoy with a pint of ale.
"Your mature cheddars and your blue cheese will go well with ales. This Godminster cheddar in particular is a perfect partner."
By 4pm, long queues had formed outside the Roundhouse.
Punter Shirley Gale said she had been coming to beer festivals in Derby for more than 30 years.
The 70-year-old, of Derby, said: "I was there for the very first beer festival and the city has come such a long way since then. Derby is now a haven for real ales. I have seen so many pubs build up their own breweries, which is a key to the success of the city when it comes to ale.
"It now has a real name for it and it has become a destination for drinkers.
"So the success of the winter beer festival makes sense and the location could not be any more perfect.
"The Roundhouse is full of the history of Derby; in many ways it is Derby, with the industrial heritage.
"So for that to now be part of a new heritage for Derby – beer – is only right."
Along the walls of the building were rack upon rack of beer barrels, many shrouded in fabric warming jackets.
In front of these was a long, curving bar, manned by numerous Derby Camra volunteers including Pete Mann, 61, of Littleover.
He said: "I've been coming for four or five years now. It's just a great chance to meet a group of like-minded people – who love beer and want a good chat.
"And if I wasn't volunteering I'd be here as a punter anyway; I just love the range of beers."
Times and Prices
THE Derby Camra Winter Beer Festival, at the Roundhouse, will open at 4pm tonight and close at 11pm, admission £3.
Tomorrow, admission is £2 between 11am to 5pm, and £5 between 5pm and 11pm.
Entry on Friday and Saturday will be £3 from 11am to 5pm, and £6 from 5pm to 11pm.