When Willingham residents stroll down Church Street at the end of June this year they will notice something completely new to arouse their senses. First they will see that a marquee has miraculously appeared in the Social Club car park. Then they will hear the pleasant sounds of summer music wafting on the breeze. Finally they will scent the sweet aroma of malt, hops and barley in the air. Yes, it’s the Willingham Beer Festival 29th June to 1st July.
The excitement doesn’t end there as the village has the opportunity to take part in creating and naming a special ale that will appear for the first time at the Festival in honour of Willingham’s first dedicated beer festival.
Is it really the first Willingham Beer Festival?
Some older residents may remember beer tents in the village fields many years past but it seems unlikely they will have experienced anything in the village quite like this, certainly in this millennium, and maybe not ever before.
The Beer Festival is the fruit of an admirable collaboration between various groups in the village. The Social Club is providing the venue, wine, soft drinks and food. The Jam Club is providing the music from the pool of local talent that has graced many a village event. Willingham Action Group is providing the administrative support, the marquee and the volunteers. Local businesses are providing sponsorship for the whole event. The 3 primary sponsors are Hockey’s Estate Agents, Uttridge Accounting Ltd and the Fen Edge Community Association. And lastly, but not inconsequentially, the Bank Micropub is providing the beer, supported by the Jolly Good Beer Company (who are also doing the social media advertising, and artwork for the glasses, banners and posters).
It has been heart-warming to see the enthusiasm of all the parties involved to make this a special village success story, with the added drive of channeling the Willingham Action Group proceeds from the event into disabled facilities at the Social Club. Happily, with food, wine, soft drinks and of course music also available at the venue, it will be a real family event.
Willingham’s very own festival beer
In honour of the event, one of the brewers (Three Blind Mice of Little Downham) that is supplying some of the real ales on offer, has agreed to create a unique ale specially for the Festival. There’s an opportunity for the Willingham community to get even more closely involved in the event by contributing one of the key ingredients of the brew and also by naming the new beer that is produced.
The brewers have suggested that our special Willingham brew be an elderflower-based pale ale as elderflowers will be in bloom around the time of the Festival. They have asked the people of Willingham to collect the elderflowers to be used in the brew and to come up with a name for the new ale. Here are the details if you want to get involved in helping create and name the beer.
How to get involved
At the end of May, beginning of June, preferably at a time of dry weather, pick good, fresh and clean elderflowers (away from busy roadsides please). Select only the freshest looking flowers (no browning, plump or shrivelled ones and at least 75% of flowers open). Leave at least half the umbels (flower clusters) on the trees so as not to impact the resident birds and bugs. If time permits, try and remove as much stem from the flowers as possible. (You could run the umbels through the tines of a fork into a bowl to do this.)
Bring your crop to the Bank Micropub on Saturday or Sunday, 3 and 4 June, and drop it off in the yellow van parked behind/near the pub from midday (NB the pub will be closed).
Volunteers may also wish to get involved in ‘grading’ and de-stemming flowers on the Saturday and Sunday at the van. Sign up on the Willingham Beer Festival website if you would like to help.
Name that beer
The beer will take about a month to create and brew, so we have a little time to find a suitable name for it. The beer will be a pale ale, about 4% ABV, infused with Willingham elderflowers. Send your suggestions for the name by visiting the website below. A shortlist will be sent to the brewers (Three Blind Mice) for them to choose the final name.
The name of our new Festival brew will be unveiled on the first night of the Festival, Thursday 29 June.
Check out the Willingham Beer Festival website to volunteer to prepare the elderflowers and to choose a name for the new brew. You will also find further details about the Festival.
Opportunity to sponsor a barrel
There’s still time for you to sponsor a barrel of beer at the Festival. For £50, your name or the name of your business can be displayed on one of the 25 barrels of beer and cider on offer for the duration of the Festival. Contact Paul at firstname.lastname@example.org for poster ideas.
Willingham Beer Festival programme
Venue – Willingham Social Club, Church Street
Date and time
Thursday 29 June 7pm – 11pm
Friday 30 June 7pm – 11pm
Saturday 1 July 12pm – 2pm and 7pm – 11pm
Thursday – Alchemy
Friday – Steve Lockwood Band
Saturday evening – Keith Pearson and Tim Jellis
Beers, ciders and other drinks
25+ real ales, lagers and ciders supplied by The Bank Micropub
Wine and soft drinks supplied by Willingham Social Club
Food – A variety of hot food
Entry – £3 adults, children free
£2 (refundable) for souvenir glass and programme
About the bands at Willingham Beer Festival
Alchemy (Thursday night)
Alchemy is a Cambridgeshire-based guitar and vocal duo covering a wide range of musical styles, from Peggy Lee to Jessie J. Their engaging and spirited performances, delivered across a diverse repertoire of music, have been delighting audiences in this area for the last decade. Both performers have been regular artists at the Willingham Jam Club.
Steve Lockwood Band (Friday night)
Internationally recognised ‘Harmonica Wizard’ Steve Lockwood, along with his band, will be showcasing the power and influence of his favourite and most versatile instrument, the harmonica. Using traditional and avant-garde techniques, musician, composer, performer and harmonica teacher, Steve has an extensive repertoire encompassing many genres from early blues and jazz to soul, funk and contemporary dance, pop and rock music. He has entertained thousands in over 4000 concerts and has recorded more than 70 albums. Steve has composed and played music for film and television. His latest collaborations have been with Tom Jones’ band, Amy Wadge and Ed Sheeran.
Keith Pearson and Tim Jellis (Saturday night)
Keith, reunited with long-time collaborator, Tim Jellis, will be combining folk/country inspired original songs with superb musicianship. Keith is a prolific writer of world-class songs and can hold an audience enthralled with his humour, voice, songs and banjo/guitar playing. His collaboration with Tim Jellis (guitar, vocals) started an amazing thirty years ago, and their intimate, heart-melting harmonies honed over the years have been likened to the Everly Brothers.
Brewing the Willingham ale
You may be interested to know what will go into brewing our new ale. The brewers have informed us that the recipe will involve East Anglian pale malts and British Olicana hops – a fairly new hop variety developed by Charles Farams (a UK hop factor). The yeast will be what’s called a ‘clean’ profiled ale yeast.
In brewing, the malts are steeped in the ‘mash’ (crushed grains and hot water) and the ‘wort’ (resultant liquid) is drawn off. Then it is boiled in the ‘kettle’ (large boiling vessel) with hops. The boiling both sterilises the wort and sometimes reduces it to achieve the right starting gravity (amount of sugar in the wort). The hops in the boil impart flavour and bitterness, with the effect being different depending on how early or late they go into the boil, with late hops imparting the most flavour.
The elderflowers will be put in late, just before ‘flame out’ (kettle turned off) and they will steep and impart their flavour but also be sterilised by the hot wort (so any wild yeasts on them are killed and don’t infect the beer). This wort is then cooled and put into an FV (fermentation vessel), the yeast is ‘pitched’ (added) and fermentation begins. At the end of fermentation further hops are added; this is called ‘dry hopping’ and imparts many of the floral/citrus flavour notes popular in pale beers these days. After a day or two after the dry hops have been added, the beer is racked to cask and keg, where it conditions ready for dispensing at the Festival. The new beer will be available in both formats.
Let us know the result if you try this at home.