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Rotherham Oakwood Festival 2000 was the biggest ever! The Festival offered beers from almost every brewery in Yorkshire. There were no less than five bars to cover each region of Yorkshire - with a couple for North Yorkshire for those who have worked out that there are only four Yorkshire Regions! With more than 130 beers all on hand pump and 10 Belgian beers on draught, there was enough choice for everyone.

More than 3700 attended the Festival, and of those more than 2000 came on the free bus service provided by First Mainline. The free service was to and from anywhere in South Yorkshire and was certainly very popular. We also had visitors from all over the country. Rotherham now has one of Yorkshire's largest Festivals - only 8 years on from being Yorkshire's smallest Festival.

The first two nights were private sessions for sponsors and CAMRA members and these too attracted record audiences. On Wednesday night, the CAMRA "Beer of the Festival" was chosen by a blind tasting panel which included Barrie Pepper, the beer writer. Its deliberations went on very late, a recognition of the excellent beers on offer. Roosters of Harrogate were awarded top honour with 22 Carat, a new beer. Joint second were Wentworth Best Bitter and Townes Fearless Heart. It was a pleasure to see our local brewery do so well at its first "home" Festival.

Townes of Chesterfield only entered the Festival at very short notice when we were let down at the last moment by a distant Yorkshire brewer without notice.

We had beers from the biggest breweries to the smallest pub brewers some of whom rarely send their beers beyond their pub. The Festival was extremely grateful to those small brewers who often went out of their way to supply us with beers and the handpulls to serve them with.

The Belgian beers proved extremely popular although they were difficulty to serve at times. It seems that British Real Ales are far easier to handle! For the first time recently, John Smiths offered Oakwood six of their Real Ales, including John's and Magnet. What was most surprising was that John's sold out first - even ahead of Courage Directors - and Magnet won second prize for the light beer in the tasting for Beer of the Festival. Wolverhampton and Dudley came with a complete range of beers including Marston's Bitter - the last we are likely to see of it. Sadly, Mansfield were absent for the first time since the Festival started. It was great to see Wentworth Brewery turn up with no less than 8 beers - their complete range. The new dark ale Gun Park Dark was very popular.

The CAMRA stand did exceptionally well this year. In its new location, CAMRA tombola was a success, campaigning vigorous and 9 new members were recruited at the Festival, a record. Existing members also took advantage of their mem- bership by attending the free advance sessions on Wednesday and Thursday in their hundreds.

As Saturday evening approached, it was obvious that beer supplies were running out despite ordering 20% more beer this year. The Festival still offered more than 100 beers on opening on Saturday but at about 10:55 on Saturday night, we had to call it a day as we had run out! The timing couldn't have been better. There were queues for the last remaining beers at the Festival - Tetleys and Sams (because we bought so much), but there was so little left that our celebration Party after the Festival was unusually subdued.

Although beers were top of the menu, a note should also be made of the wines. Wine consumption was up by a massive 75% on last year - almost double. We are truly becoming a nation of wine drinkers. It wasn't only the white wines either, the quality reds were the first to go. 12 ciders were on offer this year including the only Yorkshire cider from Masham. All sold.

The entertainment bill with groups in the main hall, Battle of the Bands on Saturday, Line Dancing in the SYPTE Bar and the new Kaberet Club were all well attended. The Kaberet Club artistes included a Freddie Star look-a-like who went down very well despite his props.

It's very difficult to write this article for "Inn Touch" as there was so much to see and do at Rotherham Oakwood 2000 and to include it all would take the whole of the magazine. More than 3700 attendees, more than 250 voluntary helpers, more than 2000 meals, more than 30 bands and performers are just some of the statistics. The biggest handpulled festival in the United Kingdom is another one for Rotherham to be proud of.

But I should mention that the Festival got through more than 25,000 halves of Real Ale. That is a statistic that publicans in Rotherham should take very careful note of: there is a demand for quality real ale in Rotherham. The Festival is mainly local folk who come for a decent beer at a decent price (prices were held at Oakwood for the third year running). Chemical, smooth or other concoctions were not on offer.

Finally, the children of Rotherham will benefit by the provision of sports facilities from the profits of the Festival, ALL of which will be donated. Thankyou to all who came, drinkers and helpers alike.

Jim Charters, Festival Organiser

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