St Albans beer festival celebrates 190 years of McMullen’s
PUBLISHED: 12:00 22 September 2017
TERRY RICHARDS PHOTOGRAPHY
St Albans Beer Festival is more than just a celebration of good beer this year. It will also salute McMullen’s, Hertfordshire oldest brewery that has chalked up 190 years of beer-making.
To mark the anniversary it has brewed a special beer for the festival called Golden Years. It has been made in collaboration with the local CAMRA branch and its members helped devise the recipe.
The Hertford brewery was founded in 1827 and is one of the oldest surviving family breweries in Britain. The company is still firmly in the hands of the family, with Fergus McMullen joined by his son Tom. They run the brewery and an estate of 125 pubs that now includes several outlets in central London and south of the Thames.
In St Albans, Macs – as it’s popularly known – owns the Peahen, the stately former coaching inn at the junction of London Road and Holywell Hill. The Farriers Arms in Lower Dagnall Street is now a free house but was owned by Macs since the 1920s and still sells the brewery’s Country Bitter.
The Farriers has a plaque commemorating the fact that the first branch of CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, was formed in the pub in the 1970s and it’s the South Herts branch that’s behind the 22nd beer festival that starts on 27 September in the Alban Arena.
CAMRA organises around a dozen beer festivals a month throughout the country but the St Albans event holds a special place in the annals of the organisation. When plans for a festival were drawn up 22 years ago, many people said there was no need for it in a city that boasted more than 50 pubs.
But the choice of beer then was poor, with many of the pubs owned by big national groups such as Ind Coope and Whitbread. The festival proved there were many more and better beers than they offered and since then the festival has grown to become one of the major events in the CAMRA calendar.
As well as the 4 per cent Golden Years, McMullen’s will offer a small cask of its 7 per cent Stronghart, a powerful, full-tasting and fruity beer that is usually only available in bottle. There’s bound to be a clamour for the beer and the cask will be drained quickly.
Other Hertfordshire breweries to be featured at the festival include 3 Brewers of Symonds Hyde with no fewer than eight beers on show, including Blonde, a special brew for the event.
Farr Brew at Wheathampstead, not be outdone, will have a dozen beers to taste. But the top accolade for choice goes to Tring Brewery with a remarkable 18 beers to please the revellers.
On a smaller scale, two St Albans pubs that have their own tiny breweries – the Verulam Arms and the White Hart Tap – will brew beers for the event. The White Hart offering is called Time to Die and should clearly be supped with caution.
But this is more than a Home Counties event. There will be beers from Scotland and Wales, Yorkshire in the north of England and Cornwall in the south, with many other counties in between. And as always there’s an international flavour with beers from many other countries, including offerings from that amazing brewing nation, Belgium.
St Albans Beer Festival takes place at the Alban Arena from September 27-30. For times and ticket information go to: www.stalbansbeerfestival.org.uk.
On the eve of the festival Roger Protz will stage a talk and beer tasting in conjunction with his new book IPA – A Legend in Our Time. There will be six beers to sample, including Fuller’s Bengal Lancer and Worthington’s White Shield on draught: the latter is usually only available in bottle. Tuesday September 26, Alban Arena, 7.30pm. Tickets £12, pay on the door.