When it comes to beer, is it possible to change the attitudes of an entire town? Whilst that may sound like the tagline for a short-lived Sky Living series, it’s very definitely the desire of the organisers of a festival I was at over this past weekend. Beertown Malton has pinned its wishes very firmly to its sleeve, right from the outset; nothing short of a fundamental change of attitudes in the North Yorkshire market town will do. Of course, those organisers have something of a vested interest in this, as the festival – which debuted on Friday – is backed by two breweries, both recently arrived in Malton: Brass Castle and Bad Seed.
Malton itself isn’t exactly a beery desert, there are plenty of pubs there, and even an existing real ale festival hosted by local institution Suddaby’s (which takes place at the same venue this coming weekend). They used to have a brewery, behind the Crown Hotel, but it relocated out of Malton in 2004, meaning there were no producers in the town until last year. Bad Seed and Brass Castle both arrived then, the latter announcing they were moving to Malton the day before the former installed their brewkit. Yet both are working together to get Maltonites drinking beer made locally, rather than being tankered in from other parts of Yorkshire.
“It’s like living next door to a chef and only eating white bread cheese sandwiches,” says Chris Waplington, one half of Bad Seed. “We want to do for beer what others have done here for food.” Any brewer who has spent a day being rained on in a farmers’ market would surely agree. Since Bad Seed launched a few months ago, they have been slowly winning the locals over with their highly-hopped, small batch numbers. Brass Castle, meanwhile, concentrate more on the cask side of the business, and are larger,* so there’s very little overlap between the two, locally.
*In relative terms, both breweries amount to 14bbl between them (Brass Castle 10, Bad Seed 4)
This desire to involve as many people as possible probably explains the set-up of the Beertown Malton festival; which was an eclectic a ‘town-hall’ beer experience as I’ve had for some while. A modern beer list including the likes of Salty Kiss, Kernel and Tiny Rebel, shoehorned into the same space as a twenty-piece brass band. A southern bluegrass group politely asking the local baker to keep their purchases under a table until their set had finished. Sag Aloo soup and Marble Pint. A magician performing sleight of hand in the painted back room, which doubled as a regency-style basketball court. Rubber suits of armour and giant mouse heads. Scotch eggs and Cotton Eyed Joe.
In short, it was great. You can be as inclusive as you want, but you also need to be a little different, to be memorable. The whole idea of Beertown Malton is to give people an idea of the potential of these local brewers, what they can do when they work together, and how all of this can fit with a recently ‘foodiefied’ town. With beers as good as Brass Castle Heretic – a saffron-infused Belgian-style strong ale – that’s the next step. Brilliantly summarised by Leigh from The Good Stuff as ‘Yorkshire’s Duvel’, it was the standout of a number of great beers, and hit the spot from the first sip.
If you want to start a movement, and have already let people know, then beers as good as this will really make them sit up and take notice. Beertown Malton, as a festival, will return – but as a concept, it is already well underway.