REAL ales of the highest calibre attracted the crowds for the start of one of the winter’s biggest beer festivals.
The annual Gosport Winterfest returned for the 22nd year in a row yesterday in the familiar and much-loved surroundings of Thorngate Halls.
Over the two-day bash, more than 1,000 people will have sampled drinks from a range of more than 80 real ales and a selection of cider and perries – all the while being entertained by music from M27s, Portsmouth City Band, Shep Woolley, and of course, good conversation.
Nigel Firth-Penney, a member of the Campaign for Real Ale who works on the cider bar, said: ‘It’s one of the biggest winter beer festivals in the south.
‘We get people coming from all over. We get several generations of the same family.
‘There’s people who come back every year, as well as first-timers.
‘It’s nice to see old faces, and nice to see new ones as well.’
There are four sessions over the two days and last night’s event was a sell-out.
For the first time in the festival’s history, punters have been able to drink third-of-a-pint samplers – meaning people get to try out a wider range of beers.
There was also a LocAle bar, which offers ales brewed within a 30-mile radius of Gosport.
Asked what the secret to the festival’s success is, Nigel said: ‘The first thing is the great variety of real ales, ciders and perries.
‘It’s all in top condition.
‘It’s a fun festival. It’s nice surroundings in Thorngate Halls. You have one bar with the music on and one quiet bar.
‘For real ale and cider fans, it’s a big day on the calendar.’
This year The News will have a seat on the judging panel which decides which beers taste the best.
The event is being run by volunteers from the Campaign for Real Ale’s Portsmouth and south-east Hampshire branch.