There were toasts all round from real ale fans as Wallington Town Hall opened its doors for three days during the Wallington Beer Festival.
The festival, which ran from October 10-12, featured 45 real ales brewed no more than 30 miles away and was staffed entirely by volunteers.
This year was the 20th annual festival organised by Croydon & Sutton Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the 17th to be held at Wallington Town Hall.
And it’s not just dedicated drinkers who’re turning up to these kind of festivals either, with entrants becoming younger and, occasionally, female.
“In the past, Fridays have been a younger evening,” said David Lands, Membership Secretary for Croydon & Sutton CAMRA.
The Cask Report, published last month, showed that almost a third of occasional real ale drinkers have it mainly at beer festivals.
It also highlighted that the real ale market has increased dramatically since 2000, despite the overall decline of the beer market.
The reason for this has likely been down to the more sociable approach to drinking real ale and changes in perception towards it.
“There are no stigmas attatched,” said Rowan Barret, Bar Manager at The Hope, Carshalton, which won Greater London Pub of the Year for the second year running earlier this month.
In terms of how he percevied the real ale drinking scene had increased over the past few years, Rowan said: “I don’t even think doubled describes it.”
When there’s an increase in demand the supply will grow to match it, with numerous real ale breweries springing up in the past few years.
Two of these newer breweries are Clarence & Fredericks Brewing Co., in Croydon, and By the Horns Brewing Co., in Wandsworth, who sponsored the Wallington Beer Festival along with Kent Brewery Ltd.
Clarence & Fredricks are barely a year old, making their debut at last year’s festival, while By the Horns have only been around for about a year longer than that.
Of course things aren’t perfect for real ale, with continued pub closures across the country and many “tied” pubs being forced to buy the drinks their Pubco owners choose.
But with its popularity on the up, the future of real ale looks golden, or dark brownish if you’re more of a stout & porter fan.
Interested in trying real ale? Visit http://croydoncamra.org.uk/ for information about Croydon & Sutton CAMRA or visit http://whatpub.com/ to see what pubs in your area stock real ale.