Real Ale Judging at Ludlow Food Festival

Last month Ludlow Castle was host to the twentieth anniversary of the Ludlow Food Festival, a popular event which I was fortunate enough to attend. Hosted over three days, the annual festival provides the people and businesses of Shropshire, and the surrounding counties, with the opportunity to exhibit their produce, trades and products. A variety of master classes and workshops also give attendees the chance to try something new or to learn a new skill, for example how to make the perfect cup of coffee or how to improve their knife skills in the kitchen.
Happily enough, I was able to mix work and play at the festival, being invited to represent Lanyon Bowdler as a judge on the real ale trail judging panel. 
The judging panel was given the enviable task of tasting and assessing a number of different ales which featured throughout the pubs in and around Ludlow over the weekend. Admittedly, I like to think I know a bit about ale, being born and bred in Shropshire and accustomed to a drop or two; however, as a non-expert “consumer judge” I was astonished to learn the true extent of the criteria that good ales can be judged against. 
After an hour and thirteen different samples of ale from a number of local breweries I felt I had learned a lot, especially with four expert judges on the panel. Luckily, several of my favourite tipples came out towards the top of final rankings; so I felt somewhat vindicated. I can report that ales from south-Shropshire and mid-Herefordshire breweries were the order of the day and dominated the proceedings.
Besides the vast array of ale, it was a pleasure to see, and taste, what each of the exhibitors had to offer, ranging from breweries, chocolatiers, distilleries, smokehouses, farmers, chefs, jam makers – and the list goes on. One of my particular favourites being peppered biltong (South African cured beef) from a local producer. 
On the other hand I was lucky enough to see, and meet, John Challis (also known as Boycie from Only Fools and Horses) who was promoting his range of biographies – I think him quoting his classic catchphrase “Marlene” made him the exhibitor of the day, in my books anyway. 
In any case, the venue, the atmosphere and the variety of things to do made the day fly by; and I shall have no hesitation in recommending next year’s Ludlow Food Festival as a great day out and an opportunity to see (again, again taste) what the people and businesses of  Shropshire, and the surrounding counties, have to offer.