As a card carrying CAMRA member it’s no secret I love my real ale but I’m also a fan of a good old G&T. In recent years Gin has really experienced a Renaissance – 10 or so years ago you probably had a handful of big name brands to choose from in your local supermarket or bar – and now there are so many brands and Gin types on the market. Hooray!
Riding on the crest of Gin’s new found popularity is the Gin Festival, which as you may expect gives lovers of the drink a place to discover new Gins and for brands to showcase their product. I was invited to the Burnley Gin Festival* recently and I couldn’t wait to learn more about my favourite tipple and unearth some new favourites!
The Burnley Gin Festival took place in the Burnley Mechanics, a theatre which is also home to the Burnley Beer Festival, so is very much used to staging events like this one. It’s a great venue, with modern facilities, a bistro that serves some fantastic food, and a bar that already is home to a huge variety of Gin!
Entrance to the festival was £7.50 for either an afternoon or evening session and booking for this popular event was essential. The cost included an exclusive Gin Festival glass and a comprehensive Gin Book with tasting notes. Each Gin cost £5 including garnish and mixer, and these were purchased for using tickets which you bought on the entrance or upstairs.
Four bars in the auditorium served a vast array of Gins (approximately 100!); Bars A & B were devoted to British Gin, Bar C was international Gin and Bar D was flavoured Gin. There was also a Gin Cocktail bar, a few sampling stations, a shop selling Gin and Gin related products, and half-hourly Masterclasses where you could discover more about some of the brands.
I loved how expertly the Gin was served, each one being perfectly matched with a particular mixer and accompanied by an approriate garnish. As someone who usually sticks to a bog standard tonic water and slice of lemon it was a revelation to discover how a particular mixer, whether it was Indian Tonic, Elderflower Tonic, Ginger Ale or Bitter Lemon, brought different botanicals and flavours out of the Gin. All the mixers were by Fevertree and they were fantastic – not overly gassy or too sharp like some other brands can be. I’ll definitely be switching from my usual brand of Tonic!
With so many different Gins on offer my husband and I were spoilt for choice and we managed 6 Gins each plus a few samples. I kicked off the afternoon with Sir Robin of Loxley from Yorkshire (as a Yorkshire lass it was a must) which tasted lovely with Elderflower Tonic as a mixer, and from Belfast, Jawbox Gin, which was served with Ginger Ale and was a surprising hit as I’m not normally a fan of ginger. I then moved on to the International Gins and tried a Slovenian Gin called One Key, that was nice but probably my least favourite of the day. As a fan of Sloe Gin I tried Addingham Sloe from Bar D. This is another Yorkshire Gin and was served with Elderflower Cordial and Lemon Tonic which proved a refreshing combination and was perfect for the unusually warm September day. Finally I had a Gin that was exclusively blended for the festival, Tarquins Single Estate Cornish Tea Gin, and Opihr, a Gin from Warrington that was served with an unusual combination of Bell Pepper and Ginger Ale. I loved the warmth and spiciness of this very different Gin and it definitely ended the day on a high! Other Gins worth mentioning were Pinkster, Brockmans, and Poetic Licence.
Featuring Gin Masterclasses, live music, good food and a laidback atmosphere the emphasis of the Gin Festival is definitely on responsible drinking and savouring the premium, quality drinks, rather than people getting drunk and lairy! This makes it perfect for a relaxed afternoon outing with friends or family. All the festival staff were really informative too, so if you’re a Gin newbie they would certainly make you feel at ease and help you choose your perfect Gin!
I really enjoyed my afternoon at the Gin Festival – It was great to be able to sample so many different Gins each one served to perfection! If you’re partial to a G&T, want to discover some new Gins, or just want a nice afternoon out with friends I’d definitely recommend checking out the Gin Festival website for events near you! The next ones are Guildford, Edinburgh, Rochdale, Cardiff, and Brighton (plus more!) so wherever you are in the UK there will probably be an event near you soon!
*I was gifted two tickets to the festival. All thoughts are my own