Mark Briggs has been a real ale connoisseur for over 35 years. A self-professed ‘beer geek’, this week he previews the Padiham Beer Festival.
Read of Mark’s adventures in ale at his blog or follow him on Twitter @realaleupnorth

This week I feel duly obliged to swerve the usual pub review, in order to highlight a beery two-day celebration of fine cask ales in the locality.

The town of Padiham rolls out its first beer festival at the Town Hall tomorrow and Saturday and it promises to be a cracking event for discerning ale drinkers, both locally and from further afield.

Padiham Town Council, along with Irwell Works Brewery, have organised the festival, which will boast 45 cask ales — and they will all be on hand pumps.

The town council and volunteers have been hard at work, including Mayor Vince Pridden, who will be very much involved at the festival. Both he and his wife, Gillian will be doing the catering at the event.

Vince said: “Hundreds of real ale fans will bring a carnival atmosphere to the town during the two day extravaganza. It will be a huge boost to Padiham.

Many local brewers will be represented. However, some tipples on offer will no doubt be being sampled for the first time. Beers from Deeply Vale (Bury), Star Brewery (Salford), Brightside (Radcliffe) and Blue Bee (Sheffield) are not commonly seen on the bars in East Lancashire and the festival will give ale lovers an ideal opportunity to sample them.

Of course, there will be the fine ales from Irwell Works, who are co-hosting the festival. Their line-up includes Steam Plate, Rammy Brown Ale, Tin Plate and the excellent Costa Del Salford. Other more familiar ales are from the Bank Top, Ossett and Titanic breweries — the latter brewery’s beers are among my favourites and go down particularlywell.

There will be plenty of time to sample the many cask ales on offer. Doors open from midday tomorrow until midnight. The same timings will apply for Saturday too. Entry will be just £2.50. CAMRA members will receive a 50p discount, so don't forget your membership card.

I am really looking forward to the festival. How times have changed in recent years, as the real ale bandwagon continues to roll on at an ever-increasing pace Not too long ago it was all mature males with beards and beer-bellies, wearing tank-top pullies, anoraks and fedora hats and carrying North Face rucksacks.

Women were non-existent. You would have had more chance seeing Lord Lucan riding into the beer hall on Shergar.

Thankfully, all that has now changed and you will witness many ladies — and indeed more younger people — sampling the delights of real ale and real cider.

The Town Hall venue will be ideal. It’s in the centre of town, on a mainline bus route and the bus stop is right outside this fine Grade II listed building.

So let’s all raise a glass to its success. I am sure Padiham Beer Festival will become an annual event in the national calendar.

Tickets are £2.50 or £2 for CAMRA members. Doors open from noon to midnight.