Real good time for ale lovers

The pints were flowing at this year's real ale festival
The pints were flowing at this year's real ale festival

This weekend hundreds of ale lovers will head to the Dobbie Hall.

The fourth Larbert Ale Festival kicks off on Friday afternoon, allowing patrons to sample traditionally brewed beers from around the country.

Tipples including gluten free honey beer and ale infused with citrus fruits will be on offer as well as the more traditional stouts, bitters and dark ales.

Rob Duff from Forth Valley Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA), which is organising the event, said this year is shaping up to the most successful festival to date.

“We have worked really hard to get a great selection of local, rare and exceptional ales. We even have an ale that is only brewed on Diamond Jubilee years so will be available for the first time since 1897 - and I doubt many of us will be around to try it for the next Diamond Jubilee.”

One of the most anticipated ales is the Toffee Porter from Tryst - a brewery situated just metres from the Dobbie Hall.

Owner John McGarva created two tipples using Highland Toffee from McCowan’s, formerly of Stenhousemuir and liquorice.

John said: “When I heard the McCowan’s had went under and production was moving to England, I thought I had to make a brew using it.

“You can add just about anything to ale and it will take on the flavours - depending on what you are adding determines when you add it to the process.

“Highland Toffee has been made in Stenhousemuir for generations so I wanted to pair it up with Tryst ale and I managed to get my hands on one of the last batches of toffee made in Scotland.”

As well as drinks from Tryst, six other breweries from the Forth Valley area will have their ales on sale.

Walter Dunlop owns Tinpot Brewery based in Bridge of Allan and specialising in weird and wonderful ales.

“I spent a lot of last week hunting down nettles after I got an idea for nettle ale and other recipes have including Chinese five spices, fennel and a beetroot and black pepper ale.

“At last year’s festival I showcased Thai Pot, infused with ginger and coriander which sold out really quickly.

“This year I’ve got Marmalade Pot, made with Seville oranges and a gluten free honey ale for coeliacs using locally produced honey.”

CAMRA Forth Valley have held ale festivals in Alloa for years but to host one across the River Forth.

Rob continued: “We chose Larbert because it’s so central, the Dobbie Hall is right beside the train station making it easy for people coming out with the area and the town has a great brewery too.

“Real ale has definitely increased in popularity in recent years. People seem to want to cut out the chemicals and additives that are added to mass produced beers and want to try locally produced drinks.

“Even people who drink ale has changed. People assume that the festival will be lots of old grumpy men but there are people from all walks of life and lots of women. “Last year, at one point there were more women than men at the festival and we do have cider and wine for sale for people that don’t like ales.

“In the 1980s there was only three breweries in Forth Valley, now there is seven and that looks set to expand.”

The festival bar will be manned by members of Larbert Round Table, who have been versed on the ales available.

Grant Keenan, chairman of the organisation, said: “The atmosphere at the festival has been great and everyone is just there for a good time and to try ales.

“There is also a really good sense of community spirit, with neighbours meeting over an ale.

“We don’t know that much about the ales but there are CAMRA members and brewers on hand to answer any questions and match novices to their ideal drink. The more unusual flavours do run out fast, so get in there quick if there is a certain ale you are desperate to try.”

Rob added: “We get ale enthusiasts from around the country, wanting to try some of the rarer drinks and tick them off their list.

“Anyone that hasn’t tried a real ale needs is missing out. Forget the stereotypes and give a proper ale a try - you might be surprised.”

Larbert Ale Festival runs from 5-11 p.m. on Friday and noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday. Entry costs £5.