History of Braintree Real Ale Festival
It was in 2004 that John Hedges and Simon Smith, two members of Braintree Lions Club, proposed to their colleagues that the club hold a real ale festival. The festival was to have three simple aims: to introduce real ale to the people of Braintree, to raise funds for local charities and to promote the availability of Essex brewed real ale. Discussions took place with members of the North West Essex branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) and the decision was made to run the event as a joint venture between Lions and CAMRA.
The first Braintree Real Ale Festival took place in 2005 in a marquee in Weavers Park in the centre of the town with a modest selection of real ales and ciders. In 2006, the event moved to Braintree Institute (now Bocking Arts Theatre) and has grown/adapted each year to become a well established event in the town. We believe the Braintree event has encouraged more people across the district to try real ale and real cider & perry. Now, many pubs put on real ale events themselves. Many others regularly stock a variety of real ales and ciders produced by local breweries and cider makers. To illustrate the growth and popularity of real ale since our first festival, there are now over 30 breweries of varying sizes within Essex alone.
Since that first festival in 2005, Braintree Lions Club has raised and donated in excess of £160,000 to local, national and international charitable causes with some £40,000 coming directly from our Real Ale Festivals. Charities which have benefited from the festivals include Essex Air Ambulance, Marie Curie Cancer Care, The Alzeimers Society, Helen Rollason Cancer Care, Macmillan Cancer support and many locally based charities.
This year's event is once more being run as a partnership between Braintree Lions Club and North West Essex CAMRA and will again take place in the splendid surroundings of the Bocking Arts Theatre, another of the Courtaulds family's legacies to the town. Although the Braintree Real Ale Festival is not the biggest in Essex, the organisers and regular attendees believe it cannot be matched for atmosphere and friendliness.