With a weekend of thunderstorms predicted we hit the M5 at the start of last week’s Bank Holiday weekend with a van loaded up with organic beer and headed for the rolling hills of Devon.
We actually arrived at our destination without too many delays and in glorious sunshine. River Cottage HQ is set in a beautiful valley just outside Axminster on the Devon/Dorset border. The main cottage has the most stunning vegetable garden to the front and a courtyard surrounded by outbuildings housing the cookery school and restaurant. It is a foodie and nature lovers paradise.
We were taking part in the annual River Cottage Food Fair, planning to introduce our organic beers to a wider audience, but it seemed that Stroud Brewery’s reputation had preceded us and we were thrilled to be approached by the guys at Coombe Farm Organic, who had already heard of our beers and we sold our first bottles while we were still setting up! Keeping our fingers crossed for the fine weather to continue, we headed off to Lyme Regis for fish and chips on the beach like any good grockle would do! And if it wasn’t perfect enough we were fortunate to stumble upon Swim during a festival of jazz weekend.
It was a drizzly start on the Saturday morning, but people were not deterred and were already queuing to get into the festival fields when we arrived to finish setting up. As the day went on, the crowds continued to flood in and the sun came out. There was a fantastic atmosphere at the fair and we met visitors who had travelled from as far away as Hull, Durham, Nottingham and Suffolk just to visit, all buying in to the River Cottage ethos, which meant that our award-winning, organic beers went down a storm. Alederflower, was our biggest seller of the weekend, a subtle elederflower infused pale ale in 330ml cans. Lots of customers wanted to know how they could get hold of our beers in their hometowns and took our details so they could recommend us to their local landlords and deli owners.
We were really delighted that organic pioneers, Geetie and Guy Singh-Watson (Riverford and Riverford at The Duke of Cambridge), popped by our stall seeking out our beer. Guy was spotted sipping a Budding on stage with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and later walking around the festival field with a Hop Drop in hand. Steven Lamb, River Cottage’s own curing and smoking expert, was also spotted enjoying our beers and after the fair instagrammed himself holding a can Alederflower in his garden. Hugh tried both our Premium Organic Lager and Budding at the end of fair party. In fact, he told us that he had been enjoying our beer all day, which was fantastic to hear.
The best thing about these type of events is the people; River Cottage staff and gardeners, foodies, bloggers, speakers on the environment and organic movement, all the lovely exhibitors, musicians and the wonderful visitors. It’s a very special event in a magical location, and the doughnuts were pretty epic too!
The River Cottage Food Fair sold out, so make sure you get your tickets early for the next event. It’s a wonderful place to spend a weekend and discover small businesses that care about what they create and how they produce it. All of the exhibitors were offering premium products that had been developed with care for people and place. We met some lovely Stroudies who are fighting back plastic with their incredible Beeswax Wraps, Hodmedods with their organic British grown pulses and grains, Six Legs Farm who are pioneering the insect eating revolution and our friends from Toast Ale.
We had the best time hanging out in those rolling Devon hills. Hugh himself said we should come back to the next River Cottage Festival – sign us up!