Great Dorset Steam Fair
Tarrant Hinton
Blandford Forum
DT11 8HX


As the name suggests the Great Dorset Steam Fair isn’t a beer festival, it’s a festival of steam powered machinery. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t ample opportunity to drink lots of beer. There are several beer & music tents located around the festival site with the main one for beer lovers being the Real Ale Marquee. In recent years the bars have been run by Glastonbury Ales. The selection of beers available hasn’t been at the ‘craft’ end of the spectrum but it has boasted some decent offerings from the likes of Dark Star and Sunny Republic. And, of course, you could always get a pint of the festival special Big Steam. Sadly, this year Glastonbury are no longer part of the scene and they’ve been replaced by Felinfoel.

As tradition has it, the first bar I entered was the Shire Arms. I could tell as soon as I got to the bar that something wasn’t right. It all looked a bit drab and dull. Glastonbury used to put a pump clip on all the gravity barrels but they were missing this year. I asked if there was any Big Steam and was told that they weren’t doing that this year. The barman then gave me a run through of the three beers he did have. Only three! Usually you’d find at least six in the Shire Arms. I bought a pint of Felinfoel’s Dorset Steam, which I assumed was the new festival special – it was manky brown yuk and I poured more than half of it away.

As we headed to the Real Ale Marquee, for the 1st Skimmity Hitchers gig of the day, we wandered past the Bridge Farm cider tent so I ducked inside and got a pint of their Dry – it’s good stuff. On arrival at the Marquee we were greeted by the same low level drabness that we encountered at the Shire Arms. Previous years there was pump clips on the barrels and big banners that listed the beers and their breweries. This year there was naked barrels and a piece of paper stuck to the bar that listed the beers but not the breweries. Practically all the beers were in the low four to mid four ABV range. It was all very disappointing. I decided there and then that I would spend the day on the cider, which is no bad thing as alongside Bridge Farm you can score cider from Burrow Hill (the Blue Bus), Wilcox, New Forest and, if the mood takes you, Westons. I had a couple of Dry from Burrow Hill, a Dry and a Vintage from Bridge Farm and a Dry from both Wilcox and New Forest.

Yeah, the beer at this year’s Steam Fair was a major disappointment but the cider was great. And the two Skimmity gigs were ace fun. And it’s always a pleasure to see heavy steam powered machinery and vintage tractors hauling heavy loads. I’ll be back next year and hopefully so will the good beer.

Blue Bus