Rotherham Real Ale and Music Festival celebrates 30 years in 2023

Get ready for a chuffin’ pearler…

It’s 30 years since the very first Rotherham Real Ale Festival, and to mark the occasion the event organisers have planned a proper reyt good knees up at Magna.

This year’s theme is The Great Yorkshire Beer Festival where visitors can have a gander at breweries and bands from across God’s Own County over the three-day event from Thursday 23rd to Saturday 25th February.

Since it was started in 1993 by Jim and Jan Charters at Oakwood School, Rotherham Real Ale and Music Festival has continued to grow each year. That very first festival 30 years ago showcased 22 beers and one band and made a small profit which benefitted the school’s PTA. They set a target of increase the event by ten percent each year, adding more beers and more bands until it became the biggest all hand-pulled beer festival outside of London. It has been held at Magna since 2011 and continues to be a firm favourite in the calendar for beer and music lovers.

Entry price is £12 but if you keep your RRAMF glass from Thursday or Friday – and tha’s not flaggin’ or jiggered – you can come back in on Saturday for free. Who says you don’t get owt for nowt?!

For 2023, there will be six bars serving over 150 real ales and ciders, plus wine, prosecco and gin. Prices will be £1.80 for half and £3.60 a pint.

The main hall bar will be dedicated to breweries from South Yorkshire, such as Abbeydale, Acorn, Bradfield, Nailmaker and Stancill. There will also be some East Yorkshire beers from the likes of Aitcheson’s and Old Mill.

In the red hall at Magna, the bar will have beers from North and West Yorkshire breweries such as Elland, Harrogate, Ossett, Roosters, and Saltaire.

Rotherham’s Chantry Brewery and Mexborough’s Gorilla Brewing Co will each have their own bars, as too will Yorkshire’s world-famous Timothy Taylor’s. There will also be a guest ale bar featuring breweries from the Black Country.

As well as the big names, half of the beer selection will be from smaller micro-breweries, so chances are there will be beers you’ve never heard of before, let alone tried. 

And for the designated drivers, once again there will be free soft drinks and alcohol-free beer if you let bar staff know you’re driving.

Of course, it’s not just about the beer. The event has become renowned for its vast choice of live music, with as much of the budget spent on bands than it is beer. This year the line-up brings back some festival favourites along with some new names set to play Magna for the first time.

Once again there will be two stages: one in the main hall and one in the Boardwalk room.

Kicking things off on the Thursday night is Funky Business with their mix of soul, funk and dance classics to get the party started. Then it’s the return of the inimitable Everly Pregnant Brothers as headliners with their hilarious Yorkshire-themed covers. Try not to spill your beer as Big Shaun and the band catch the 69 to Rovvrum to sing about everything from breadcakes to losing their best pigeon.

Everly Pregnant Brothers, Thursday night headliners

The party continues on Friday night in the main hall with performances by soul band The G-Men and headliners The Magnetics and their dance-floor classics. The Boardwalk stage will see a night of indie anthems with rockers Floodhounds warming up for the high energy performance by The Leathernecks.

Saturday’s doors open at 12pm where there will be a marketplace in the red hall featuring t-shirts, truffles and tipples of gin to buy. CAMRA representatives will be there for anyone interested in becoming a member. Children are also allowed in the festival on Saturday afternoon if accompanied by an adult, great for families who don’t want to miss out.

Top: The Magnetics, Matilda Shakes, Kiziah and the Kings. Bottom: Floodhounds, Heartlands, Loz Campbell

Music starts mid-afternoon with a laidback country roots vibe featuring performances from Fargo Railroad Co, Heartlands, the Ramblin Preachers, and Serious Sam Barrett.

Then get ready to rock as Saturday night sees an eclectic mix of musicians take to the stages. In the main hall there will be Matilda Shakes, Republic, Handsome Dan and the Mavericks, and female guitarist Loz Campbell. Over on the Bordwalk stage will be blues rockers Lightning Threads, indie rocker Sam Scherdel, and reggae rockers Kiziah and the Kings.    

To end the festival in style, this is the one act you’re sure to adore as The Stone Roses tribute band, Resurrection, take to the main hall stage.

Resurrection, Stone Roses tribute, Saturday night headliners

This year, the organisers are also running a Battle of the Bands competition in aid of Rotherham Cancer Care which is one of this year’s Rotherham Mayor’s charities and a long-term beneficiary of the beer festival. Up-and-coming bands have been invited to join in the competition and the winner will get to appear on the main hall stage on the Thursday night in front of thousands of people. You can support the participants at the semi-final on 21st January and final on 11th February at the Chantry Brewery tap room, Parkgate.

As a charity festival, the huge event is organised solely by volunteers, so remember to be kind to those behind the bar who are giving their free time to pull pints.

The team are still on the lookout for volunteers for before, during and after the event. So, if you have a few hours to spare to clean the pumps, put posters up, man the bars, or set up the stages then your help will be invaluable. All volunteers work shifts over the weekend and will get free food and drinks, as well as a festival t-shirt and the chance to see these amazing live acts perform.

They are also looking for people to help them crown the Champion Beer of Yorkshire 2023. Tasting takes place in the afternoon on Wednesday 22nd February at Magna where you could help them choose the best in each category: mild; blonde/golden/pale; session bitter; premium bitter; porter and stout; IPA; speciality. There will be CAMRA qualified beer tasters on-hand to teach you what to look for. The overall winner will be chosen by a guest judging panel.

To buy tickets, visit their website. Here you can also find more information about volunteering, the music and beer line-up, or how to get involved in the beer tasting.