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Something In The Air At Fernandes

We all like to raise a glass to celebrate an anniversary, and we don’t need much excuse, whether it’s marking a wedding milestone or five years since the cat first learned how to use the cat flap that you fitted many years previously. If there’s a significant date to be noted, we’ll iron a shirt and be straight there. So imagine if there were two anniversaries landing together at the same place, and that place was a pub combined with a microbrewery? You shouldn’t need a degree in Event Management to be able to arrange an appropriate celebration, and lo and behold we have all the ingredients at Fernandes in Wakefield to mark a pair of pretty special dates in September.

“There was something in the air that night, the stars were bright, Fernandes”. Abba could have written that tune about our sister pub and microbrewery, and not some Mexican fella called Fernando, had they happened to have wandered around Wakefield town centre one evening seeking a hospitable beer and a friendly welcome. Fernandes has an intangible quality that is hard to put your finger on, and even Abba couldn’t manage it. Sort of.

2017 sees the 20th year of brewing on site at Fernandes, and this has added a special nostalgic twist to their annual beer festival, to be held between Thursday 21st and Sunday 24th September. This year also marks 10 years since Ossett Brewery purchased Fernandes, and the ongoing success of the most quirky and idiosyncratic venture within our pub estate is more than sufficient reason to roll out the barrels and invite everyone round for a traditional Fernandes party.

The Fernandes Brewery Tap & Bierkeller, to give it its full name, is a much-loved paradise for beer aficionados and has been for many years. It combines a continental-style bierkeller with a rustic, wood-floored brewery tap, which has often been compared to an old-style saloon, with upright pillars, cosy alcoves and an array of rescued pub signs and distinctive wall coverings. These provide a visual feast to go along with the indulgent journey your taste buds are about to undertake when the first pint is poured.

For 20 years now Fernandes has been offering real ale lovers an eclectic mix of beers from its own barrels, ranging from light straw-coloured ales to dark full-bodied stouts. Around that there is a rotating array of Ossett beers, offerings from our other microbreweries, the Rat & Ratchet in Huddersfield and the Riverhead in Marsden, plus plenty of other local brews. But the untouched simplicity of the place is what keeps attracting people from around the region. Many of the staple beers Fernandes brew on site have remained the same for several years, and this consistent loyalty to the quest of beer drinking is what we hope will bring many loyal ale lovers to the Nostalgia Beer Festival later this month.

Over a four day period Fernandes will be celebrating 20 years of on-site brewing with, naturally, a choice of 20 beers available; a mix of special festival beers, guest beers and the results of some collaborations with our friends Bier Huis, Wakefield CAMRA, Charles Faram Ltd and Thomas Fawcett & Sons. There will be a 1997-themed pub quiz on Thursday at 9pm and a chance to win your beers set at 1997 prices. On the Saturday we have an Open Brew Day where you can learn from head brewer Steve Hutchinson, as he opens his brewing kingdom up to the masses to offer brewery tours and to talk about the history of the place. And there has been lots.

The name ‘Fernandes’ dates back around two centuries, and recognises a Portugese immigrant named Luis Fernandes, who built the nearby Fernandes Brewery in the early 1800s and constructed the current building as a three-storey Malthouse. He developed quite an impressive empire, and as well as the brewery itself grew an estate of 42 pubs, which were eventually sold to John Smiths of Tadcaster in 1919. The building where Fernandes stands now was sold to Beverleys Brewery around the same time, and was used as a malt store and then a bottle store. Many years later, one Bob Lawson became an apprentice at Beverleys Brewery, and clearly the charm and charisma of the Fernandes site left a lasting impression, but it was first acquired by the James family in 1993. David and Maureen James moved their M&D Homebrew business to the premises shortly after and set up a homebrew shop. This quickly developed into an early form of microbrewing, which they housed in the basement. They opened the Brewery Tap in 1999 and the Fernandes that we know and love today began to emerge. It went from strength to strength and was eventually purchased by Ossett Brewery in 2007, with one of the very important stipulations being that independent brewing continued on site.

This was no problem at all, and of course Ossett Brewery have been true to their word, and loyal to the spirit and traditions of local beer culture. Today, 90 different beers are brewed at Fernandes every year, with some of the old favourites like the award-winning Black Voodoo and the perennial classic Malt Shovel Mild still going strong, but Steve is also allowed some experimentation with different hops and malts to bring some innovation and new world experience to Fernandes.

Live music will be a big part of the Nostalgia Festival, with bands on both Friday and Saturday night at 9pm and on Sunday afternoon from 4pm, and live bands are a regular feature all-year-round as people flock to the little beer wonderland that is inauspiciously hidden behind a row of shops and takeaways near Kirkgate station, and offers something of a culture shock compared to some of the more polished and style-centric drinking establishments around Wakefield. But we wouldn’t have it any other way.

So if you get chance, come along and celebrate the character and history of Fernandes, and please join us to toast the next 20 years of a much-cherished brewing institution. Fernandes has always been a place to make the mind boggle. It is always changing but always staying the same; an indefinable quality in the DNA of the building and the business that evolved from a rich history it will never let go of. Something in the air, you might say.


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