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The great British food festival – beers, buns and bake-offs

(September 10, 2015)
The great British food festival – beers, buns and bake-offs

St Albans is gearing up to host its eighth annual food and drink festival, which will put great British hospitality heritage at the heart of the festival by embracing the cathedral city’s thriving pub culture with a pop-up Village Green at the heart of the city’s 9th-century market place.
The Hertfordshire city has a long history in hospitality:
  • It lays claim to having one of the highest number of pubs per square mile in the UK as well as the oldest pub. Ye Olde Fighting Cocks dates back to 793AD and it is reputed that Oliver Cromwell slept at the inn for one night during the Civil War of 1642-1651. Today, the award-winning pub has up to 10 real-ales on tap, fine wines and a menu put together by a chef who worked for a number of years at Michelin-starred restaurant Chapter One.
  • St Albans is also the headquarters of real-ale campaigners CAMRA, and hosted the UK’s first-ever beer festival in 1974. The festival has now become an annual event and is a highlight of this year’s food and drink festivities. 
  • Redbournbury Mill on the outskirts of the city is dubbed ‘Bake Off home’ as The Great British Bake-off judge Paul Hollywood visited the mill to film part of his series on Bread. It has been a mill for nearly 1,000 years, and features in the Domesday Book of 1087. *
  • St Albans has one of the oldest markets in the country. Its charter market is the longest running regular market held in the same place (for over 1,000 years) in the UK, and will be the location for the city’s first-ever Village Green.

The highlights of this year’s food and drink festival include:

CAMRA St Albans Beer and Cider Festival - 30 September-3 October
St Albans hosted the UK’s first-ever beer festival back in 1974, and the event has now grown into the city’s very-own mini Oktoberfest and is the must-attend event in the real-ale calendar.
There will be more than 350 real ales, ciders, perries and foreign beers including new beers and new breweries across the festival's six bars.
Roger Protz, one of the world's leading beer writers and editor of the Good Beer Guide, will also be hosting a beer-tasting session on 2 October.
Real-ale drinkers will be able to keep an eye on the goings-on at the Rugby World Cup with the England v Australia match being screened live on Saturday on a big screen in the main festival hall.
Entertainment will be provided by cult singer/songwriter Jon Otway and the UK’s number one Madness Tribute band One Step Beyond.

Junior Bake-off and Cake Sale – 27 September-2 October
Cake makers under the age of 18 are being invited to enter their finest sweet treats into the city’s bake-off challenge, with the local winners getting their hands on a wide array of prizes. 
Running on until 2 October, there will also be five alternative bake-offs for over-18s including: traditional/classic bake-off; free-form bake-off; biscuits and cookies bake-off; pastry bake-off; and chocolate cake bake-off.
Real ale, rugby and roosters – 18 September - 31 October
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, the UK’s oldest pub, has seen its fair share of scraps over the years, but this year will the first time that its punters will be able to scrum down and take in every single second of the Rugby World Cup. 
The pub will be installing a giant screen in its garden so rugby and real-ale fans can enjoy all the tackles and tries of the World Cup, while soaking up the glorious surroundings of the pub garden, supping a pint or two of real ale and tucking into some tasty barbecue food from the Famous Fighters Barbecue.
St Albans Street Finale – 4 October
St Albans has been described as the pub capital of the UK by Roger Potz, leading real-ale expert as the city has a high number of pubs per square mile.
The city will be embracing its thriving pub culture on the finale day with the Everglades Village Green in the same location that the city has held a market since the 9th century. Some of St Albans’ finest hostelries will be setting up their pop-up pub on the city’s first-ever village green. So visitors can lounge around on a hay bale, while enjoying a pint and a tasty bite to eat from one of the 10 pop-up bars on the Everglades Village Green.
The city has also been experiencing a quirky foodie renaissance, with a number of independent restaurants and diners creating a buzz, most of which will be out in force on finale day.
There will also be a Chef’s Theatre with live cooking demonstrations from Masterchef finalist Theo Michaels, Michelin-starred chef Phil Thompson and Ye Olde Fighting Cocks chef Christo Tofalli.
And for kids, there will be a family zone which will feature Children's Fair-trade Chocolate Factory. 
For more information, go to
* The hot cross bun originates from St Albans, where Brother Thomas Rocliffe, a 14th-century monk at St Albans Abbey, developed an original recipe and distributed the Alban Bun to the local poor on Good Friday, starting in 1381. Flour for Redbournbury Mill was used in the original ingredients.
Notes to editors
About St Albans:
  • St Albans is one of the best-kept secrets in UK tourism: a historic gem of an English Cathedral City, just a stone's throw from London. The city's colourful history can be seen in the Roman remains and the beautiful medieval architecture.
  • There are lush green parks and countryside, a buzzing metropolis, excellent attractions and interesting and ancient history.
  • St Albans has fabulous shopping with many small independent shops amongst the high street stores and a fantastic range of eating and drinking establishments.
  • It's easy to get to as well: just 22 minutes from London St Pancras, a short hop off the M1 and M25 motorways, within easy reach of London Luton and Heathrow airports.
  • There is a packed calendar of special events throughout the year in the City, many of them family friendly.
The city claims a number of firsts and oldests. These include:
  • The 11th-century St Albans Cathedral is the oldest place of continual Christian worship in the UK, and has the longest nave of any Cathedral, including St Paul's and Westminster Abbey. 
  • The city is named after Britain’s first Saint, Alban, who was executed at the site of the 11th-century Cathedral. 
  • St Albans Abbey (now Cathedral) was at one time the principal Abbey in England and was the location of the first meeting (in 1213) which ultimately led to the sealing of the Magna Carta (in 1215). 
  • The city is home to the Roman Theatre of Verulamium. Built around 140AD, it is the oldest and only surviving example of its kind in Britain as it was a theatre with a stage rather than an amphitheatre. 
  • According to the Guinness Book of Records, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in the city’s Verulamium Park is the oldest pub in Britain.
  • St Albans has the oldest working medieval clock tower in the country built between 1403 and 1412. The tower is located in the square where the first battle of the Wars of the Roses took place in 1455.
  • The city also has the oldest public school in Britain where Pope Adrian IV, the only Englishman to occupy the papal chair, and scientist Stephen Hawking were educated. 
  • St Albans has more pubs per square mile than any other town in the country
  • The city has one of the oldest regular street markets in the UK, dating back to the 9th century, 

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