GAVIN AITCHISON welcomes the small beer festival in York that thinks big with an impressive range of beers.

DROP everything this weekend and head to Clementhorpe. You owe it to yourself and your palate.

The Slip and its near neighbour The Swan, on the corner with Bishopgate Street, are hosting their annual beer and cider festival and it is not to be missed.

I’m inviting criticism here, what with the Camra festival on Knavesmire just a few weeks away, but if you ask me it’s this smaller festival that has developed into the clear highlight of York’s beer year. The drinks range is inevitably smaller than at Camra’s event but it is still hugely impressive and the setting – across two of the city’s finest pubs – is perfect.

If you’ve been before, the format will be familiar: two pubs, 50 beers from 50 different breweries, real ciders and perries and lots of live music and hot food to enjoy between pints (a barbecue at The Slip; a hog roast at The Swan). If you’ve not been before, then this is your chance. The festival began yesterday afternoon and continues today and tomorrow, from noon each day, and landlord Paul Crossman has again sourced an excellent range of beers for experts and novices alike.

The enjoyment at any beer festival lies in trying new beers, experimenting and discovering delights you’d never even heard of. But nonetheless, there are a few highlights in particular not to be missed.

Look out for Mosaic by Atom Beers, a new microbrewery and distributor in the process of setting up between Beverley and Hull. The director Allan Rice has moved to Yorkshire from Tempest Brewery in the Scottish borders, a fairly young brewery that quickly earned a reputation for novel and full-flavoured beers, so it will be interesting to see how the Atom beers compare.

Allan has been using North Riding Brew Pub in Scarborough for his initial brews in Yorkshire, then plans to open in Hull before moving to Beverley in due course. Mosaic is named after the dominant hop variety in the beer.

Remaining in East Yorkshire, Brass Castle Brewery has produced Jack Tar Oatmeal Stout especially for this weekend’s festival and if it’s remotely as good as their other dark beers, it will be very special.

Fans of pale ales, meanwhile, will enjoy Oakham Citra and Ossett Silver Link, but should also try Marble Squared, an intriguing collaboration beer between two breweries called Marble – one in Manchester and one in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

And if you want something completely different, your choices include Axholme Plum Dunkelweizen (a dark wheat beer brewed with plums); Saltaire Raspberry Blonde and Wentworth’s Chocolate and Chilli Stout.

Yorkshire breweries are well represented for those with local loyalties. Treboom, Roosters, Great Heck, Wold Top are all on the list, but there also beers from as far afield as Loch Ness in the Scottish Highlands and Tiny Rebel in South Wales.

That last one is frustratingly ironic for me as – having urged you all to head along – I am posted missing this afternoon, due to a friend’s wedding in Carmarthen. Hopefully by the time you read this, I’ll have enjoyed a few on Friday night. And I trust you’ll all be good enough to leave some of the best stuff for me to catch up on tomorrow. No?

Enjoy the festival, and happy experimenting!

Twitter: @pintsofview