REAL ale lovers are left in limbo over the likelihood of major dates on the beer festival calendar taking place this year.

The pint is half full on the events front, with looming festivals forced to cancel in line with the Government guidance on social gatherings amid the fight to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

But organisers of those planned later in the year are left assessing the climate to see if their event is able to proceed.

In the North-East and North Yorkshire, the recent Newcastle Beer and Cider Festival, at Northumbria University’s Students’ Union building, and real ale pressure group, the Campaign for Real Ale’s (Camra’s) national Members’ weekend, Annual Meeting and Conference, at York Exhibition Centre, were early victims of the virus.

Camra’s North-East regional meeting, at Sunderland’s Ship Isis pub, on May 23, has been postponed, while the Sunderland Beer and Cider Festival, not due to be staged until October, was cancelled, last Thursday.

Disappointed organiser Michael Wynne said it was partly down to the forced closure of many businesses which support the Sunderland and South Tyneside branch of Camra.

“Although October is still a long way off, the financial planning putting in place major sponsorship, et cetera, starts months before.

“There are also milestones that we need to meet for Camra hq oversight.

“Without these being in place there is huge risk to the branch, so cancellation is our only real option.

“The intention at present is to aim for a Sunderland Beer and Cider Festival in 2021.”

His counterparts in Durham, however, remain undecided about the possibility of staging the city’s 40th annual beer festival, from September 2 - 5.

Camra has insisted branches suspend all in-person group activities, including monthly meetings and AGMs, until June, although this is subject to weekly review and may be extended.

A statement on the Durham Camra branch website said: “As yet, no decision has been taken over the viability of the 40th Durham Beer Festival.

“Although the 40th Durham Beer Festival is after the current suspension, we cannot guarantee that any extensions will not impact on us.

“We are very much in a period of the unknown.

“At the present time no final decision has been made.

“We are monitoring the situation and the festival committee is hoping to have a ‘virtual meeting’ around mid-April to discuss the various options. We will provide updates as we are able to.”

Should the festival be given the green light it will take place for the third successive year at the city rugby club’s Hollow Drift clubhouse, off Green Lane.

Regional branches are backing Camra’s national campaigns, including its first ever podcast, titled: Pubs. Pints. People., launched yesterday.