The Death of a Beer Festival

For years, I was at the head of the queue. Spare government-stamped, half-pint-lined glass. Notes with target beers highlighted in different colours according to new brewery / new beer status. Last-minute gen on no-shows and no-drops scribbled as marginalia.

And then I tuned in, dropped out, stopped giving two shits about beer festivals and really enjoyed myself.

The last day of the fest was for losers. If you wanted the beers, you moved hell and high water to be there at the start. Last days were random; all the good beers supped, the slow-sellers and late-replacements littering the stillage.

What the last day is really about, what a festival in its death throes actually delivers, is a challenge. Bust the fest out. Take down those last straggling casks. And, just maybe, find a beer that surprises you along the way.

My local, the Royal Oak at Ockbrook, has been running a fest since half-past nine on Friday morning. Full cooked breakfasts, royal wedding coverage and 30+ beers. The pale and hoppy ones sold out quickly. The Thornbridge duo, Chiron and Colorado Red, sold fast despite their >5% abv. The Three Cats cider, first of this year's batch, sold out by 2pm on Friday.

So, what's going to be left by Bank Holiday Monday? Not a lot. Derby Brewing's 'I Do' sludged its way to an end. Cottage 'Celebration' held on valiantly for another half hour. Last cask standing was Slater's 'Roy Ale' - a brewery I've never been fussed with but this offered a fair old fruity snatch.

And like that, it was gone. Glasses moved up into the loft until the autumn festival. The stillage deconstructed to make way for the next event in the function room. Still plenty of good beer on the bar, though, to take outside and watch lumpy butterflies fall into walls. Rooster's Leghorn - good. Falstaff John Dillinger, first mild of May for me, even better.

I can understand how some people get annoyed on the last day of a fest. When they've travelled far. When the beer they expected to be on has gone. But, let's be honest. These people are arseholes. There are no guarantees in life. At a beerfest, hope for well-kept beer and revel in it when you get it. The Butcombe Stout may have busted out, but that last cask which you didn't give a first glance to may just be suprisingly good.

1 comment:

  1. The last day of the fest was for losers. <<

    My experience, up until last month...

    And, just maybe, find a beer that surprises you along the way.<<

    ...on the last day of the Newcastle BF this year I was astonished to find Oakham White Dwarf still sat on the bar. It's all I drank that day, and it was still in full swing as the staff party got underway. A fantastic way to end!