Tuesday, 28 April 2009

It’s all about the beer, stupid

Beer festivals and I have grown apart. There has been a parting of the ways. The tyranny of choice is the main reason for this; too much beer, too little time and then some of the beers don’t feel at their best. I used to have a calendar of beer festivals: Exeter Winter Ales, Tuckers Maltings, the Newt Festival near Bridgwater, GbbF, maybe the odd pub one in the summer, Somerset CAMRA at Minehead railway station and then the Pig and Whistle which was always a guilty pleasure, given that its former location at Stratford was for a former North London person like myself the very end of the world (and it was municipal, bleak and full of people, no let’s be honest, mainly men, who peered intently at their beer lists, pens poised, lips licked, samples salivated over and wandered aimlessly about the hall until their bladders forced them to vacate, though I remember one chap in about 2003 whom I passed on the stairs — he was so drunk that the stains on the front of his trousers suggested that he had forgotten to open the zip whilst answering the call of what obviously was a very savage call of nature). But hey, I shouldn’t be judgmental, I was also there, looking at my beer list, looking for interesting beers, letting beer from other parts of the country do what it always has done to me, take me to these places, for a moment, for a few sips, turning back time, taking me to a pub when gastro meant something wrong with your stomach and the old man in the corner could tell you tales of old England and the rolling road the drunkard made. Because I lived for six years in Cambridge and also love Suffolk with its flat fat tire-friendly roads, heavenward pointing churches, with the sea in prospect and for me the prospect of a pint of a beer that I still count as one of my great loves —it’s grown old with me, Adnams Best Bitter — then because of all this East Anglia intrigues me still. But I digress: the whole point of this post was a visit to Tuckers Maltings Beer Festival last Friday, at one of the very few floor maltings left in the UK, a place where beer begins its journey to our glass. The event is organised by the southwest arm of SIBA and — you know — it’s not a bad event. I used to judge but found myself tired and jaded by the time the place opened and rarely able to enjoy the beers. Now, as I sat on a tyre of a trailer (don’t ask) in the sun, with a glass of RCH’s sublime East Street Cream in my hand (it was the beer of the festival) I thought what a wonderful thing a glass of beer is. People were friendly, the sun was shining, the beer was good in my glass — surely at the end of the day that is all we want. There’s a lot of chatter about beer with food, beer for women, beer for youngsters, beer styles, pub closures, pub companies, fat ugly blokes looking like Mr Toad with notebooks in hand (there was one at Tuckers and one of the first aromas I detected at the bar was more halitosis than hallertau but hey), but I remember from this glorious day was that it was all about the beer, an emotion that inspired me to make what seemed (and sometimes still seems) a pretty stupid career decision to move to writing about beer.


  1. Pig and Whistle - or Pig's Ear? I think I was at the same Stratford one. A lot of the beer was in poor condition and some of the punters had their XXXL trousers pulled up to their armpits. I left for the nearby King Eddies thinking; "No wonder everyone thinks ale drinkers are like Viz characters". But yes, I was there too I suppose.

  2. 10" — Pig’s Ear you’re right, gawd knows where the Pig and Whistle comes from; the vivid image of trouser tops greeting arm pits elicits a right old shudder.

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