Before I launch into the description of the 450 foot abseil, I think it appropriate to quickly run over some of the highlights of the Great British Beer Festival trip from the other night.
As most of my old work colleagues are a bunch of soft units & pikers, it was left to Lord Science and I, and some of his learned friends. In typical fashion I was a bit late, but with my special magic CAMRA membership card I was able to gain access to this splendid event faster than you could say “Certainly officer, you may conduct a thorough security search!”.
I found them in front of the Bieres Sans Frontieres stand – an interesting place to hover given that the point of the exercise was to drink as many different types of British beer as we could find… we settled on something which I think was Eastern European, I *think* was called “Speziale”, and I *KNOW* was pretty dire. They had Aussie beer there, but as I already know damn well how good the 2 best Australian beers taste (Coopers' Pale Ale and Little Creatures)! So after disposing of that nondescript muck it was time to try to educate these lads (and lady) a bit.
As most of them hailed from Norfolk, we made our opening assault on the East Coast stand. The lads enthusiastically jumped in for a pint of Tindall's “Norfolk'n'Good”, and I grabbed a half pint of Spectrum's “Old Stoatwobbler”. Mine was a lovely full-strength, chocolatey tasting stout with coffee and oatey aroma and the mouthfeel more of what I'd expect from a porter, whereas Chris described their beer as “rancid ferret's piss”.
We decided to move on to the Welsh stand, however we got lost along the way and decided to pop in for a quick restorative half at the Scottish stand. I can't remember now what the others had (although I think I'd convinced them to slow down to half-pints by that stage), but I had a half of Cairngorm's “Trade Winds”. This turned out to be an amzingly tasty golden ale, which to me had a very caramelly/toffee taste, and quite honestly I could've happily gone on drinking that for the rest of the night! Variety was the name of our mission though, so now rejuvenated we set off for the Welsh beer.
I had the best intention of keeping track of what the others were drinking, however as we were now well into our 3rd pint I threw caution to the winds a bit and elected to rely on my memory. Hence, I've no idea what they were having now. I lined up for a half of “Son of a Bitch”, from the Bullmastiff Brewery. While finishing this orangey coloured hoppy ale, it occurred to me that you could in fact base your choices solely on the most novel sounding names. I'd started basing mine on the fact that the ones with the orangey labels had been shortlisted as finalists for Best Beer of the Festival, so realistically they were safe bets.
Next was around the corner to the North Western beers, and while the lads were disappointed that there was no longer any “Tabitha the Knackered” left, I decided to ditch my label approach and go for a beer based on name – Bushy's Weissbier, in honour of my erstwhile housemate. What the beer tasted like however, I have no idea, because I got distracted by the “surprise” mainstage entertainment for the night – Chas'N'Dave, the seemingly iconic folk/jazz/comedy duo who you've probably got to be a local to make any sense of. I've got no bloody idea.
In the midst of all that Chris and I sortied over to the Woodforde's brewery stand, partially to grab a half-pint of their “Admiral's Reserve”, but primarily because we discovered it was them who had been handing out the cardboard Lord Nelson/Napoleon/Pirate hats (depending on your point of view and whether or not you shouted “Arrrrrrrr!” at other people).
Next, (yes, there's more !) we moved on to the Bottled Ales stand – all of the others were cask ales, all drawn by pump (in Australian terminology, they were all flat & warm). I think the thing that enticed us over here was mainly to see if the organisers were actually kidding when they'd claimed they had Discworld beers. And sure enough, there was, in the form of Ridcully's Revenge. I'm not going to say any more about that, because frankly I don't think that sort of thing should be encouraged. At this point I left Lord Science & Co. and went off to find Richard, one of the Morris lads and dedicated beer aficionado.
On the way to finding him I stumbled (and I may mean that literally, by this time of the night) across the Sharp's Brewery stand, and it seemed rude not to try their aptly named “Doom Bar” beer. Sadly, they were out of it, so I had to make do with a half of “Eden Ale”. They probably could have served me dishwater by this point in the night and I'd have been none the wiser (would've been an ideal time to try that Norfolk'N'Good that Chris started on !).
I had a good bit of a chat with Richard and his mates, and I think I might have offered to buy them all a Coopers Ale at some stage, when the Last Orders bell rang – a mighty death knell over the liquored revelry of the evening. I got caught up in the scramble for the last pint before closing, and wound up back at the Scottish stand for a Black Isle “Yellow Hammer”, which I remember absolutely nothing about. I do remember some gimp standing at the bar and when the barmaid asked him what he'd like, he said “What do you recommend ?”, without giving any other clue as to what kind of thing he liked. That's how people wind up drinking out of the dregs bucket!
I appear to have gone on at length, for what was meant to be a fairly quick story… I suppose the final point was that upon waking up on Thursday all plans to revisit the beer festival were firmly shelved. In fact, first thing on Thursday morning all plans to ever drink beer again were firmly shelved. But still it was a worthwhile exercise, and I reckon I'll be back next year. After all, where else could you try 10 different ales on tap in an evening ?