THE GREAT BRITISH BEER FESTIVAL: THE HAPPIEST DAY OF THE YEAR
It’s the one day of the year that both of DH look forward to more than any other.
For the last few years, we have made sure that the Thursday of The Great British Beer Festival is our day and plan our schedule accordingly with HP taking the day off work and me planning my writing schedule so that this day, and for obvious reasons, the following day are set aside from our normal affairs so we can indulge our love for the very best beer Britain has to offer.
If seems, looking at the numbers, that many others have marked the Thursday down as their special day at the GBBF too and, when we arrived, there were already hundreds of people milling about waiting for Earls Court to open and figuring out which of the queues to join. We added to the numbers by one, by allowing our small, fat, four-eyed and slightly simple friend, Paul to join us as a temporary extra Hermano and, while he went off to join the queue for those without pre-paid tickets, we joined the already sizeable queue of those who had booked online.
Once the festival opened, the queue moved quickly enough to allow HP and I to be two halves of mild to the good before Paul wandered in. Of course, while we were drinking said halves, we had to convey the fact to Paul through regular text messages and phone calls to add insult to his considerable injury.
Finally, when he managed to find his way to the hall, we made our way to join the queue for the Champion Beer of 2009, Rudgate Ruby Mild from North Yorkshire. We always stick to mild, a great session beer and weak enough that we can drink it through the day without falling over half an hour after we arrive. The champion beer was fine, but far from our favourite as we made our way around the parts of the hall representing different areas, with perhaps the Oakleaf Mild from the South-West winning our vote.
What did not win our vote however was the food. In years past, the food has been a simple affair with a few stalls selling pies, sausage rolls and, of course stupidly large bags of scratchings. They are still there, thank God, but in an attempt, no doubt, to attract the ladies, who were there in much increased numbers from previous years, there was a wider and more corporate feel to the food stalls, with some really dreadful offerings including a fish & chips stand with the worst looking examples of the genre I have ever seen outside of an Iceland supermarket.
Some things, however have remained untouched, the sight of the larger gentleman wearing stupid headgear, entertainment provided by people you know but have not heard of for years (in this case, fabulous rock violinist Mick Kaminski, once of ELO) and of course the fact that at some point in the early afternoon, HP utters the fateful words “let’s go and have some cider”
The cider stand is a dangerous place and once you go there, there is no going back. The lovely buzz from a few glasses of mild being replaced by the psychotic haze that only comes with apples fermented until they reach a wicked alcohol level and the bar becoming a means of support for the body rather than a resting place for the glass.
It also signals that our time at The Great British Beer Festival is almost over for one more year as, after a few more halves, we collect our clean commemorative glasses and stagger out into streets squinting in the daylight and saddened by the fact that, although in the hall, there is some of the best beer anywhere in the world on offer, outside you would be hard pushed to find a pub within a half mile that could offer a decent pint.
A down note on which to end perhaps, but one of the precious few on what is and, I suspect shall remain, DH’s happiest day of the year
Roll on 2010