There are countless Real Ale festivals throughout the UK at various times of the year forming social events at which socially awkward Real Ale drinkers can theoretically meet, talk, discuss beard cultivation, compete to see who has the largest beer gut and – of course – imbibe vast quantities of their beloved beer. In reality what happens at the festivals is that fat bellied beer geeks come, feel alienated as they are too socially inept to talk to one another, and proceed to use the beer program list as a menu for ticking from top to bottom in half pint measures.
Festivals can range from fairly small events hosted by pubs and villages to freak show gatherings attended by hundreds of thousands of people and which may feature 500+ Real Ales – a common feature of these are tickers who are out to drink a half pint of every beer on offer. Usually around 20% of all beers listed in the festival programme will be unavailable during the event as the people responsible for their production have been incapacitated during magical battles with other wizards, or are far too engrossed in a game of Dungeons and Dragons to get around to making their pong.
Many Real Ale festivals are now hosted indoors or in marquees. Many of these will be fully air conditioned, making such venues suitable even for those who do not enjoy the aroma of several hundred large, sweaty men with damp beards combined with the fruity tang of three-day-old spilt beer and vomit.
Survival Tips – Beer Festivals
- Beer festivals will allow you to taste beers before purchase. Towards the end of the evening, when the staff have had a few themselves, they will become careless about precisely which quantity of beer constitutes a taste and will frequently splash a good third of a pint into your glass. Do this a few times and you can easily manage three free pints.
- No matter how intoxicated you become, do not attempt to get a root. You will not like what you wake up with the following morning.
- Should you find you have a hangover the next day, a hair-of-the-dog remedy can be obtained freely. Simply turn up at the festival even if it’s 7am. They will usually require casual labourers to help clear up after the previous night’s revelry and will pay you in beer – being the confirmed Real Ale drinkers that they are, the organizers will recognize your need for a beer-based breakfast, allowing you at least one pint before you start working.
If you’ve ever attended performing arts festivals such as Glastonbury, you may have felt put off from further festival attendance due to the lack of decent food – ie; meat – available at such events, where foodstalls tend to cater to hippies and other types of weirdo vegetarian.
With regards to Beer Festivals, never fear: Scratchings, Hamburgers, hot-dogs and hog roasts will all be available at a Real Ale festival. Be sure to have at least one pint of the strongest Real Ale at the festival after eating, as the high alcohol content will help to neutralise any salmonella or e-coli bacteria picked up from the meat which is likely to have been insufficiently barbecued. BBQ’s are normally conducted via the antiquated charcoal method as gas BBQ’s are considered not to be ‘proper’. Most festivals will also have at least one stall specialising in extra-strong varieties of cheese such as Herefordshire Brown Cheddar, a traditional cheese made famous during WW1 when the Herefordshire Regiment used it as a nerve agent, bombarding the German trenches with it at Ypres.
All Real Ale festivals take very great care to discourage those who attend from driving home after consuming alcohol. A common measure is to display one or more real cars at the entrance to the event that have been involved in an accident that killed their drunken driver, the cars usually being supplied rather oddly by the Fire Brigade rather than by the Police or a car recovery garage. It used to be common to place a life-like dummy, modified to resemble a mangled corpse, inside the car as a further incentive to use public transport; however, following complaints at many festivals that the dummy was frightening, this is usually avoided which somewhat detracts from the whole point of the exercise. Extremely intoxicated drinkers can be seen attempting to get into and start the wrecked cars at the end of each night during which the festival is held before they are helpfully steered in the direction of their own cars by security.
That leads us to the final concern. After attending a beer festival you may feel that you have enjoyed yourself and feel that joining some kind of club or association might be a good idea. Don’t do it. Once you have signed up to CAMRA they will send you information about how to grow a beer belly, where to buy sandals and which supermarket has the best plastic bags. Start down that path and its a short stroll to Morris dancing and pickled eggs. Beware. Tip – these symptoms may be remedies by drinking what you will now refer to as ‘chemical fizz’. Five gulps of cooking lager will have you seeing straight again.