Yesterday I indulged in what has become an annual pilgrimage for me and visited the 37th CAMRA Newcastle Beer and Cider Festival. Chatting outside before the Poly doors opened I realised the my first festival would have been 30 years ago. This was when it was held in the lovely, but much smaller, Guildhall and I was but a bairn. Something of an anniversary for me then, so would the festival live up to the occasion?
My preparations hadn’t started brilliantly. I’d lost a filling so had to go to the dentist’s to get that replaced and as a consequence I’d only eaten half a tub of soup all day. Even if it was from the lovely Health Box it wasn’t exactly the stomach lining required. I’d met with my little sister on the Metro on the way in and we both hooked up with Steph outside the venue about 30min ahead of doors opening.
It was here that I came to the above mentioned realisation and where we were accosted my a nice young chap from Sky. He was wanting to film us going into the venue and supping our first half. We graciously declined due to various degrees of camera phobia/shyness and before he could nab someone else the doors opened and we off into the hall. The girls raced up up the cider bar level to grab our usual table and I headed in to the main bar to get my opening beer.
Like most people who attend these things I had checked the beer list out in advance to see what goodies awaited and I’d already earmarked a beer as my starter. Moor Beer Company’s Old Freddy Walker might, at 7.4%, seem like an unusual starter but as there was only a nine of it available I didn’t want to miss out. It is such a great beer. Lovely rich, smooth mouthfeel, molasses drenched fruity sweetness and a treacle tinged bitterness on the finish. I was already doubting that I would drink a better beer all festival.
The main bar is set up a little differently this year. Gone is the local bar with each brewery placed alphabetically along the long L shaped serving area. This is a much better idea in my book. I feel it will encourage people who may have only tried a couple of local favourites to see, and be tempted by, what else is on offer. I took a couple of photos of the main bar for a little colour on here and headed up to see the girls.
It was at this point I leafed through the programme and realised that I had just broken Festival policy. Page 5 has a charmingly worded warning that only official CAMRA designated photographers are allowed to take pictures unless you ask for permission.
What the fuck? Well that was me and everyone else on our table in the bad books already. Speaking to the Chairman about this it appears that this didn’t in fact apply to anyone other than those hoping to make commercial gain. Social media, blogs etc. were fine. He also stated that they didn’t have time to formulate the wording properly before publishing. Really? It’s only been a fucking year since the last festival and a simple proof read would have told anyone with half a brain that the wording wasn’t fit for purpose. Jeez.
Anyway, short rant over, back to the good stuff. My overall impression is that the beers are in really good condition this year. The Battle of the Beers entries are of a much higher standard than previous years with the Allendale and Tynebank effort particularly impressing so far. Tynebank obviously benefiting from my lack of input this year, unlike last when a group of us helped out. As always the company has been great and it’s always a pleasure to sit with our little group, chewing the fat and putting the world to rights. All in all then a really good 30th anniversary so far. Keep up the good work folks.
Right that’s enough jibber jabber. Time for a bath, get dressed, grab breakfast and back to the festival to make a further assault on that beer list. If you are unfortunate enough to bump into me please feel free to say Hi. If you hadn’t considered coming along to the festival please do. The beer list isn’t at all bad, if as you would expect a little safe, and most of us don’t bite.
P.S. If anyone would like to use any of my photos they are available for a small fee 😉