Status update

We’re on hol­i­day, in case you’d won­dered. We’re equipped to blog once we get wire­less access (lots to update on from Cologne, Mainz and Hei­del­berg) but for now, we’re stuck with a com­put­er in the hotel recep­tion…

By the way – any­one noticed any weird prob­lems with our com­ments sys­tem or links from the blog point­ing to a spam search engine?

Session #16: our ideal beer festival

Ses­sion num­ber 16 is host­ed by Thomas at Geist­bear Brew­ing Blog, and the top­ic is beer fes­ti­vals.

We’ve post­ed about var­i­ous fes­ti­vals we’ve been to in the past, from the enor­mous Great British Beer Fes­ti­val (GBBF) to a cosy lit­tle event in a pub round the cor­ner. Here, in no par­tic­u­lar order, are our thoughts on what makes our ide­al beer fes­ti­val;

Size of venue

Small and cosy. Air­craft hangars are great for putting in as many beers as pos­si­ble, but they make it dif­fi­cult to gen­er­ate an atmos­phere.

Mind you, large beer tents seem to work in Ger­many. In fact, out­door fes­ti­vals are a great idea, although not so much in Britain with the rub­bish weath­er and the diva-like nature of cask ale.

Range of beer

The range of beer will obvi­ous­ly be relat­ed to the size of the venue. We’re quite con­tent to have a small­ish range – any­thing more than about six beers counts as a fes­ti­val to us! It’s more impor­tant that it’s in good con­di­tion, so that when you give it to your non-ale-lov­ing mates, there’s a chance they might actu­al­ly like the stuff and come back for more.


Mixed. It seems to make for a bet­ter atmos­phere when you have non-beer-geeks there as well. This is why we like small fes­ti­vals in local pubs.

Rea­son for being

It should not be a cyn­i­cal mar­ket­ing trick, like Heineken’s Iden­tik­it Okto­ber­fests in Spain. Ide­al­ly, it should pro­mote real ale to new pun­ters, although for­eign beer fes­ti­vals like the recent crack­er at Zeit­geist are also OK by us!


Essen­tial for mop­ping up all the beer, but also quite a handy tool for draw­ing in non-beer geeks. I’ve had lots of great food at fes­ti­vals recent­ly, with events such as the Pig’s Ear being a show­case for local(ish) small pro­duc­ers.


Dif­fi­cult, this one. With­out want­i­ng to descend into pre­dictable folkie-bash­ing, I’ve seen some dread­ful live acts at beer fes­ti­vals. Live bands can work real­ly well, as Bai­ley found out in deep­est dark­est Som­er­set, but when they’re bad, they’re hor­rid. If fes­ti­val organ­is­ers are going to both­er with live music, they need to make sure they book real crowd-pleasers.

I quite like oom­pah bands, but I think you can only get away with them in Ger­many, where every­one knows the words. In Muenchen ste­ht ein hof­brauhaus, eins, zwei, g’suffa!

To sum­marise: we’d like beer fes­ti­vals to empha­sise the “fes­ti­val” a bit more – it should be some­thing that’s fun and brings peo­ple togeth­er.


Saison – what’s it all about?

Saison 1900 beer in the Dove pub, Hackney, London

I con­sid­er these beers [saisons] tru­ly glo­ri­ous and end­less­ly inter­est­ing. As with wheels of great arti­sanal cheese, every bot­tle of sai­son is very slight­ly dif­fer­ent – it lives its own life, tells its own tale.”

Gar­rett Oliv­er, The Brewmaster’s Table

I’ve only had sai­son twice – the same one (1900) in the same pub (the Dove) two years apart.

That’s not enough data for me to work with in terms of under­stand­ing it as a type of beer.

1900 (like rather a lot of Bel­gian and French beers) has a some­what over­pow­er­ing burnt sug­ar flavour and, like Alt­bier, fin­ish­es with a kind of metal­lic, dry bit­ter­ness. Gar­rett Oliv­er isn’t kid­ding when he says it tastes bet­ter with food: I much pref­ered it once I’d eat­en some flame grilled meat and some salty chips, when it seemed dri­er and less sick­ly.

But I’m not blown away. Is 1900 a rub­bish exam­ple of this type of beer? If not, what am I miss­ing? And if so, which oth­ers should I try instead?


Chaos on tube as drinking ban hits London public transport

As you may have picked up from oth­er blogs (includ­ing Impy Malt­ing and Knut Albert), there was a par­ty last night to mark the drink­ing ban on Lon­don trans­port.

It appears to have turned into a bit of a riot, as can (sad­ly) be expect­ed when large groups of boozy Brits get togeth­er. I didn’t go, as I thought it would get nasty. The BBC has the sto­ry.

While not want­i­ng to make light of the fact that peo­ple got assault­ed, trains got dam­aged etc, I can’t help a lit­tle gig­gle over the fact that new May­or Boris Johnson’s pol­i­tick­ing has already back­fired on him. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t real­ly care about being able to drink or not on the Tube – I’m not an alco­holic. But I don’t think many Lon­don­ers would say that peo­ple drink­ing on pub­lic trans­port was one of London’s big issues, and we’ve already got laws and reg­u­la­tions to cov­er the poten­tial nasty side effects like assault, abuse etc. The whole, unen­force­able ges­ture was to make Boris look tough on law and order, and it’s man­aged to cause a major law and order inci­dent. Nice one.

Inci­den­tal­ly, drink­ing is still allowed on nation­al rail ser­vices (where they sell it to you), which is where I’ve expe­ri­enced the worst anti-social behav­iour. Worse because peo­ple are on it for longer and thus drink more, and because you can’t get off and wait for the next train if it gets bad.