A Jolly Good Beer FestivalJune 2, 2012 No Comments
Last week saw a Big Thing come to our soggy little island. Well, it was a Big Thing for the men of our island, at least. It was the island’s first Real Ale Festival. 60 barrels of bowel-trampling fermentates and several hundred bearded trolls packed into a Masonic hall with a fug on it you could cut with a set of gardening shears. I imagine the BO alone in that place would necessitate changing the wallpaper, and the farts would have done for the wiring and plasterwork.
But scatological jollity aside, this was a rather dowdy hall, with barrels of beer stacked functionally at one side, strip-lighting overhead and more beards than a Jewish-Amish cup final. So why did everyone look so happy? Well, there was the beer, of course – almost infinite options for taste, strength and organ damage, and enough cider to send a whole village jumping naked into the local river, singing I’ve Got a Brand New Combine Harvester. Yes, the booze was certainly a major part of the good feeling. But there was more.
There was the camaraderie. Yes, I know it sounds a bit lame – as if we were all sitting swaying at long tables, reminiscing about the war and singing Lily Marlene. But it was more a general feeling. For example, everyone was friendly. Everyone said, “Excuse me” and, “After you” and there was no barging to get served at the bar. And most people were smiling. This is perhaps unsurprising, given the stuff everyone had come there to drink by the pailful, but then again beer doesn’t always provoke such an atmosphere of goodwill amongst its drinkers – and yet everyone here seemed pleased to be there and, well, very relaxed about it. As if they were all off duty.
That was it – the men there didn’t have to act up. There was no pressure to look good (and just as well, given the legion of scarecrows that turned up), there was no tension over women or football or the music on the juke box. It was all about drinking nice beer for the sake of it, and having a chat if you felt like it. Of course, I’m not saying that regular pubs are tableaux from West Side Story, where you can cut the atmosphere with a cut-throat razor and anyone looking at even the pub dog in a funny way gets thrown through the etched glass window. It’s just that they don’t usually have the general feeling of benevolence that this place did. Everyone (and there were some women there too) was there for the beer and nothing else, and so the usual pub posturing and lairiness were left back at The Gardener’s Arms down the hill. No lager louts, just better living through real ale.
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