It’s that time of the year again – my 28th consecutive Derby summer beer festival. Thursday afternoon is suitably chilled for my tastes; no crowds (but still quite busy with folk), no crush, no hassle.
Even so, I’ve already witnessed the depressing modern face of Camra beer festivals in “action”: The Orange Shirts. This is a phenomenon which first manifested itself last year and, I gather, is now national Camra policy. A group of licenced “bouncers” patrol the beer festival to keep order, dressed in various shades of the titular garment. As an aside, in 28 years I have never seen anything approaching a fight here, but I guess times change. These guys and girls are clearly not local, being shipped in from somewhere by Camra. I mean it in the most positive way when I say that in every way they are typical Camra people.
I ensconced myself in a quiet corner of the Assembly Rooms to enjoy my second half (Big Lamp Bitter 3.9%, if you’re interested, the first being Hexhamshire Shire Bitter at 3.8%) and to read Private Eye. A short but discrete distance away, the guy who runs the sound desk for the bands (and who has being doing so here and at the Flower Pot for as long as I can remember) was also taking advantage of the quiet spell. In front of him is a mug of tea or coffee and he has his feet up, taking a bit of a nap. This, apparently, is against the Orange Shirt rules. One of them wandered by and proceeded to wake him up, telling him it’s against the law to sleep in public (eh?). Duly woken, sound guy replied that he works here which seemed to satisfy the Orange Shirt who then wandered off in my direction. I took it upon myself to explain who the the guy is and that he would be busily working until midnight – no wonder he was having 40 winks. The Orange Shirt replied that he looked drunk (though admitted he wasn’t) and that it would encourage more people to get drunk. Not sure how he expects to enforce his Don’t Get Drunk at a Beer Festival rule? Unlike the Orange Shirts, I contend that being drunk isn’t a binary state. Offensive/violent/incapable drunk is obviously out of order, but merry (sleepy?) drunk is surely part of the beer festival experience?
Meanwhile, a young girl with a clipboard has wandered by, inviting all and sundry to “sign the e-petiton”. Evidently this is one of Camra’s campaigns and they see the captive audience of a beer festival as a way of boosting support for whichever cause it may be. I politely declined and the girl moved on to an old boy seated a little way away. He cheerfully said yes and proceeded to sign – without asking or otherwise having explained what the particular cause was. To my mind that kind of undermines the worth of the petition – they may as well simply reproduce the membership list and call that a petition?
The aforementioned old boy soon got up and left, but not without asking me where I got the Wallace & Gromit T shirt I was wearing – apparently his grandchildren would love it. As it’s probably 15 – 20 years old, I haven’t a clue! He then showed me his Wallace & Gromit sound clip app in his iPhone (he didn’t look like an average iPhone user!) which his grandchildren “made” him put on it. Only at a beer festival.
After a relatively exciting first half an hour or so, things have settled into a more routine pattern. The crowd is slowly swelling as the Main Hall has reopened (closed during the afternoon “to preserve the quality of the beer”?). Highlight of the People Watching thus far is a group of Japanese (?) lads, about six of them, who are sampling the best of what British culture has to offer. More power to them as they’re evidently having a go at all sorts of real ales and look to be enjoying the experience. I’m tempted to go and ask them what they make of it all, but I doubt “coherent” would be the best description of the ensuing conversation.
The choice of beers is up to Derby Camra’s usual high standards, with some notable new appearances. Townes of Chesterfield are represented by their Stavely Cross (4.3%) and despite their relative proximity to Derby, I’m pretty sure I’ve not seen them here before. Even more notable is the appearance of three beers from the Isle of Purbeck brewery, all the way from the Bankes Arms at Studland. As Kay said when I texted that snippet to her, “it’s a sign”. (We’ve stopped there a number of times on our semi-regular short break to Dorset).
I’ve now been asked three times to sign the e-petition. Apparently Camra want to prompt a Parliamentary debate about escalating tax on beer. Fair enough, but maybe drinkers should pay a proportionately higher contribution to the NHS to subsidise potential long term health issues than the general tax paying populace? Not sure I’ll express that view outwardly, however. My point is that even though this is a Camra event and they are, as the first three letters in their title subtly indicates, a campaigning organisation, it is becoming something of an imposition. Again, I fear the general point of a beer festival may be being missed somewhat?
And finally for today…
Bumped into Martin R (ex dog man for those who know him) and had a chat. He’s one of the cellar team for the festival, so the beer is in good hands. Apparently they had a bit of a blip last night,about which there’ll be recriminations, but no one went home thirsty and no one had a bad pint – what more could you ask of a cellar man?
A very pleasant, if deliberately light, session. I’ll be back tomorrow to try more of the heavier beers. Today was about chilling and “me time” which I thoroughly enjoyed. It was exactly what a well run beer festival should be. Checked in with Rog & Marie by text to see if they were coming tomorrow. Turns out they’re in a castle in Devon celebrating their tenth wedding anniversary. OK, it’s an excuse for missing the Derby Beer Festival 🙂 Congrats.
Stuck with my plan for the evening to get the 20:10 V3 home; first time I’ve used this service for a long time, for reasons I can’t adequately explain. If I’m getting off the bus outside the Green Man, it woud be rude not to go in? So I’d texted Chappers and a convivial evening ensued.