Northampton Country Beer Festival
It’s bad enough when you’re waiting for a pub to open, but being first at a beer festival would be something else. Although we gained entrance at 11.01, a handful of people had somehow got in before us. Most, but not all, wisely opted for seats under canvas. The reason we got there one minute after opening was to guarantee a seat. Previous experience has shown that if you leave it until after lunch you might be disappointed. Especially if it rains; and at one point it chucked it down.
At this time in the day you get the serious beer spotters: men in sensible clothing who, like me, tick off the beers in their programmes. The festival had an out-of-season feel, but it was early. The site filled up slowly. The hardcore festers in band and brewery T-shirts are normally joined by a younger after-work crowd later. The atmosphere usually picks up as evening approaches. There was no live music billed until 5pm so we had to make our own atmosphere. It was difficult on a day where it really looked as if the summer had finally gone for the year.
No cash is exchanged at the main beer and cider bar. I bought a £20 bag of tokens, and when that went we’d go home. There were only plastic glasses this year, so staff didn’t need to touch dirty glasses. You could buy a commemorative glass and decant your beer from the plastic glass supplied. I took my own glass from a previous festival.
The idea is to only drink halves. The spirit of a festival is to sample the different beers without getting silly about it. You rarely see drunk people at beer festivals. I always start with the weaker beers and work up to the heavy stuff gradually. Today’s beers and ciders were mainly from Northamptonshire. There were few beers of 6% and above, but I’d run of steam – and tokens – by 3.30 anyway.
Festival food isn’t usually the apex, but we had to eat. I saw the Greek food wagon and immediately decided this was where I’d be getting my food from at 12.30. I returned to our table with a doner kebab fashioned from the finest leather. When I saw the bloke plonk a handful of already-cooked slices of meat onto the grill I knew it was a mistake. A doner kebab is the worst thing you can ever re-heat. Even sliced fresh it has a shelf-life of about twenty minutes. It tasted as bad as it looked (the pre-cooked mountain of chicken souvlaki looked similarly unappetising). My wife, Mo, had visited a competitor and returned with a hog roast roll. I daresay this was also pre-prepared on an industrial estate away from prying eyes. There was no hog in evidence. Mo’s cheesy chips were the best thing about our meals. Next year we’ll have lunch in town first like we used to do.