The Beer Festival

Posted: July 9, 2010 in Food

You know the festival season is here when the CAMRA boys erect a tent and start charging entry.

There has been a trend in recent years towards the commercialisation of festivals.

Whether they are music festivals or literature festivals, many have succumbed to corporate sponsorship and all its limitations.

Overpriced food, a one-brand-of beer bar, and annoying bloody wristbands have all become the norm.

Thankfully, there are still lots of small festivals around the country. These local, often crappy looking festivals fill the void which the expensive festivals have created.

The cheese rolling festival in Gloucestershire is a great example of a community having fun with few resources, except a massive cheese. You never see people wearing wristbands to watch cheese.

The staple festival of the summer however, which happens in every town and village, is the beer festival. Had the Reformation not taken place, I am certain that we would celebrate every Feast Day with a roaring beer festival.

As it stands, the beer festival is a secular event, where the closest thing to a religious experience is the feeling of penance the next day when you wake up with a rotten hangover.

Devizes had its CAMRA beer festival last weekend. As usual, I left it too late to get tickets and the event sold out. That didn’t stop some people however. One man told me in great detail how to crash the event.

“Don’t go before five,” he urged in hushed tones, “or they’ll definitely catch you.”

“Once you’re in just pick up a used glass off the brick wall, wash it out, buy a few tokens and do your best to blend in”.

It sounded all too simple. The only sticking point was the used glass. I didn’t really feel like indirectly kissing a member of CAMRA, who, let’s face it, is likely to have mutton chops the size of Ireland and terrible dental hygiene.

That and the thought of finding bits of beard stuck to the inside of the glass made me a little cautious about the idea.

I decided to investigate the festival first, and make up my mind afterwards. On my way to the wharf – where it is held every year – I reassured myself that it wouldn’t be such a catastrophe if I was caught sneaking in. A little embarrassing, yes, but not an event of any cosmic importance.

As I neared the infamous wall – with spare glasses atop – a man came up to me with a knowing look and whispered, “You won’t have any luck in there”.

My face must have made the shape of a question mark because he lent towards me and sighed the word, “wristbands”.

Wristbands! Bloody wristbands, I thought to myself, as I trudged up the towpath to the nearest wristband-free pub.

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