Steve, Cath and I settled into Number Twenty-2 for some pre-festival beers - a couple of pints of Cooper Draon Challenger IPA just right for waking up my tastebuds. The pub was a mixture of post-lunchtime session festival folk plus the normal Friday night office crowd - a lot different from the more serene Saturday lunchtime crew that we're used to on match day.
We got to the Arts Centre at about 7pm and it was very quiet - the first thing I noticed was the new bar design - two bars instead of one - which looks to provide a larger serving area and worked well as the evening progressed.
I amble up for my opener - a half of Sundance get served by the brewer himself, Ian Jackson, who is now brewing at the Captain Cook brewery in Stokesley.
We join fellow Darlo fan Ron Stobart - last seen gurning at Aldershot - and his Dad at their table and peruse the beer list - plenty of new brews here so we're spoilt for choice.
As we're close to the Darlington Traditional Brewing Group bar and I'm being given the old come-hither from John, I amble over for a half of his Wild Child Mild - very flavorsome though a tad warm to really appreciate it at it's best.
John kindly gave me a bottle of it as well so I can try it at my leisure in the next week or so. I look forward to that.
I also try a half of Big John Anderson's elderflow ale - very floral and quite refreshing but the big fella suggests it's more of a beer suited to ladies...
A few more beers - nothing especially notable until the final beer of the evening - Brewdog's Tokyo Imperial Stout topping the scales at 12% - very dark, full flavoured and quite overpowering in many ways but quite drinkable if you're only having a half or two.
By now I was starving and we headed off to the Garden of India where we met various others including fellow fans Mark, Doug and Pete. The food here is OK but nothing to write home about - a bit too fancy for my simple tastes. The free mango lassi at the end was most enjoyable.
More notable than the food was was when one of our party - who shall remain nameless - got locked in the toilets and had to ring one of the diners for help. And this was before we'd even eaten - just how sad is that?