Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Over for another year...

And so the Macc beer festival is over for another year - Friday night was sold out and Saturday wasn't far off whilst the free Saturday lunchtime session saw a healthy number of CAMRA members and families coming to enjoy a more laid-back experience with only the strains of some acoustic music to trouble the ears.

When I arrived on Thurs afternoon, the barrels were all set in place and labelled up - just a few small jobs remained such as sorting out the cider and perries.

Once these were in place, we had a check of each and found that there were a couple of real crackers - the 4.5% Happy Daze and 6% Pyder, both from Gwynt y Doraig, were extremely drinkable.

(left) Glasses at the ready

The vintage dry from the monastic Prinknash Abbey - it's last offering for a while apparently - was sadly disappointing.

In the evening Keef (and Jill) took me to try some beers from the new-ish Bollington Brewery Company at it's brewery tap, the Vale Inn in Bollington - a couple of barrels had finished just as we got there so we got stuck into their Wheat Nancy which was very drinkable.

Friday morning wasn't very demanding - the odd last minute touch to the bar and a final watering of barrels - and then it was time to drop into the Waters Green Tavern for a beer and a bit of snap.

The Beartown Blonde that I tried was a bit on the watery side but there was an excellent stout from Thornbridge on offer called Brock plus a refreshing brew called OTT from Phoenix.
(right) Trev and Dave Hasler check the beers

On return to the marquee, it was now time for one of our favourite tasks - checking the beers - with Trevor leading the way and Keef and I following in his wake.

By the end of the 120-odd barrels it was a bit of a blur trying to remember what was what - I don't make notes - may be some of the dark beers were a touch too cold and may be could have done without that last watering - but they'd warm up once we had a few bodies in.

Friday night tends to be the busiest session of the three - and this was no exception - thankfully the warm weather meant people could wander outside. W e had a healthy number of volunteer bar staff too and so didn't get too rushed off our feet.

I was at one end of the bar (breweries T to W) where the peoples' favourites were Wibbly Wallaby from local brewer Wincle and Original Blonde from the White Rose brewery in Sheffield - these were popular with both sexes and took a real hammering during the session.

By the time the bar closed at midnight, we'd all had a good time but the work wasn't quite over - Trev, Keef and I needed to check each barrel so Trev could see how we were doing for the rest of the weekend.

Dipping barrels using a dipstick has always proved problematic and slow going in amongst the scaffold of the bar so Trev has developed a little device that uses a piece of beer line, a L-shaped piece of wood and basic physics to give a reading of how much is left in the barrel - it turns out to be a lot quicker than using the dipstick and we were finished well before our taxi arrives to whisk us back to Bolly.

Nevertheless, it was still 2am by the time I got to bed and so we didn't make it back to the festival until 11am on the Sat morning by which time the marquee was looking all spruce and clean once more.

The previous nights readings had been feed into Trev's spreadsheet and he'd determined we were on course with no need for any emergency barrels.

(left) Keef checks the tasting notes

A queue had gathered almost an hour early for the lunchtime session as it's very popular with the ticker community and those who prefer a more peaceable environment - Darlo chum Colin Fletcher was amongst them along with his collection of Panda Pop bottles so that he could do a bit of bottling.

Also present, as he is every year, is local MP Sir Nicholas Winterton doing his bit for the traditional brewing trade.

Fewer bar staff in action but it never got too busy and there was plenty of time for us to chat with the customers. By this stage, a couple more beers started to grow in popularity in my area - the hoppy Yard Hopper (4%) from Ferryhill's Yard of Ale brewery and the Great Wegber (5.5%) from the Yorkshire Dales brewery, an extremely smooth porter.

Once the session closed at 3:30pm there was another flurry of checking the levels before Margaret (the soon-to-be Mrs Trev) and I wandering into Macc for fish and chips though precious few seemed to be open after 2pm.

And then it was a matter of waiting for the evening session - basically thumb twiddling until 7pm.

This final session saw a lot of younger Maxonians - many in groups and clearly not familiar with cask ale and usually asking for something like lager - "got anything like Stella, mate?".

Normally we do try and suggest alternatives to those not familiar with cask - the Yard Hopper is quite light and was a decent alternative to lager close to hand - we don't want to preach to them as that doesn't really work whereas giving them a few samples so they can get a chance to try other tastes often brings interesting results. However it was just far too busy to do this.

(above) Busy bar in action

The Wincle Wallaby and Original Blonde soon gave up the ghost, the barrels exhausted in less than 30 mins, by which time the Lavender Honey from the Wolf brewery had been put on having finally settled and was proving very popular.

It was a hard session - I wasn't particularly in the mood for beer and probably had one pint all night but did manage about four cans of lukewarm coke - I was glad when it was all over to be honest.

Well not quite over - a final measuring to see how much had been drunk before we then had to strip down the bar ready for the marquee to be taken down at 6am the following day - any barrels with beer left just had to be emptied - a sad waste but what can you do? Most people have had enough by then.

In all 11,509 pints of were drunk over the weekend - not to mention foreign bottled beers and the 20 pins of cider and perry which went in double-quick time - the order for that will certainly be increased for next year's festival.

And virtually every one had a good time with few incidents of note thanks to the efficient security and the friendly nature of the event. See you there next year...

No comments: