Thursday, 21 April 2016

Now this is a festival

For the first time in several years, I went to the Paisley Beer Festival on opening night yesterday as a punter rather than a volunteer, and had a great time.

A few festivals ago the Scottish brewing scene had grown to such an extent that the Scottish bar moved into the bigger hall, swapping places with the English bar. This year this system was also found too much of a constraint and the festival now sprawls over two halls downstairs and two large function rooms upstairs, to say nothing of the hundreds of people standing and sitting in the corridors.

When I started going to CAMRA festivals the beer quality was often variable. I’ve drunk, and served, more pints than I care to think about of terribly flat beer, that I would have handed straight back if I’d been served them in a pub.

Punters should be able to expect to get good beer at a CAMRA festival, run by the people who put themselves up as the guardians of real ale. If CAMRA sell them a flat, warm pint, they will leave thinking that real ale is supposed to be like that, and choose something else to drink instead.

Nowadays, I don’t know what has changed behind the scenes, but the beer seems to be in much better condition and nice and cool.

I don’t scoop much any more. Put some Harveys on the bar and I’m happy. The beer orderer seems to share my taste, with many English classics on the bars – Batham’s, Harvey’s, Sarah Hughes – alongside the new wave from Glasgow’s Up Front or Newcastle Yorkshire’s Brass Castle. I could quite happily have supped far beyond my capacity without even referring to the programme. Mind you, having draught Schlenkerla available tends to do that. In fact, Paisley was so good that, although there is much more to be said, I’m off for another session while it’s on, instead of sitting at home writing any more of this!