With over 450 ales from around 200 British brewers on show, not to mention the numerous ciders, perries and overseas beers also available to sample, there was a fair bit of choice to say the least. Furthermore, poor time keeping on my part, repairs on the Underground, and a horrendous queue at Olympia’s cashpoint conspired to mean that I didn’t arrive at the event until gone 2 o’clock and so, as it finished at 7, it was truly a case of so many beers and yet so little time.
On the way there I’d realised that unless I imposed some sort of order or approached this systematically, the sheer choice of beer could mean I’d find myself running round like a increasingly drunk headless chicken for much of the afternoon. Thus, I scrawled down ten categories onto a train ticket, and resolved to drink a pint of beer that’s name (or that of the brewer) fell into one of my categories. With 5 hours to meet this self-imposed quest, things had the potential to get messy.
Once at the festival I was surprised by the lack of attendees in the mould of the stereotypical Ale Drinker, although there was the distinct tangy smell of BO in the air and a slightly higher rate of facial hair than to expected in a representative sample of the general population. In their place was a fairly eclectic crowd, although there were a few too many of the Rugger crowd for my liking. Rather unsavourily, Evil Joe reported seeing some BNP types in attendance (T-Shirts bearing slogans along the lines of “Keep Our Beers Like Our Country – British”, that sort of thing). It is probably just as well I failed to spot them: with a few pints inside me I might have found myself steaming in, wielding my commemorative pint glass.
The range on show was of course impressive, but this being the final day of the festival many of the smaller brewers had sold out of beer so a fair amount of the stalls were closed. In particular, the whole of the Welsh and West Country section had finished up, which I was a bit irked by, having wanted to sample some of Tomos Watkin’s brews. I rather suspected that rather than having sold out, it was more a case of the stall holders deciding to get pissed what with it being the final day.
Housemate Eddie and I bravely gave the radioactive cider a try
As I sat with a pint of Bishops Finger (a rather desperate and poor choice to meet the Rude Pun category. I honestly thought there would be plenty of contenders), I befriended some serious ale drinkers who I introduced to my categories system. They were quite taken by the idea, and whipped out a booklet they possessed listing the name of every single beer at the festival.
“You could have done this one, or that one, or that one!” they told me excitedly, really getting into the spirit.
My quest would have certainly been made a fair bit easier had I had such a list, I reflected, but the element of challenge would have reduced inversely. I thanked them for their pointers, but was a bit too tipsy to remember the advice they had imparted upon me, and they in turn thanked me for sharing my innovative drinking technique, resolving to adopt it next year. I left them attempting to identify 20 categories or less which would account for every beer on their list.
As the festival moved into its final hour for 2005, 8/10 of my categories had been met, and I was queuing for a pint of Fuller’s Discovery to meet my Futuristic category. However, I found my head starting to droop and as I struggled to raise my chin from my chest I was forced to admit to myself that if I pursued my quest to its conclusion, my drunken state would go from “VERY” to “UNSIGHTLY”. Did I really want it that bad? I decided not: Olympia is a long way from N7 when you can barely walk or remain conscious.
Sea = Regatta (brewed by Adnams)
Witches / The Occult = Hellbender (Salamandar)
Fowl! = Hen’s Foot (Morland)
Politics = Cheddar Valley (Thatchers)
Tree = Crab Tree (Facers)
Rude Pun = Bishops Finger (Shepherd Neame)
Myth / Legend = Dragon Stout (Desnoes and Geddes)
Classical [in the Greek/Roman sense] = Gladiator (Hadrian and Border)
Music = FAILED
Futuristic = FAILED