Summer will soon be upon us, and for beer drinkers that means beer festival season. Throughout the summer months barely a weekend goes by when there isn’t at least one beer festival taking place somewhere near you in pubs, clubs, sports grounds and fields. The theory, of course, is that you can spend a pleasant afternoon and/ or evening relaxing in the warm summer sunshine whilst enjoying a refreshing pint of beer or cider. The reality in this country, however, more often than not involves huddling under marquees and umbrellas wrapped up in fleeces, waterproofs and wellies. Never mind, after a few beers no-one cares.
For the good people of Gloucester, however, there is no need to wait until the summer, because Gloucester CAMRA are hosting their first beer and cider festival next weekend: 22-23 March 2013.
This event is being put on thanks to the dedication and enthusiasm of a small team of CAMRA members and it looks like it is going to be superb.
To be honest, when the idea was first mooted I was not enthusiastic. I thought putting on a beer festival in the middle of the city would be terrible for the pubs: driving their customers away for the weekend. I have now been persuaded otherwise, however. The organisers have gone out of their way to involve local landlords and are publicising the pubs in their literature. Bringing discerning beer and cider drinkers into the city has to be good long-term and will hopefully be a big boost to the ‘night-time economy’.
Their ambition of having 35 real ales has been far surpassed, with more like 50 being available, and they are all interesting and unusual – very few are likely to be regularly found in local pubs. You can see the full list here. In addition there will be around a dozen ciders and perries, a range of bottled foreign beers and a dozen cheeses that you can enjoy matching with your ale.
As if all that isn’t enough, it is worth going just to enjoy the venue: it is being held in Blackfriars, the Dominican Priory founded in Gloucester in 1239. It is the most complete Dominican house in Europe. For a long time Blackfriars has been shut up, with only rare opportunities to get inside and marvel at the vast preaching space, superb scissor-braced roof and the scriptorium, thought to be the oldest surviving library building.
There will also be talks on the Saturday afternoon, including yours truly talking on some of Gloucester’s historic pubs at 4:45, after which I’ll be serving on the cider bar, so pop by and say hello.