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WRITER, CONSULTANT AND BROADCASTER SPECIALISING IN BEER, PUBS AND CIDER. BEER WRITER OF THE YEAR 2009 AND 2012

What's new?

What's new?
Next beer book - now called 'Miracle Brew' - is finished! You can still subscribe to it here.
You can still listen to The Apple Orchard on BBC iPlayer radio
I'm taking the pub on tour - four dates between now and Christmas.
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Tuesday, 13 August 2013

How to survive the Great British Beer Festival.

Huzzah! GBBF trade day dawns. If a bomb fell on Olympia this afternoon, there would be no British brewing industry left. And no British beer bloggers either... don't get any ideas now.

GBBF can be a gruelling event, especially for the uninitiated. So here's a guide based on 15 years experience - a few simple DOs and DON'Ts to maximise your beery enjoyment:
  • DO look after your glass. Repeat after Me: "This is my glass. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My glass is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My glass, without me, it's useless. Without my glass, I am useless. My glass and I know that what counts in this festival is not the beards we wear, the noise of our burps, nor the silent-but-deadly farts we make. We know that it is the beers that count. I will keep my glass clean and ready, even as I am clean and ready. We will become part of each other. Before God, I swear this creed."
  • Men, DON'T extend this duty of care to holding your pint in one hand while holding your penis in the other, pissing into the urinal. It's not a great look, especially if you drain the dregs of your glass while shaking. Leave your glass with trusted friends, or finish your pint before you go to pee and use the opportunity to rinse your glass when you - here's a hint - WASH YOUR HANDS.
  • DO eat before you go. You'll need some stomach lining and you may not want to rely on the food concessions on site. Rumour has it that some of the burgers date back to the first time the festival was held at Olympia in 1992. And who eats olives? No but really though?
  • DON'T head straight for Bieres San Frontieres, the 'foreign beer bar'. Yes, we all know it's going to have the most interesting, rarest, most flavoursome brews, but they're all at least 10% ABV and if you start on them your time at the festival will be dramatically curtailed.
  • DO be kind to the volunteers. This is their day in the sun - literally. Sometimes, it's the only day they see the sun all year. They aren't used to being around so many people and can startle easily. But they only lash out when frightened - making inappropriate 'jokes' about health and safety regulation infringements is not big or clever and if you do so you deserve all you get. They do a great job and the festival could not run without them. in recent years, they've even acquired admirable social skills.
  • DON'T bother trying to make sense of how the beers are organised and laid out. You'll just be wasting valuable drinking time. Instead, treat GBBF as a magical mystery tour. Relax and go with the flow, wandering the bars at random and just trying anything that takes your fancy. There are over 800 beers and ciders and there's bound to be something worth trying whichever bar you find yourself in front of, however random the combination of region, alphabetical order and association with British historical figures might be. 
  • DO take advantage of the fact that both pint and half pint glasses have a third of a pint marking on them. It is socially acceptable to order small measures and because the volunteers are really touchy about being served short measures in pubs, they pour almost a half when you ask for a third anyway, making it a great value way to drink. If you're still worried, just get a third poured into a pint glass and pretend you're a really fast drinker.
  • If you want to take non-beery friends along to show off your beery prowess and introduce them to some great brews, DON'T take them on Hat Day (Thursday). Hat Day is the great Gathering of the Nerds. Hat Day will make your non-beery friends look at you with the same expression they would wear if you had invited them to Torture Garden.
  • DO takes advantage of the fact that you're in the same physical space as all your beery acquaintances and PUT THE SMARTPHONE DOWN. You can say the word 'awesome' to each other repeatedly in person instead, which is much nicer.
See you down the foreign beer stand real soon.

13 comments:

Hardknott Ann said...

Love it

Sarah said...

Wonderful stuff.
I've never been to GBBF but I feel ready now I've read that.

Cooking Lager said...

Also take along all your booby lady friends, seek out the legend that is Tandleman and get them one by one to go up to him asking him to sign their cleavage. If they are asked by the likes of Dredgie or other bloggers whether they want an autograph too ensure they say "Why, who are you?"

Meer For Beer said...

Fantastic!

Beer Hawk said...

Valuable advice from a veteran! I didn't know about Hat Day...i'm a little scared!

Tandleman said...

Cookie that reminds me of an old football joke. I will tell you it sometime.

Cleavage is always welcome though of course. Dredgie is very famous though. To me anyway.

Tandleman said...

Cookie that reminds me of an old football joke. I will tell you it sometime.

Cleavage is always welcome though of course. Dredgie is very famous though. To me anyway.

Bill Bradshaw said...

Cracking advice - this should be re-posted annually the week before GBBF - or even as postcards to distribute with the tickets!

Anonymous said...

Nice list. Re: point 6, several GBBFs ago I cut through the 'too much choice' problem by the process of 'themed drinking'. Pick a topic (birds, animals, first names, colours and shades*) and just drink from breweries or beers that have your theme in the name. That reduces the list substantially and I end up trying - and liking - things I'd never have picked from the description alone.

* for colours there's an extra 'no repetition' rule - only one "gold", one "black" etc.

Graham

DJ said...

I went yesterday for the first time and loved the experience, such a great day. The nearest in size I have been to is the on in Peterborough which is also great. Peterborough actually puts GBBF to shame with the entertainment. They have bands on all day covering a wide range of tastes but GBBF had Alvin Startdust which was just cringeworthy!

Emma Sweet said...

Love it, spot on! You have to love the GBBF trade day, though it takes a lot of stamina, not for the faint-hearted.

Charlotte said...

Some very good points here especially the point about leaving your beer with a mate before peeing, haha! I really want to go to this festival - I've read about others (http://hungryhouse.co.uk/blog/the-best-british-beer-cider-festivals/) so I'm deciding which one to go too, although maybe I'll try them all, hehe! Any excuse!

Dave Pickersgill said...

To summarise;
- look after your glass
- look after your laptop
- always be considerate those who are behind the bar (as you would in any bar/pub)
- check bars/beers before you go (have a plan)

- I'll be there from Thursday (behind the bar) until Saturday

- thanks for your business card when I was behind the bar on Trade Day
- ps - my kindle book is available at :
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Worksop-Retford-Brewery-Telegraphic-ebook/dp/B00HWV41R8
(Total sales so far = 69 - be good to hit 100! - reviews are good!)

Dave