Thursday, 14 March 2019

It might even catch on

While I help run my local one, I can’t say I’m much of a fan of beer festivals as a customer. Standing around in a draughty municipal hall drinking warm, flat beers that I’ve never heard of doesn’t really appeal. I’d much rather have a cool, tasty pint of something familiar in a cosy pub.

However, my attention has been drawn to a beer festival with a difference being run by the Engineers Arms at Henlow in Bedfordshire. This is basically a selection of classic ales from well-known, accomplished breweries. There certainly aren’t any duds on that list. While it might be argued that many are pretty familiar, how true is that in practice? When did you last even see Double Dragon or Tanglefoot on the bar, let alone actually try one? And there are only two permanent Bass outlets in Bedfordshire.

Clearly a beer festival isn’t going to get far if it just offers beers that are already widely available in the local area. But it could be argued it needs some points of reference for customers to latch on to, such as special editions and one-offs from familiar brewers, or beers they’re likely to encounter when visiting other parts of the country. If all they’re presented with is a long list of beers that they have never heard of before, and are unlikely to ever get the chance to purchase again, they may not be too impressed. Perhaps this very obscurity is one of the reasons behind the decline in festival attendances over the past few years.

Maybe more pubs and festival organisers should try this sort of thing. You never know, it might even catch on. If Henlow was a little bit nearer I would certainly be tempted to pay a visit.

19 comments:

  1. It wouldn't tempt me but then you know my taste in beer(user name a bit of a give away), the only wow beer there for me is Jaipur. I do see a bit of Tanglefoot around and drank one in a pub last summer, its a location thing as I can't remember ever seeing Double Dragon in a pub.

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    1. But there are already loads of beer festivals chock full of citrusy pale ales. You would have been spoilt for choice in Huddersfield last week, btw.

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    2. The Stafford Mudgie15 March 2019 at 09:49

      Jaipur was one of the guest beers in Holden's Great Western yesterday.
      I had a lovely pint of Holdens Mild which has now gone up to £2.75.
      Bathams Mild was £2.45 in their two pubs I got to yesterday.

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  2. I'll be going Citra, if I survive Buxton. And I shall be campaigning against these new fangled beers like Jaipur.

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  3. Good idea. You could even call it a retro-festival .

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  4. My enthusiasm for beer festivals has definitely waned, having worked at them in most years since my first one in Barrow-in-Furness in 1985. At that time, pub crawls were often not very interesting in beer terms because in most towns you had a choice of standard bitters and milds from three or four breweries; a beer festival was a real chance to try different beers. Nowadays, of course, you can wander around most town centres and have a wide choice of beers in different pubs.

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  5. I look at proper pub men like Martin and Simon, that travel the length and breadth of our island to sample and tick off the mediocrity of it all and stand outside closed micropubs that don't stick to their advertised hours, and I thing they are PUBMEN, through and through.

    Then I see this. Warm, flat, boring bitter in a draughty church hall in aid of the scouts or summat and you won't even get on a train and punt yourself down there? Disappointing isn't the word for it, Mudge.

    Even I, spooner and cheapo can drinker, am fagging myself over to a beer festival at some point this spring in aid of my nieces scout hut or something or other to wince at real ale with my brother in law. It has to be done, for we are the foundation upon which this great nation and its pubs and ale is built.

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  6. The Engineers Arms is a cracking little pub that I didn't visit neatly enough when U was stationed at Henlow.

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  7. An old sign in the West Riding Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury Train Station advertises an early beer festival from the 1970's. Instead of calling it a beer festival it refers to it as a "Beer Exhibition". Perhaps it's a more fitting description of what you describe.

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    1. Many early CAMRA beer festivals were called "Beer Exhibitions". Farnham still is.

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  8. The Stafford Mudgie15 March 2019 at 09:56

    "When did you last even see Double Dragon or Tanglefoot on the bar, let alone actually try one?"
    I've had pints of Double Dragon on 12th and 17th December in Stafford's Metropolitan Bar and Tanglefoot on 21st November in the Monkey Puzzle near Paddington railway station.

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    1. Out of interest, is that from memory or from a record you keep of the different pints in different pubs? No criticism, I think both are fascinating, remembering them or recording them.

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    2. The Stafford Mudgie15 March 2019 at 11:53

      Cookie,
      I must admit that since the brain damage from a stroke ten years ago I need to take notes, but I do still remember some things such as how good our Banks's was in the White Swan last year.

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    3. You go in more pubs than I do, but I certainly haven't seen either of those on a bar in the past year, and I have been down to Dorset. I would certainly be on the Double Dragon like a shot if I saw it. I understand that Hall & Woodhouse have stopped distributing their draught beers to the free trade - but of course I see the Monkey Puzzle is one of their tied pubs.

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  9. The Stafford Mudgie15 March 2019 at 11:49

    84% of ale drinkers want to see at least one nationally recognised ale brand on the bar.
    Two-thirds to three-quarters of CAMRA beer festival customers are NON-members.
    So surely the Engineers Arms’s offering, rather that nearly all never-seen-before and never-seen-again ales, is what CAMRA should do – except that their beer festival organisers will explain that well known beers, with the exception of Bathams Best Bitter and Sarah Hughes Dark Ruby, simply don’t sell.

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  10. Simply lovely list. No rubbish craft beer either !

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  11. The Stafford Mudgie15 March 2019 at 14:56

    Stopped distributing draught beers to the free trade is how to maintain quality.
    In two Bathams pubs between 3pm and 4pm yesterday I had the first pint of Mild and both times a couple of pints were first drawn off - in one with an apology for the delay. Looking round I noticed that nearly everyone was on the Bathams, the Best Bitter.

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    1. Absolutely right ! How i envy you. I adore Bathams. I was lucky enough to get some Bathams XXX before Christmas in the Royal Exchange in Stourbridge. Fabulous beer.

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    2. I stayed overnight in Stourbridge almost exactly two years ago, and thought I'd have a drink in the Royal Exchange, which is a cracking little pub. I thought I would try the mild first, but it did taste a bit "first one drawn", and I noticed that pretty much everyone else was on the bitter, which was indeed superb.

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