Sunday, 24 January 2016

Both hands required

Last week I attended the Manchester Beer & Cider Festival held in the former G-MEX in Manchester City Centre. In general, I’m not a great fan of beer festivals as a customer, as I much prefer drinking in a pub environment, but this one was hard to fault, in particular the generous provision of seating. Martin Taylor gives it a highly positive review here. I also had the pleasure of meeting face-to-face a number of people who I’d previously only encountered through Twitter and the blogoshire.

However, it reminded me of a perennial problem encountered by the solo drinker at a beer festival (which wasn’t me on this occasion) – what to do with your glass when you go to the toilet. If you’ve found a seat, you can leave it there, but the chances of it disappearing must be far greater than in a pub, especially since the glass deposit is worth three quid. But, if you’re standing up, you have little choice but to take it in with you. There were guys holding a pint glass in one hand while unzipping and aiming with the other, which takes a bit of practice. In happier days, I remember seeing a bloke doing this with a fag in his mouth too! Others managed to balance their half-pint glasses on the top of the urinals. I assume the ladies take them into the WC and put them on the floor.

The whole thing is blatantly unsanitary, and unsatisfactory on many other levels. It’s the sort of issue that people are reluctant to discuss but really needs to be addressed. Maybe a table could be placed at the entrance to the toilets for people to leave their glasses.

Incidentally, while I wouldn’t regard this as a criticism of the organisers, as it’s the responsibility of the venue, the gents’ had small queues on Wednesday evening. I wonder if they were overwhelmed on Friday night – and the ladies’ maybe even worse. This is a common problem at beer festivals, because the demand for toilets is inevitably going to be much greater than at any other events held in the venues. Not an issue at Stockport, though, which is held in a football ground where the toilets are designed to cater for large numbers at the same time.


  1. The beer festival held in Dudley Town Hall has a neat solution to this based on playing cards.
    A table is placed near the exit door, and crucially, close to the toilets, the table is covered in playing cards which are then secured under perspex, those wanting a smoke or a leak simply place their drink on an available card and a steward will give you the identical card from another pack, once you have concluded your business, simply present said card to redeem your drink.
    Larger events like MBCF could use numbers cards for instance.

  2. This is a very good point, but could you not balance the glass on your head 'Mudgie', thus leaving both hands free?

    I also recall at some point in the 90's where groups of lads from Mancs. & L.pool regularly used to come shopping in Leeds City centre and they all had large pockets sewn into the inner lining of their coats to put their shopping in. Could you not adopt the same principle and caché the glass in there?

  3. Why can't CAMRA just have Portaloos on hire, in the same way that they provide cask cooling equipment to festivals. Just finding a festival venue is hard enough when most of the halls you would like to use aren't set up for the purpose.


  4. What you need is a shelf above the lavvies.

  5. they use the playing card table at the Pigs Ear beer festival too, albeit I think more to do with the fact you arent allowed to take glasses outside where the portaloos are than strictly hygeine, but GBBF has always used it as a method for the smokers.

    downside is it then ties up a role for the volunteers for the duration,and you make the assumption all those nice folk using the loo actually do wash & dry their hands

  6. Urine should be sterile anyway so what are you worried about.

  7. I normally carry a small rucksack with me, when out and about on my travels. It comes in useful for things such as maps, guide books, waterproof clothing etc.

    It also comes into its own at beer festivals, where there is a tendency to collect items such as leaflets or beer mats; but it is especially useful for carrying a packed lunch – assuming the festival is one which allows own food. When I have to answer a call of nature, then I just slip my empty glass into my rucksack and head off to the gents. I often first slip the glass into a small plastic bag, to prevent any slight beer residues from spilling inside the rucksack.

    Job done, both hands are free for the job in hand (if you’ll pardon the pun), hygiene issues are taken care of as well because, like all responsible people, I do wash my hands afterwards!

    The only thing I would add to this topic is that organisers should provide proper glass rinsing facilities for festival goers to use; especially when drinkers are switching from dark to pale beers. I have seen people rinsing their glasses out in the hand basins in the gents, which is obviously NOT the answer!

  8. Ed, urine SHOULD be sterile, providing the person it originates from is fit, healthy and disease free. Without wishing to go into too much detail, the part of the body where urine is released from does not always meet the above criteria.

    Taking the hygiene theme a stage further, most pubs now insist on serving customers in a fresh glass each time they order. This relates to concerns about contamination, from the user, on or in the glass itself – if they request their empty glass to be re-used. Northern-style dispense methods, particularly those which involve a “swan-neck” type fitting, are particularly susceptible to this issue.

    There is a lot of fuss, at the moment about allergens, with notices now having to be displayed at festivals warning people that beer is brewed from barley and/or wheat (who would have guessed it?), but basic hygiene issues are often overlooked. European Beer Festivals, invariably serve the customer in a fresh glass every time; so why not here?

  9. Another idea would be to have a cupholder attached to a neckband, where you could put your glass while visiting the toilet. That would mean you could wash your hands before touching the glass again.

    Although it has to be said that the likelihood of punters washing their hands is inversely proportional to the number of pints consumed.

  10. Whilst I enjoyed the Manchester festival and think it better than most. Better than your own Stockport one, a feature of CAMRA festivals is that things have been done a certain way since the 70s which are a bit dirty by modern standards.

    Not just the bogs. Keeping the glass for multiple drinks. Not great, really.

  11. The Stockport one is as much yours as mine, Cookie. And every festival has to operate within the limitations of the venue where it's held.

    Moving to a clean glass every time would involve a major change in the way glasses are dealt with at beer festivals and also probably lead to increased costs and less revenue. Maybe you'd like to give some thought to how it could be done.

  12. European-style glass rinsers strategically placed behind each bar. The type I am talking about wash and scrub the glass first, in a tank of hot/warm water. The glass is then inverted over the second part of the kit, which sprays a jet of cold, clean water up into the inside, thereby rinsing the glass and removing any detergent residues.

    Cookie is right about CAMRA festivals still operating to 1970’s standards of hygiene, and it is worth remembering that a sparkling clean glass will enhance the appearance of the beer, and by implication its greater appeal to the consumer.

    There obviously is a cost implication here, but it would be worth it to bring festivals into the 21st Century.

  13. As an organiser of the Ilkley Beer Festival (non-CAMRA), this is a real problem that we have. We get so many smashed glasses each year from people balancing glasses on top of urinals or in the sink.

    I like the card idea, I am going to see if we can adopt it. Thank you Stono. We have no shortage of staff as we ask the local sports clubs to send 10 volunteers and pay their club for their work.

  14. @Paul - at many festivals there simply aren't the power points or water supplies behind bars to support glass washers. Also it would require keeping a stock of glasses behind every bar, which makes the logistics far more complex. And how would the deposit system work?

    If a fresh glass every time became a requirement, then I would expect most beer festivals would have to switch to cheap disposable plastic glasses.

  15. I agree with what you are saying Mudge about the lack of power and/or water behind the bars at many festivals, so surely a sensible compromise would be to have several, strategically placed “rinsing stations” around the site. These needn’t be elaborate, just a cold water tap and a drain. Surely anything is better than people washing their glasses in the gents – or the ladies, for that matter?

  16. I was there all day Saturday. There were queues for the toilets, but I never had to wait more than 2-3 minutes for the gents and there didn't appear to be any queues at all for the ladies. There were limited toilets in the main hall, but all the ones in the foyer area were open and seemed to be coping with the capacity. Compared to some beer festivals, I'd say the toilets were excellent, although mastering the art of urinating with a glass in the other hand, is a required skill.

  17. By the way, I really admire your promotion of the Stockport Fest Mudge, though quite why anyone would want to leave the marvellous pubs is beyond me ! It's in my diary.

  18. It is now a legal requirement for pubs to use a fresh glass each time, so I don't know why beer festivals are exempt. It was explained to me that at a beer festival, the glass shouldn't come into contact with the tap or handpump to avoid any risk of cross-infection, but that's not how handpumps in particular are designed to work, and it's not what happens.

  19. Plenty to think about there. We do use Southern style short spouts though and I for one didn't get a pint in which the spout had been dipped.

    Each water point we had cost us £480 plus VAT or thereabouts to set up (it is sub contracted), but we'll see what we can do next time to improve things. There's cost and staffing implications for what you say. Maybe you and Cookie could rent a water point and wash glasses at your own risk for a price? You might make a fortune and fortune favours the brave?

    But we will take these points fully on board and will ask if we had any complaints.

  20. Mine wasn't a criticism of the festival but a point about CAMRA festivals in general. All of them. Dirty sticky glasses ain't nice. Though the ones that chuck their drink and rinse it in the bogs tend to be the ones daft enough to try a cider.

    Interesting those that thought how it could be done and those that dismiss it out of hand. It's the ones that think that you need in your club, TAND. They'll improve your game.

  21. I seem to have opened a can of worms here, as it was me who kicked the debate off the urinal topic, with my point about where beer festival goers can rinse their glasses. This wasn’t intended as a criticism of CAMRA festivals, especially as none of us seem to know the answer to this problem.

    However, a dirty glass with a coating of sticky beer residues is not particularly pleasant, and as RedNev points out, it is now a legal requirement for pubs to use a fresh glass each time. There are obvious cost implications, and the example price you quote for extra water points Tandleman, is nothing short of scandalous, especially as there’s a potential hygiene issue at stake here.

    I hasten to add that none of these issues preclude me from attending CAMRA beer festivals, but it would still be nice to have somewhere I could rinse off my glass from time to time.

  22. You could redeem the deposit on your glass, stick the change in your pocket, pop to the gents and then get another one.

  23. Matt. You certainly could and for those that are concerned, why not?

  24. If you go to beer festivals in the Netherlands (and some in Belgium) you take your glass to a "spoel punt" to wash it in something like this:


Comments, especially on older posts, may be subject to prior approval. Bear with me – I may be in the pub.

Please be polite and remember to play the ball, not the man.

Any obvious trolling, offensive or blatantly off-topic comments will be deleted.

See this post for some thoughts on my approach to blog comments. The comment facility is not provided as a platform for personal attacks on the blog author.