Do you like ‘Real Ale’? Or proper cider? Pause for a moment to imagine the ideal place to drink a pint of one of these islands’ finest traditional products.
In front of a snug fire in a country pub? Watching a great act at a music festival? In a city boozer with your mates? Or a beer garden with a great view?
I bet that a cavernous, featureless and unfurnished hanger, holding thousands of people, didn’t make your short list.
Next month, the Campaign for Real Ale holds the “Great Welsh Beer & Cider Festival” in the Cardiff International Arena (CIA). I welcome anything that boosts the rapidly growing popularity of real ales and ciders, and I wish CAMRA well, but this is one festival I’ll miss.
The venue just seems to contradict the ethos of the products. Sure, they promise “150 different ales and more than 40 ciders”. But not even the heaviest drinkers I know can sample more than a small proportion of those.
A few weeks ago, my partner and I did attend a beer festival. It’s held twice a year at every branch of a well-known and rapidly growing pub chain that owns several premises around Cardiff and South Wales. Each pub had 5 or 6 real ales, and a genuine cider or two, available at any one time. Enough variety for one session, and when the barrel was empty something different was put on.
All the beers cost a very reasonable £1-79 a pint (varying slightly by branch). For no extra charge, we could have three “one third” glasses so to sample more of what was on offer. We could sit in comfortable seats at our own table, with good value food available as well. We enjoyed it so much that we went back on a couple of further evenings.
The pubs holding this festival may not quite match my ideal venue, but they certainly get closer than the CIA, and we didn’t have to pay £5 to enter.
Still, I know a few people who will be at the CIA and they’ll enjoy their day out. If it helps people discover more drinks that they like and publicises more breweries, including all 35 from Wales, it’s got to be a good thing.
It’s just not my cup of beer.
This is a guest post from Paul Seligman, a resident in Fairwater