There’s been a few reports of disillusion with Beer Festivals  recently (e.g. here ). I’m not a fan, but each to their own, and as Pub Curmudgeon noted, they’re increasingly a social event.

I personally use Cambridge Fest to catch up and laugh at a deluded Liverpool fan, and Manchester to test my (lack of) capacity for foreign beer.

But even with decent seating (Manchester),they can never be as cosy an experience as a Boar’s Head or a Black Star, and I can’t say the beer’s any better overall.  And  while I’ve no interest in rare beers anyway, the fact is you’ve a choice of at least a hundred in Cambridge tonight, so Fests can hardly be said to be the only route to new beer styles.

Ultimately though, they just eat up units better spread over new Beer Guide ticks.

But in the interests of research, I did Booze on the Ouse in St Neots for the first time today.

St Neots is an average market town with some above average pubs, though with better beer quality than range (hoorah !).  So there’s some logic to a Fest giving access to beers you won’t find locally.  Yes folks, this is a town where you won’t find Plum Porter (boo !)


That said, it was clear quite a few of the early entrants to the Priory on Thursday were invaders from Peterborough and Cambridge, where choice is somewhat wider on a daily basis.

The good news, this is a well “curated” selection of beers, focusing on the beers from local brewers you might actually find in free houses (e.g. Nero, Citra)  and the pick of the incomers (Plum Porter, Bingham’s Vanilla Stout).  Nothing on KeyKeg and no European bar,  but you won’t find me complaining about that.

Most importantly, the quality was excellent. I had thirds of Tim Taylor Dark,amd Langton and Digfield’s Pales, before succumbing to that ideal lunchtime drink for retirees, Lees Moonraker. All were NBSS 3.5 or thereabouts, drunk out of a pint glass of course.

In fact, I’ve nothing but praise for Hunts CAMRA.  It’s just I don’t like drinking in a sports hall that reminds me of my accountancy exams c.1987, with lots of chaps making copious notes on their programmes.


The landlord from the nearby Pig n Falcon was distributing flyers for his own festival, and I bet he gets a boost to trade at his idiosyncratic boozer, which is how it should be.

Booze on the Ouse is on till Saturday night.  St Neots pubs are, hopefully all year.

21 thoughts on “THOUGHTS ON FESTS

  1. If me and the Wife walked into that beer festival,it would have been a quick half and then into a proper pub,far too empty for our liking and with beer bores writing their notes down.

    When we went to the Nottingham Beer festival in the 80s through to the 90s at Victoria Leisure Centre in Sneinton,it was more like a football crowd with drunk people swaying in the crowd and everybody getting covered in beer,my wife loved it being there as it did’nt attract off chance drinkers from the city centre.
    Thankfully the new Nottingham beer festival at Notttingham Castle after a dodgy start got better and better over the few years it has been there and attracts thousands of drinkers who want a good time.
    I have been to all Nottingham beer festivals from 1982 to this day and took the wife from 1984 to this day,it is one of our highlights of the year.


      1. I was under the impression that in some places you got sent to the local Brewdog bar to extol the virtues of cask during a tap takeover by some foreign brewery that nobody in the UK had previously heard of.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Many established festivals such as Stockport in effect become part of the local social calendar. Yes, it’s still important to offer something interesting on the beer front, but that is no longer the sole object.


      1. Yes, and there’s a strong sense of camaraderie amongst the staff. For some CAMRA members, the ultimate objective of their endeavours is surveying and selecting pubs for the GBG; for others, it’s running the annual beer festival.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. can you really judge a beer festivals atmosphere by turning up on a Thursday afternoon though ? I wouldnt have ever judged a pub based on a Thursday lunchtime visit, I do remember leaving Cambridge beer festival midweek after their lunchtime session when they closed, and visiting a number of recommended guide pubs on the way back to the train station, those that were still open after 3pm at least, and in nearly all of them I could count on one hand all the customers in those pubs, it was only once you hit the evening rush hour home time, the pubs got noticeably busier

    and my experience of beer festivals in market towns especially where they arent judging beer purely by the breadth available, is they become very sociable & very lively places in the evenings, when most people actually have the time free to visit.


    1. That’s a good point. As I mentioned it was filling up nicely by 1pm, and I bet if I was there now I wouldn’t have a seat, it’s a successful festival.

      I just like proper pubs rather than sports halls, and I prefer conversation about subjects other than beer. For many folk it’s all about the beer, and that’s fine.

      Many of my pub visits are at lunchtime, and often they’re too quiet, but you can always chat football or weather with the barman if you want to !

      Liked by 1 person

  4. There is so little going on in Cambridge that a massive beer garden on Jesus Green is comfortably the social highlight of the year. People are even willing to put up with the shitty warm beer.

    Imagine how popular it would be if they got rid of all that warm twiggy crap and just sold nice cold keg beer.


    1. I just like pubs, so no problems as they can sell them. Sometimes they seem to be a bit reluctant, and pubs end up peddling tired beer when I tip up on the Monday morning, which isn’t fun.


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