When you’ve been to as many beer festivals as I have (roughly 4000), it is possible to get to saturation point. I had never been to a beer festival in the metropolitan cathedral, and I wanted to go, but I knew it would be a CAMRA festival quite similar to most. How to shake things up? Simply, to take someone who has never been to a beer festival before and has only been drinking real or craft ale for about six months. Step up Vinnie, your time is now.
We started with a trip to Brewdog as Beer Festival lesson 1 is that the food can be hit or miss. For every lovingly curated food village there’s a wicker basket filled with motorway service station pies. With this is mind we ate first, but God how we wished we hadn’t. I oversold the Brewdog food. The last time I had eaten in Liverpool Brewdog it had been a triumph, and I had no reason to believe that four years later the same chef wouldn’t be still on the clock, bar work and catering being two professions where the average length of service is forty years, or so I presumed.
Vinnie’s burger was drenched in what appeared to be tomato juice. Under the weight of the liquid the brioche bun simply collapsed and left what could be described as a deconstructed burger swimming in a sauce so thin it should have been served in a glass with a stick of celery. I was glad I had ordered the macaroni and cheese , until it came. Not only did it not taste remotely of cheese, which is the least I expect from a dish so titled, but the congealed and rubbery mess before me didn’t really taste of anything. For this we were charged over 25 quid. It was garbage. Do not eat the food there, it is garbage. There, I’ve saved you £25 and a lot of righteous anger.
The metropolitan cathedral certainly is a superb looking venue. Even queuing up was a pleasure. It did feel very special entering the gaping main hall and seeing all those barrels but Vinnie was about to learn the second lesson of the beer festival – on Saturday night there is no beer left.
Vinnie is not one for reading – he’s more a man of action. He glanced at the beer list with frustration. “Ah, why don’t we just…pick all the beers with the same names as songs.” It was a bold strategy, and it started to pay off immediately with an excellent Even Flow (Pearl Jam) by Neptune Brewing. Suddenly, song titles were jumping out from everywhere – we ventured further into grunge territory with a Come As You Are pale ale from Nightjar, then we had a West End Girls 4.5 stout from Revolutions, and a Sitting On the Dock 3.5 mild from Rock the Boat.
This was when things started to fall apart – although there were several excellent beers with song title names, they were all gone. Strawberry Fields strawberry beer by Churchend Brewing? Gone. Whatever pale ale by Prospect? Gone. Vinnie spied a beer called ‘Black Jesus’. Having already noted that he was one of only three people in the entire venue who was not white, he felt this would be an apt beer for him to try, and it was also a song title. But it was gone. Vinnie was sorely disappointed so I assured him I would scour the earth for a bottle. Two weeks later, the brewery, Great Heck, went into liquidation. He’s an unlucky lad.
We did manage to get hold of a few more – Rock the Boat also had Waterloo Sunset, and Yellow Submarine. However Bad to the Bone by Bank Top, Year of the Rat by Rat, and Wild Thing honey beer by Bushy’s were also, unfortunately, gone. This would be an excellent game to play on the first night of a festival, and hopefully it won’t be long until we get to try again.