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Today is an important day.  I appreciated that for many people they will be thinking that I’m a day out and I mean yesterday was important as the start of Lent.  I’m being a little less spiritual though and it’s not really important for the following reason, but it’s a fun way to start the post.  Today happens to be day one of the regional Real Ale Festival.  I’ve been to most of the years in the last decade and have a nice collection of glasses as a result.

For myself and a couple of friends it’s an annual event that comes somewhere between taking it seriously and just trying out and enjoying some new ales.  We always go on the first evening.  There are pros and cons to this and lots of people don’t like the session.  In all the time I’ve been going I don’t think it’s ever sold out.  The Friday is the popular evening and sells out very quickly.  Apart from the advantage of rarely selling out, there is also the bonus that it’s a little bit cheaper and you’re unlikely to find your chosen ale has run out.  The cons tend to be that while an ale won’t have run out, it might still be settling and therefore unavailable, or maybe not even arrived.  There are also more likely to be alternates on so that the advertised ale is saved for the other days.  These cons do keep some people away but that does mean it tends not to be too raucous.  Saturdays can be good but run the risk of an ale running out.

I’m quite happy about this year’s festival.  I’ve already seen that one of my favourites (a rum porter from Boggart Hole Clough in Manchester) is back down and it will be a nice way to finish off the evening.  Sadly, unless things have changed, they don’t tend to export much out of the Manchester area so I have to enjoy the pint while I can.  It’ll be one of the few that I actually have a pint of.

Most of the ales I’ll try will be 1/2s as it allows for a much wider sampling.  None of us go over the top in terms of the amount we’ll drink.  After all we want to enjoy the ales and the evening, and with it being a Thursday, we all have work the next day.  Cost will also be an issue as, sadly, the beers aren’t free!

All the above said, the festival is the best organised one I have been to.  Other, unnamed ones have run out of almost all their ales on the first day, or been cheeky enough to request the festival glasses (normally considered a gift as part of the entry fee) back at the end.  None though come close to the beer festival that was organised by the student union when I was at university.  A sure fire hit I hear you all call.  Well the weather didn’t help!  The badges were changed to say Rainfest rather than Beerfest which should give some idea of what it was like.  To make matters worse it was being held outdoors (under marquees) in the middle of a field which was getting very muddy (I assume there were licensing reasons for this).  In the end I think that there were less than 20 people in attendance.  Probably the only university beer festival failure in the world!

I’ll post about the actual event sometime next week.