Archive for October, 2012

Bedford Beer Festival 2012

I know, this was weeks ago, I’m a terrible blogger. Yes, this is my musings on what happened on Saturday 6th October, the main gist of which was to go to the Bedford Beer Festival. Bedford’s was the first beer festival that I ever went to and so it’s from their example I base my opinion of all other events. Organised every year by North Beds CAMRA, the event is now in its 35th year.

OK, so you know that earlier in the week me and Jay had been on a mini tour of Bedford trying to find cask marque pubs. We were also joined by Daz and Jonny for the festival. We thought though, that we’d show them some of our favourite newly found pubs on the way first. This meant a quick stop in The Foresters Arms to see if they had received their cask marque in the post yet. They hadn’t.

We then moved on to The Wellington Arms, where Jay was very disappointed to find that they didn’t have any Fruit Bat, which was, for him at least, half the reason we went back there. Everyone approved of the pub. I particualrly like the sign on the outside of “The Wellie” as it is called by the locals.

The third pub we went to was The Cricketers. We had tried to get in here earlier in the week but couldn’t because it was shut. I since did my research and found it’s only open during the day if there is a rugby match on, which there was. I had also found that because it was cask ale week we could print off a free pint voucher from the cask marque website. While we were in here we talked to the landlord. He was telling us that he no longer gets a cask marque because he feels that they do not do enough to warrant the money he would have to pay.

Free pint down and we headed for the beer festival. Bedford is quite a large festival. It takes up the entire of the Corn Exchange, including the upstairs bar and balcony area. In total this year they had 110 real ales, 44 ciders as well as a foriegn beer bar. On top of that all the usual games, tombola, food, live music and book sale that you usually expect at a CAMRA organised event. The bumpf recon that over the weekend 18,000 pints will be consumed. That’s quite a lot.

So how was it? Well I always enjoy these sort of things. This year was no exception. I didn’t have any beers that I didn’t like. The food was good, if a little over priced and everyone was friendly, which is always nice. Later on, when the band came on everyone was having a great time, which really set the mood for the rest of the evening. For me the stand-out beers of the evening were T’owd Navigation, Nightwatch Porter, and Rampart.

Every year we go to Bedford beer festival and there is always something which happens which makes that year stand out from all of the others. Sometimes it’s meeting someone you weren’t expecting, other years its lesbians being over friendly with each other on the bar. This year it was a grumpy old man throwing my salad over the table. It was very funny.

After we left we had one more drink in town before making our way back to the train station. We missed the last train and had to get an extortionate taxi. All in all, fun times though.

Cask Ale Week – The Sticks

From the previous two posts: Town and Locals, you will know that me and my friend Jay are trying to get twelve cask marque certificates scanned by the end of cask ale week, an event promoted by cask marque to showcase cask ale. If we get to twelve, we get a t-shirt. As things stood we were at nine.

We had exhausted all of our local pubs and had a good stab at the pubs in Bedford. Now we had to start looking a bit further afield, and when I say field, I mean field. Jay and I planned to complete our challenge via  country walk. It’s well known that country walking works well with pubs, there are enough pub walking books to prove that.

Our plan was originally to go to the Pulloxhill and then Barton, but after looking at the last pub on our list it turned out that the “other pub” in Barton was a football club, and guessing that it wouldn’t be open, we decided on Silsoe and then Clophill instead. The Map below shows what we did, thanks to Bing Maps for not being aware that I ripped off their OS mapping feature. The Red dots are the three pubs we visited, although there are other PH signs which we missed off.

It took us about an hour to get to The Cross Keys in Pulloxhill. Since I had last walked that way the footpaths had changed slightly but it was still fairly similar. None of the hills in these parts are particularly demanding, really anyone with legs can get around in the countryside round here. We got to The Cross Keys just as they were opening. They found us the Cask Marque, which had just arrived in the post the other day, our luck was in. I had an Adnams Broadside, as did Jay.

The walk from there took us down paths I had never used before. Again, it was all easy going footpaths round the edge of fields. The paths linked us from Pulloxhill to Silsoe very quickly and we soon found ourselves in the new development on the edge of Silsoe. From there we made our way through the village to get to The George. The cask marque was on the wall, which was scanned easily but the poor phone reception made it difficult to log our scan with the app, we got there in the end though. We both had a Greene King XX Mild.

To get to our last pub we walked out of the other side of the village and turned north, we followed a footpath towards the ever loudening sounds of the A507 and the A6.  A short wooded section of the footpath confirmed to us that we were getting close. It was then just a dash across a bypass, a small housing estate and a footbridge that took us onto The Green in the middle of Clophill village, where our final pub was: The Flying Horse.

We walked in and asked for our beers and where the certificate was. The bar maid didn’t know but she was enthusiastic and thought the whole thing was a brilliant idea. She went off to find the manager. A short while later she came back “I’m sorry boys…” our hearts sank, this was the last one! “Only joking” as she revealed the certificate from behind her back. All we had to do was scan it and the t-shirt would be ours. I scanned mine, and then Jays phone broke. He restarted it, and then the app wasn’t installed. Jay got into a bit of a panic, eventually it sorted itself out and Jay scanned it, but then he lost his internet connection. In the end he had to piggyback his phone through mine and we did get him there. Now all we had to do was walk back so Jay could get to work. Oh, and we had a Brakspear Bitter each in the Flying Horse.

Cask Ale Week – The Locals

Following on from the last post. It was Cask Ale Week a little while ago and I’m on a mission with my friend Jay to visit different pubs to that we can scan their cask marque certificates. If we get to twelve by the end of the week we get a t-shirt. After visiting the town we got half way there. Now we thought we’d try something a little closer to home.

We are quite lucky, some people live in a village where there are no pubs left. We live in a small town where there are four pubs and within walking distance is another small town of seven pubs. Of those eleven pubs five of them supposedly have cask marques. If you’ve read the previous post you’ll know why I say supposedly.

I know some of my posts can be like trying to get through war and peace so here is the short version of what happened.

Engine & Tender – Cask Marque on the wall, found easily. We had a Boundary by Wadworth.
The Old Sun – Cask Marque behind the bar. Barman was very helpful. We had a Tiger by Everards.
The Albion – Doesn’t have a cask marque, we never thought it did, we just poped in because the beers are so good. I had a Merry Maidens Mild by Coastal Brewery. Working from memory I think Jay had a porter of some kind.

The Blackbirds – I’ve already got the cask marque in there and we’re in there so often it didn’t seem necessary.
The Crown – We had a St. Edmunds. Asking for the location of a certificate felt more like asking if I could set the bar maid on fire. No one knew where it was, although they confirm that it was there in the past.
The Swan – Landlord and landlady were very helpful, cask marque was behind the bar. We had a Youngs Bitter.

This brings the tally up to nine. A few more to go yet then.