Archive for June, 2014


I have just got back from the Isle of Wight and this year’s Isle of Wight music festival where a fun time was had by all. There was one thing there which really got my goat. The Beer. Now I’m sure that the powers that be have done a lot of market research and deduced the average age of the festival ticket holders and what they are likely to drink etc. etc. But we’re not all 19 year olds with no taste so why oh why do the main bars only give the options of lager and cider? And when I say cider I mean Strongbow, a drink which is so ubiquitous at IoW that it even has a stage named after it!

Looking around the site I saw that there was a huge range of people, from the group of teenages on their first festival, to the family of mum, dad and 2.4 children to the group of ageing hippies who haven’t realised that the summer of love has been and gone. Even the demographicsof these say that some of these people want some ale of some kind, or at least a different cider, one which preferably doesn’t corrode the back of your throat, infact I’m getting acid reflux just thinking about it. Now I’m sure defenders of IoW will say “what are you talking about? there is a tent over there with real ale on”. Yeah, one tent, about 15 minutes walk from the front of the main stage, with one local ale (Island Brewery’s Yachtsman’s, which was rather nice) and one foreign beer (Lindeman’s Kriek, a bit sweet but nice and very popular). The popularity of the Kreik really said it all, in the end they had to stop serving it by about 9 p.m. every evening so that they could ration it for the next day!

So if we want the beer from this tent we have to miss all the good music on the main stage, do we? Well that’s great.

The Isle of Wight isn’t the only festival like this. Secret Garden Party do the same thing, one tent in the arse end of nowhere which has a couple of local beers and all the main bars near the music give you the choice of Kopparberg or San Miguel. Ditto Reading.

Some festivals are catching on Latitude a few years ago already had at least one ale on at every bar, but they made the same mistake as IoW and didn’t order enough. Glastonbury, on the other hand has got it bang on. Real ale at all the bars, even though it’s just one choice, even at the main bar’s near all the good music. As well as that there are several over bars which are more like small beer festivals in their own right and on top of that there is the institution of the cider bus and the brothers bar which is arguably where the cider revolution of the recent years took place.

Why can Glastonbury get it so right and yet the others get it so wrong? I know the first thing that anyone will say is that its all to  do with sponsorship and I realise that but I’m paying nearly £200 a ticket and I can’t even get the drink I want? And on top of all the money they make out of me for the privilege of not having a decent drink is the fact that they make even more money out of the drinks company sponsorship deals.

I realise that people put on festivals to make money. It’s a business after all, but at some point (a point somewhere around overpriced sponsorship deals for bars) it starts to lose the fun and become just a bit tedious. Glastonbury itself has often been accused of selling out and corporate brandings taking over but it is still far and away the best of them all. Why can’t the others learn from them?

The Session logo

As you should all be aware by now The Session is a monthly group exercise whereby bloggers from around the world all come together and collectively post on a given topic which surrounds the subject of beer. This month the session is being hosted by Boak and Bailey from boakandbailey.com. They said:

We’d like you to drink one or more from that list and write about it on Friday 6 June… and that’s it.

Now first of all I can see the the calendar I know it isn’t 6th June, infact it is 19 days overdue. If I were at school still and my homework was this late then I would have been severely chastised (so thank god I’m not and it isn’t). I did have every intention of writing this post on time, infact I had planned on writing it early, but life, and the fact I’m a crap blogger put paid to that.

When I first read the subject from Boak and Bailey’s website I immediately knew what I was going to do. I had once had a drink in a pub a few miles down the road, The George.  When I got back I had received a few messages from twitter about my pint of Greene King’s xx mild. A small conversation got going during which it was suggested that it would go rather well with Guinness. Not all that convinced, and the George being a good hours walk away, I forgot all about it.

Fast forward to last month and Boak and Bailey’s post triggers a memory of an old conversation. So that was it. I would have a pint of half xx mild and half Guinness in the George.

The God’s of weather were on my side at the beginning of the month so I went for it Sunday 1st. It was an hours walk  through the fields and small villages nearby, passing a few other pubs which I ignored so that my first pint would be in the George. As I walked into Silsoe, the village where the George is, another pub, The Star and Garter, was heaving. There were people milling around out the front, I could hear more in the back and I could see that it was rammed inside. I thought to myself that it must be the fine weather drawing everyone out. I retrospect, it was perhaps more to do with The Star and Garter being a better pub. The george was nearly empty, save for a few die hard local types who, when I walked in at least, were talking about how they want their funerals to be. On the wall above them was a brass plaque with the words “bullshit corner”. I can image there guys in here on a friday night and this being a very apt sign indeed.

I went to the bar and looked at the range on offer, Greene King IPA, Abbott Ale and well that was about it on the ale front. No xx mild. I believe the youth of today abbreviate it to FFS. They did have the other half of my beer check list though, so I ordered a pint of Guinness. I nearly fell off my bar stool when she asked for £4.10. I expect that sort of thing in London or at a festival but here? No wonder The Star and Garter was more popular!

I overheard the three stooges in the corner talking about another pub, again about an hour’s walk away, The Stone Jug. This gave me the idea to try there for a mild, they have several ales on at any one time and have one many CAMRA prizes over the years. Never know, I might get lucky.

I didn’t. It was a lovely walk in the country, followed by a lovely pint of Hopping Mad’s Brainstorm, but alas, no mild.

In the end I had to settle for a bottle of Brains Original Stout and a tin of Thwaites Champion mild from my local Tesco. I got two drinks out of this and I mixed them deliberately about 60/40. Firstly the one with more mild. As you would expect it was dark, really dark. Mix two drinks that are the same colour and don’t be surprised if the result is the same colour. But mix together two drinks that you like the taste of and you can be surprised that it doesn’t taste all that nice. It was almost like the two drinks didn’t really mix all that well, individual mouthfuls being dominated by one or the other. And of those that truly did mix, it was a foul concoction that had a most bizarre mouthfeel. I did not care for it at all.

The second drink was more stout than mild. This was much better, the more robust flavours in the stout stood forward and really took control of the drink, while the mild still stood there in the background imparting its classic Thwaites je nais se qua. 

All in all a much better drink than the first, however I can’t really see the point. In my view it you want mild, fine, have mild, and if you want stout, fine, have stout, but don’t mix the two together. It’s not a clever move. So thanks to the people of the twittersphere who pointed me in the direction of this long afternoons goose chase around the rural pubs of Bedfordshire, but after all that it really wasn’t worth it. Perhaps if I had stayed true to the recipe and gone with the brands I was supposed to it would be a different story. If I see any genuine xx mild on tap I’ll let you know.