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How to get the best out of beer festivals

PUBLISHED: 12:07 11 August 2018 | UPDATED: 12:38 11 August 2018

The bar on Sheringham station at the North Norfolk Railway beer festiva l

The bar on Sheringham station at the North Norfolk Railway beer festiva l Photo: KAREN BETHELL


Back in the mists of time (about 2010) beer festivals were relatively rare. Today, they are ubiquitous (which would be a good name for a beer).

I have compiled a list of the ingredients to ensure that you understand and enjoy them in full.

1 - Choose a “runner”

Designate one of your group to ignore the beer at entry and dash to reserve a table. You may be different, but I can’t bear standing up for hours. It’s also so much nicer to gather your pals round a table to drink, laugh and talk increasingly incoherent nonsense as the beer takes effect.

2 - Get a pint glass

If you choose a half-pint glass, the bar staff will pour you a half. “So what?” I hear you ask. Well, if you get a pint glass, you’ll often get an accidental extra drop of ale when the pouring is poorer. As an aside, study the bar staff carefully to see which ones have a heavier hand when pouring. Make a beeline for them each time.

3 - Drink halves or thirds

It sounds counter-intuitive to buy a pint glass but drink smaller amounts. See above for the value aspect, but also bear in mind that drinking halves or thirds means you can sample more beers - and there will be loads of them.

4 - Bring food

Here’s where the table comes into its own. At Norwich Beer Festival each year, we bring jerky, smoked meats, a smorgasbord of cheeses, bread, crisps and nuts. It’s all good ballast for the beer.

5 - Remember bar etiquette

In no circumstances jump the queue at the bar. If a member of the bar team asks for your choice but you know that the lady next to you got there first, declare it. It’s good manners, heads off a day of dirty looks and might earn you a “heavy half”.

6 - When you go to the bar, take your glass with you

Yes, it sounds obvious, but am I the only person who forgets my vessels at least once per festival?

7 - Do not throw beer mats

However high are the jinks, beer mat throwing is a no-no. As an alert steward told me at the Great British Beer Festival in 2010 when I was listening to Hank Wangford, I could’ve “taken someone’s eye out”. Literally.

PS - It turns out there is a brewery called Ubiquitous Brewing in Twickenham. It’s a silly name because it can’t be ubiquitous if I haven’t seen it.

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