I’ll admit it – I heard mixed reviews about the St George’s Hall beer festival before I attended. Some people loved it, some people hated it and some people were downright indifferent. There were rumours that the beer wasn’t very exciting, that it was all about Liverpool Organic or Okells.
But when I looked at the beer lists, I realised that there were around 300 beers on offer – and that’s quite a lot. The beer list itself boasted over 50 different breweries and looking at the types of beer… I was almost impressed. The only thing I missed was a good, dry sour beer but based on the reaction I got when I mentioned this I suppose I am the only person on the planet who actually loves those.
So it was important that I attended, not only because the beer seemed good and venue is of great historical significance (and a glorious one at that) but because I felt I had to make my own mind up.
What I love, and don’t experience often enough, are beer festival staff who know their beer. We stood around one table our faces buried in the beer lists when one of the t-shit wearing, punters serving gentlemen waved at us and said “put those away and come and drink some beer”. He asked us what we liked, and after just one try he got it spot on. A dark, malty, gut-warming delight was in my glass without me spending ages reading the list and deciphering whether I’d like to try something. This method obviously takes away what some people go to festivals for, but it worked for me. So, I decided to challenge everyone I encountered when going for another one.
They all delivered. And when asked to, drew pretty and imaginative pictures on my card with which I purchased them there beers.
The only time I was disappointed with the beer was when I actually chose it myself. Who would have known that a beer that markets itself as a triple hopped, zesty taste-explosion would taste like dirty rainwater? That’ll learn me.
The price of the beer was fairly average, all priced at £1.50 per half. All of them. So regardless of the ABV, the brewery or the type, you paid the same price. There are obvious issues there, one might feel a little hard done by for shelling the same amount for a rarity as your box standard beer which is probably at your local right now, but it keeps things simple. You know exactly how many halves you have left. The cards that entitled you to get beer could be sold in sixes, tens, twelves… anything your heart desired really. It was a good system, it worked.
The beer was also kept well. Apart from the dirty rainwater beer, and I don’t suspect it had nothing to do with how it was kept and just that it and my palate were not friends, all beer that I consumed was in tip-top condition. Perhaps the volunteers didn’t just know about drinking beer, they also knew about how to handle it so make sure it’s in prime condition when it gets into my pint. Go figure.
The food was also great. I consumed my bodyweight of locally sourced pork pies and cheese and regret nothing.
But one of the most quirky parts of the festival was definitely the brass band playing on the balcony. You’re used to big bands and loud noises in festivals, and it was actually nice to listen to some classic tunes and modern classics being played by a live brass band while your eardrums stayed intact and you could hear yourself talk.
And when it was all over, when last orders were called, Death with his black cloak and scythe came to declare the nights festivities over. He got boo’ed. But I don’t think it was because of his performance. We all just wanted a few more hours among the beer, glorious beer.
All in all, apart from being our official Mascot’s birthday weekend trip away, it was a great little venture, and we all enjoyed ourselves. So much so that whereas Tom headed home the next day, me and the Mascot stayed for another session. Which is a story all on its own.
We’ll do this again next year.