New Bingley Hall was home this year to over 300 different Real Ales and Ciders
There’s a palpable sense of excitement in the bus, as we pulled into the car park in Birmingham. We’d only had to travel an hour to get there from Burton, but somehow the 20 or so likely lads in the bus with me had already managed to drain 4 cans each.
There’s a rich heritage of Brewing (and drinking) in the city of Birmingham, with Aston Manor Brewing Company calling the city home for over 30 years now. On top of budget cider manufacturers, a rash of microbreweries have also cropped up in the last year in the wake of the sudden popularity of craft beers and ales.
Where there are breweries you can always find beer lovers – so it makes sense that CAMRA chose one of England’s most central cities to host one of their largest annual Beer Festivals.
The New Bingley Hall, despite it’s name, is not new at all. It’s been around for a good forty years or or so, the cracks are starting to show, but for the most part it made for a great venue. The entire building had a capacity of 2000 people, although it never felt crowded, even when it was as it’s most busiest.
Within the bustling corridors and cavernous halls, happy volunteers had been hurrying to and fro, racing to get preparations ready for the hundreds of thirsty drinkers that would be piling in for almost 12 hours of drinking over the course of the three days.
With over a hundred British vendors of real ales and ciders, we were all spoilt for choice. After paying the meagerly £5 on the door, we grabbed our beer tokens and got to the drinking.
The wonderful thing about a good Beer Festival is that, even if you get split off from your pals, you’re surrounded by hundreds of like minded individuals who are always more than eager for a chat – especially if it’s about lovely beer!
A similar thing happened to me about 4 hours in to the day. Half the lads had run off to the loos and the other half had disappeared into the beery mass of people, in search of food. Whilst happily sipping on my my Kopek Stout, I bumped into a group of red-faced, rough looking types. I apologised, they laughed it off and we quickly began chatting.
On a normal Friday, this group of engineers would be working hard in a Sheffield warehouse, taking apart and fixing industrial fans and motors. However, their boss had felt charitable this week and sent them down on the train to drink their fill.
I joined them for a pint and then made my way back to my Society pals, many of whom were happily tucking in to some handsome meat pies. On top of the usual pub grub there were dozens of food options on offer, including locally made curries and kebabs. Once everyone had lined their stomachs, the drinking began once more in earnest – and it didn’t stop until the taps ran dry.
By the time the festival kicked out at half 10, we were all ready to sleep on the bus.
10 pints of Ale will tend to do that to you.