Rochdale

There’s nothing quite like a beer festival to warm the cockles of your heart, especially when Winter is beginning to truly set in.

Somehow the sounds of laughter and drinking are more welcome during the Winter than the Summer.

In a lot of ways, Winter is truly the season for us ale drinkers. Whilst many will attest to the effectiveness of a quality ale during the height of our ‘English Summers’, I’ve always felt that they shine best during the dark, frosty days of Winter. Let the Summer be left for the young and the care-free; those kids willing to spend all night drinking and dancing the night away, with no care as to how they’ll get home or where they’ll sleep.

During the harsh Winters that we have to contend with here in Burton-on-Trent, the young people all but disappear in their homes.

They spend their evenings watching Netflix, surfing the internet and looking at videos of other young people enjoying the sun in far-flung lands. They either spend their time watching videos of other young people enjoying the sun in far-flung lands, or they save their money and head out to the far-flung lands themselves. More power to them we say – at least that’s what we used to say.

It’s rare that you’ll find a town council happy to open the doors of it’s Victorian Town Hall to hundreds of beer drinkers, clearly they’ve had no problems in the two years preceding it (this is only the 3rd incarnation of the festival) however, the ambience feels decidedly more rambunctious than we expected. The sun is close to setting when we arrive outside the Great Hall and the sound of merriment inside is decidedly more animate than we’re usually used to hearing. Perhaps we had the wrong venue?

We push through the grand wooden doors and are greeted by the familiar smell of hops, however the sight is a little different to what we’re used to.

There are young people here, dozens if not hundreds of them. We initially take a step back, shocked by the fresh faces and bright eyes – expecting to be greeted by the same kind of brash behaviour that we’re used to seeing during the height of Summer: this does not happen. These young people appear bookish, sipping their half pints of ale and conversing in hushed tones about their drinks. We breath a collective sigh of relief and make our way in, easing into our surroundings as we go.

Over 100 ales, ciders and perries are available to purchase in the Great Hall, we make it through about 8 or 9 of each of them before we have to take a break for some food. Whilst we’re queuing for our hog rolls, we’re asked if we can talk a little quieter – around a quarter of the people in our vicinity are in their early twenties and seem vaguely vexed that a small contingent of Burton old boys have decided to eat at the same time as them. We apologise and munch our food down in contented silence.

The youth might well enjoy the Summers more than us, but it’s still the older generations who have a claim over Winter!