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North Cheshire

Campaign for Real Ale

Our First Beer Festival

Andy Edwards writes about when he and his wife Tracy went to their first Beer Festival

As new members to CAMRA, we were somewhat apprehensive when we started attending beer festivals, not knowing what to expect. Now that we have been to a few we thought we would pass on what we have learned, hopefully to help anyone thinking about attending their first festival, to get the most out of it.

  • Always have your CAMRA card handy as you often get discount on entry to festivals organised by local branches. For CAMRA-organised festivals the discount to members can be either a reduced entry, especially when it's a cash bar, or free beer vouchers/tokens when it's a voucher/token bar.

  • Take plenty of cash as there isn’t necessarily a cash point nearby.

  • When buying your beer tokens, check whether any leftover credit will be refunded. Don’t be tempted to buy too many, you can always go back for more. Some venues take left over part used tickets and donate the equivalent to charity, so keep this in mind. 10p or 20p might not seem much to you but if there are hundreds of people going it does add up!

  • So on to actually drinking some beer (after all, this is why we are here, isn’t it? Ed.). We recommend reading the tasting notes but be aware your chosen drink might have sold out so have a few choices in reserve.

  • We know it might seem obvious but don’t forget to look at the strength. At least one night (for one of us) ended badly when he didn’t pay attention!

  • We would say don’t be afraid to ask advice from both the volunteers behind the bar and your fellow festival-goers. This is often when you will get a good tip and find a hidden gem. However, do act fast as when they are gone they are gone, especially any award-winners.

  • Keep an open mind, we have both been surprised when we have tried a beer that didn’t sound like our cup of tea from the notes but came highly recommended by a more experienced taster, both of us really liked it.

  • (Ed. Remember that you can always ask for a small taste of a beer before you buy, and most bar servers will offer this. Be aware, though, that if you ask for too many ‘tastes’ you may be met with refusal!)

  • Lastly and most importantly have fun!

    Tracy & Andy Edwards