Top 10 Beer Festivals
In 1209 students were chased out of Oxford and this is how Cambridge came to be a seat of learning (allegedly). Now Cambridge is even more student friendly with three festivals a year; a Winter Beer Festival held at the Student Social Club; the Summer Beer Festival held on Jesus Green; and the Octoberfest back at the Student (extremely) Social Club. One of my favourite CAMRA branches, and not just because of the fact that I have my own stall, Bar Humbug on tour, at the Summer Beer Festival ... oh yes, and the plaudits they rain down on me (Gold in 2000 and Silver in 2010). A warm summer under canvas and not a Boy Scout in sight. Come and say Hullo.
Named the Kings Town upon Hull by Edward 1st in 1299, home to William Wilberforce, Mick Ronson ... and me. Where men are men, women are women and Tribbles are small furry animals with an active reproductive cycle. Not so much a beer festival as a pilgrimage. An opportunity to meet up with old friends, to talk with people about Freddie Trueman, Michael Parkinson and Proust with individuals who have the same accent/speech impediment as I have. One day I will master the city centre one way system.
A fine example of a local Beer Festival (boasting the second largest selection in the UK) held at the East Anglian Railway Museum, where railway enthusiasts can mull over all things railway over a pint or two of quality ale kept in tip top condition whilst the loin fruit can crawl over the engines and get shouted at by the aforementioned enthusiasts. This was where Blur played their first ever gig and their 2009 reunion so you never know who you might bump into. In 2011 we had the Bar Humbug on tour there and the Bartrams Brewery elves G, Professor Scales and Mr Nugget declared it the Coolest Festival.
- Burwell Fox
From the Anglo Saxon "Burh" meaning fort and "Well" being a spring, on the edge of the Fens so on a good day you can see Lincolnshire (I made that bit up). Bob and Lou have been running this pub for a few years now and I think that they have got the hang of it! August Bank holiday weekend with good food, music and one of the biggest selections of Real Ale and Cider I have seen laid on for a village pub Beer Festival.
- Stowmarket, Museum of East Anglian Life
'Stow' is the Anglo-Saxon word for 'Principal place' and was granted a Market Charter in 1347 by Edward the Third hence 'Stowmarket' ... in case you want to impress people at parties. Open throughout the year as a fine museum and every June the Abbots Hall is opened to the local CAMRA who put on one of the cosiest festivals on the social calender, family friendly and with lots to keep the children occupied. We have even laid on The Kings Arms by the Stowmarket railway station for the livener as you arrive and the nightcap as you leave.
Humpty Dumpty was the nick name of the great cannon used to defend Colchester in the seige of 1648, during the English Civil war. Mounted on a wall near St Marys Church, enemy fire hit the tower wall causing it to fall on to Humpty. Colchester was a Royalist stronghold and the best endeavours of the beseiged Kings forces were insufficient to re assemble the cannon (or, if you prefer 'all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put Humpty together again'... you won't find that on Wikipedia!
- Bury St Edmunds
Originaly called Beodericsworth until somebody tried to use it in scrabble to get a triple word score. In 1214 the English Barons met at the Abbey where they swore an oath to force the King to accept Magna Carta thus giving the town its motto 'Shrine of the King, Cradle of the Law'. Famous for the witch trials facilitated by the Witchefinder General where no fewer than 18 witches were executed including Oliffe Bartham of Stradbroke for 'Sending three toads to destroy the sleep of Joan Jordan', nowadays she would get community service. Beer Elsie Bub survived this persecution. In 1607 a bye law was passed forbidding people to let pigs roam in the streets. You would be well to remember this when you attend the annual Beer Festival. Most famous example of a Bury St Edmunds accent is Bob Hoskins who was born there in 1942. This is my local branch and over the last five years I have won two Golds and two Silvers so someone must like me! 2011 sees the Festival move from its home at the Corn Exchange (soon to be a Weatherspoons ... so change of use there) to the "Apex". Traditionally a Festival supporting solely East Anglian brewers ... watch this space ...
- Gibberd Secret Gardens, Harlow
So secret I didn't even know it was there! Sir Frederick Gibberd was the twentieth Century architect who was consultant architect planner for Harlow development, but none of us are perfect. His house and gardens has works by John Piper, Graham Sutherland and Henry Moore amongst others and once a year this garden is opened up to the local CAMRA branch who lay on a splendid Festival; small and intimate but in a fascinating setting ... miss it at your peril. 2010 and Cherry Stout won the Gold. When Sir Fred was a guest on Desert Island Discs his favourite piece of music was the third act from the Marriage of Figaro. His luxury item was a bottle of sleeping tablets, the same choice of Dame Ninnette de Valois ... Jimmy Govern was more practical, choosing Haemorrhoid Ointment (all that sitting on the beach). A smaller version of Bar Humbug on Tour will be there in 2012
The County Town of Essex, mentioned in the Domesday Book, an eleventh Century travel guide. Again a Winter and a Summer Beer Festial. The Summer Festival claims to equal Cambridge Beer Festival in size. Bar Humbug on Tour will be plying its trade there for the first time in 2011 so have hopes for great things ...
Nottingham Beer Festival is held in the grounds of the 11th Century Nottingham Castle and has the largest selection of beer of any Festival in the UK. Nottingham was the birthplace of D. H. Lawrence and is famous for lace making, bicycles (it was here that the Raleigh Chopper was born), religious sculpture made from alabaster ... oh yes and one of England's earliest outlaws Robin Hood ... first mentioned in a 15th century rhyme 'Robin Hode in Scherewode stod', and that was before Beer Festivals!
- Cambridge Rock Festival
Is this a music festival with a beer festival attached or a beer festival with music? 2011 we have everything from Caravan to John Otway to the Quireboys to Chantel McGregor playing and over 50 different real ales ... you decide! (and there is always the warm up music/beer festival on 16th and 17th April in Haddenham)
and before I forget ...