I've felt better. In fact pretty much any morning, serious illness excepted, I've felt better. Bloody Imperial Stout.
At least I had all my possessions, camera, phone, trousers. That was a good sign. Fortunately, a full English breakfast was included with the price of the room. Rarely have I been more in need of one. Two eggs, tinned tomatoes, toast and a pile of bacon. A mountain of bacon. Loads of orange juice and some tea, too. Had to rehydrate.
It's pretty easy to spot the British at this type of buffet breakfast. They're the ones, like me, with heaps of bacon. The foreign vistors mostly stick to cereal or nibble on toast. The girls. (Admittedly many of them were girls, so I guess that lets them off.)
I'd some time before checkout after stuffing my face. Time for a little light napping. I hoped it would make me fell a little less shit. Not sure it worked.
At Euston, I was keen on picking up a Metro to see how many runs Australia still needed to win the test. I was shocked when I got one in my sweaty hands. The game was over! The Aussies had indeed collapsed miserably again. Starting just after I'd stopped watching. Bloody typical, missing all the best bits.
Olympia is a far superior location to Earl's Court for the GBBF in every respect except one: accessability. It's on a stupid little spur of the underground that only has a service when there's an event on. They were only running a train every half hour, which explained the crowd of T-shirt encased bellies on the platform at Earl's Court.
I was tempted to follow the advice on the board to take a Wimbledon train to West Brompton and then an Overground train from there. But, not knowing that route, I stayed put. I ended up waiting 25 minutes. The festival had already been open 15 minutes when the special train finally trundled in.
After arriving at Olympia, it wasn't just a question of strolling in. Due to my own stupidity, I'd arranged to meet my shoolfriend Henry at the first session of the festival. Having forgotten that it was the trade session, not open to the general public. I remembered a few days before the festival started and realised that I needed to get press accreditation . . . but it was too late to go through the normal online process. In a panic, I emiled the Writer's Guild chairman, Tim Hampson, who was able to sort it out for me. It did mean that I had to pick up my pass at the press office.
I soon had my pass, a glass and a programme. Cool. Then I looked at what it said on my badge:
Beer Advocate Magazine Shut up"
Mmm. Looked like I was making a statement about BA Mag.
My brilliant idea for a meeting point was the Wells & Young bar. You haveto meet somewhere and I'd heard they had cask Russian Stout. Sadly, it turned out they weren't selling it until 15:45. Just when I was scheduled to leave. I had to make do with their seasonal beer instead.
Henry didn't arrive at 12:30 as promised. But several other people I know drifted past and stopped for a few words.
About an hour late, Henry made an appearance. Clutching a pathetic little third of a pint glass.
"Why the hell did you get that? You can always get a third pulled into a pint. You can't get a pint in a third."
Henry had no logical explanation: "I thought I'd be able to knock back a load of quick thirds."
"Couldn't you just as easily do that with a pint glass?"
As I'd been standing around for an hour waiting for him to show up, I suggested we found some seats. My old men feet can't be doing with too much standing. Sets off my gout. And my grumbling. By the time I hit pensionerhood, I think I'll have the necessary moaning off pat.
We got to discussing Henry's plans for a brewery. He's got the premises and planning permission, but is still a little daunted by the amount of cash needed to buy the brewing kit. I can understand enitrely. I'm not sure I'd want to sink my savings into something as risky as a brewery. Not that I tild Henry that:
"You should go ahead and do it. What's the worst that could happen?"
"I lose all my money and my house."
"See, it's not that bad."
They were serving Harvey's Imperial Stout. I thought I'd best have one as I couldn't remember whether I'd had one at the writer's Guild do.
"You can only get only get thirds." Henry said, explaining the gobfull of beer lurking at the bottom of my pint glass.
"Probably just as well after last night." I've made a mental note never to session Imperial Stout again.
Large numbers of people inexplicably came and crowded around where we were sitting. Inexplicable only until Roger Protz appeared on the stage and we realised they were about to announce the Champion Beer of Britain. The sound quality was shit and I struggled to understand him. Though I could discern the overall winner: Elland 1872 Porter.
I looked it up in the programme. "6.5% sounds too strong for a Porter of that date. 5 or 5.5 % would be more like it." I'm always like this when the topic of historic beers comes up. It's a miracle anyone still drinks with me. "I wonder where the recipe comes from?"
On my round, Henry suggested "Get that strong Stout from Greene King."
I couldn't see a strong Stout, but there was 5X. I assumed that was what Henry meant. Funny he didn't realise what it was. Especially as just 10 minutes earlier we'd been discussing Strong Suffolk and bemoaning the fact you couldn't normally buy straight 5X.
A very pleasant drink, with the sherry notes typical of an aged beer. But I was a little taken aback by its lack of extremeness: "I expected it to be more sour. The brewery says the reason they don't sell it straight is that it's too sour. Seems that's bollocks."
It was another that only came in thirds. Though mine was near as dammit to the half pint line.
"I told you that a pint glass was a better idea."
With a 7 PM Easyjet flight at Stansted to catch, I daren't risk lingering past 4 PM. So that's when I duly buggered off on the tube/train/flight/taxi trek back home.
My taxi driver from Schiphol tried to overcharge me by 12 euros, cheeky bastard. Having taken exactly the same route just a week before, I was having none of it and paid him the correct fare. First time that's ever happened to me in Amsterdam, have a taxi drive try to rip me off. What is the world coming to?
Stout, stouter… - I’ve been buying some strong stouts and tasting them – well, drinking them, let’s be honest – in the hope of answering the two eternal questions about stro...
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