Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Pint pot

"Next time I'm taking my own glass." That's what I said after the 2011 Borefts Bierfestival. I didn't go last year, being otherwise detained in Canada. But I hadn't forgottten my promise to myself when I was getting ready to head off to Bodegraven on Saturday. I carefully wrapped a Nonic imperial pint in a teatowel and put it in the bag with my camera and lumps of bread.

I hate drinking beer from small glasses. An imperial half pint is the smallest acceptable measure to me. 10 cl? That's just taking the piss. My glass is likely to be empty before I've got back to my seat. Getting two glasses helps a little, but the best solution is more radical: taking a proper glass with me.

In the train from Utrecht, when I was surrounded by young enthusiasts* chatting excitedly about Whales, I knew I wasn't going to fit the festival's demographic very well. Not at all, more like. I'm pretty sure my attitude to the beers on offer was unique amongst the attendees. For I had a very simple plan: drink cask beer by the pint.

Let me explain why that wasn't as reactionary as it might sound. The two British breweries present - Fynes Ales and Thornbridge - brew some pretty decent stuff. Especially in cask form, and they'd both brought several with them. I like cask beer. Love it. I'm not going to apologise for that. I know it's trendy to sup craft keg nowadays, but there's something about cask no other form of beer can replicate. That soft, enticing drinkability. One pint makes you lust for another. And another. It never gets tired, tiring or dull as long as your legs are still up to their job and your lunch isn't threatening a return. Fun and easy to drink -what could beat that?

I don't get to drink cask beer very often. Amsterdam's only regular cask outlet is Wildeman and, let's be honest, they're a bit clueless as how to handle it. They keep the firkin somewhere too cold, then plonk it on the bar when they want to serve it. Pretty much guaranteed to produce a pint that's hazy and lacking condition. I've just about given up on it. Especially as it costs 7 or 8 euros a pint. Which leaves trips to the UK my only chance to drink cask. Three or four times a year. That's how often I can drink my favourite drink. Not much. I'll struggle to knock back a couple of hundred more pints of it in my lifetime. Now there's a depressing thought.

Note all the beards

With the brewers manning the stalls, I was sure there would be no quality problems. Poor handling is cask's Achilles heel. An idiot can turn the best beer in the world into a foul mess. Then again, and this is one of the big points in cask's favour, the opposite is also true. Handled by an expert, the dullest beer in the world can shine and sing. With cask you really can polish a turd.

Sadly neither brewery had brought a Mild with them. Or a Burton. Fyne Ales did have a dark four-and-a-bit ABV dark beer (Vital Spark) that could possibly have been hammered into the Mild category, if you ignored the New World hops. But it didn't fool me, pleasant as it was.

I did make a few notes. A very few notes. Not really enough to have been worth the bother. Sitting next to Beer Nut, a very dilligent note-taker, highlighted what a rubbish job I was doing. He was also being much wider in his choice of beers than me. In comparison, I was an amateurish bumbler, sticking to just a handful of beers.

This festival report is a bit like my festival experience. Narrow, incomplete and

* Bizarrely, I recognised one American from his BeerAdvocate avatar, a picture of himself and his Dutch girlfriend. I would have introduced myself, but what would have been the point? "Hello, I'm the shouty Englishman who annoys Americans on the interweb."


Tyson said...

Drinking from pint pots at festivals is a dying art form.

Velky Al said...


Sometimes it seems as though drinking itself is a dying art form, tasting every beer in a bar seemingly being the de rigeur way of experiencing beer these days.

I am sure I am an old man in a 30 something man's body, give my a nonic filled with brown ale and I'm a happy camper.

Ron Pattinson said...


I'm doing my best to keep the tradition going. Maybe I need to start an organisation to preserve the practice.

Ron Pattinson said...

Velky Al,

for all the complaints of beer not being taken seriously enough, I think the problem is that too many are taking it way too seriously. Ending up like wine - which would like it to - would be a complete disaster.

Gary Gillman said...

A half-pint should be the minimum size. I dislike smaller measures, and anything like 3 ounces IMO defeats the purpose, even with the modern higher alcohol beers. Michael Jackson once again points us: "Beer-drinking is a robust activity".


Rod said...

Hear, hear to all the above comments

The Beer Nut said...

Say what you like about 10cl measures, I did manage nine straight hours of drinking on Saturday without falling over. Harder to do on pints.

Ron Pattinson said...

Beer Nut,

I don't think I fell over and, if you include the two cans of Heineken on the train and the two Abts when I got home, I must have done at least 9 hours.

Ron Pattinson said...

Just thougtht what I could call my movement for drinking pints at festivals: Campaign for Pint-drinking.

Alan said...

That is redundant. It is the campaign for drinking.

Ron Pattinson said...

What about Campaign for Pints then?

On a totally unrelated point, the beard count was higher at Borefts than at the GBBF. Even though the percentage of women was higher at the former.

Ed said...

But were the beards ironic?

Jeff Renner said...

I hope that there were no bearded women.

Martyn Cornell said...

I'm obviously in a minority here, because I've decided I like thirds at beer festivals, for two big reasons: 1) if the beer's crap, I haven't wasted as much money as with a half, let alone a pint; 2) as BN implied, you can try a lot more beers before falling over.

Alex Saunders said...

I think the problem is that too many are taking it way too seriously

Oi, you said it. The new Whine is more like it sometimes.

Ron Pattinson said...


I've given up on the concept of trying as many beers as physically possible at a beer festival. I tend to try a few and then stick with one I like.

The more differrent beers I try, the less well I remember them. WHich seems to be sort of defeating the object.

Ron Pattinson said...


not that I noticed.

Ron Pattinson said...


they were beards of the deadly serious Marx and Engels type.

Gary Gillman said...

The 1/3rd pint measure does recommend itself in the modern situation where you may encounter many 6-7% ABV beers or more, so I will cut slack to its proponents.

While I do like reasonable supping (if not quite "just a little is enough", maybe that was overly cautious), the half-pint seems at least to permit a few swallows. You can't taste beer in a sip Dickens said - so true, any beer.