Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Weathering the ‘Spoons Beer Festival

Tonight I’m on location in the pub for a spot of gonzo blogging. The picture above is my view (although my eyes, thankfully, are a little clearer than that). I’m here because it’s the first day of the Wetherspoons Real Ale Festival and I’m actually quite excited by a few of the beers that are on between now and 15th November. I’ve got two here with me now - Dambuster by Shepherd Neame and Purkmistr Bohemian Schwarzbier – while I wait for my sausage, chips and beans to arrive.

The pub isn’t too busy tonight, but it’s a big place so it’s probably-definitely the busiest bar in town. It’s the first time I’ve dared bring the laptop out through fear of being accosted. And what was the first thing that happened as I sat down and placed by shiny new kit down? I was accosted (by accosted I actually mean spoken to politely). By a semi-drunk, friendly old chap who was impressed by my ‘graphics’ and who said to me, when I told him I was going to connect to wifi, ‘I’m going for a piss, I bet you’re not on when I get back.’ He was quick, I’ll give him that, but I was quicker. In your face semi-drunk, friendly old chap who pees at speed.

[Dinner arrives. Here comes a short interlude while I eat my sausage, chips and beans...]

[Update: This is cheaply delicious. £2.99 well spent.]

Now the beer. I went for the Shepherd Neame to see how they fare with pale and hoppy ale using just Cascades. To be honest I didn’t expect much but I’m totally, pleasantly surprised – it’s good! It’s pale and crisp and an ode to the English(?) Cascade – citrus, floral, sweet tobacco, earthy, pithy, great come-get-me aroma and really quenching. It reminds me of the Cascades I used for the Smoking Hops experiment. I only had a half but I want more now.

And the Schwarzbier (brewed at Marston's), which I’ve just finished. I now have a dirty plate and two empty glasses next to me. Where’s the service in this place? The beer was another good one. Really good actually. Chocolate, smoke, liquorice; good body, great looking. Nice one. Two good choices so far.

The next challenge: get to the bar, buy more beer, don’t get laptop stolen. Question: How does one do this...?

Answer: Safety first. Close laptop, slide into bag, go to bar, order more beer, return to seat, get laptop back out. It doesn’t get stolen (incidentally, I don’t have this trouble getting a new beer at home...).

I’ve got the New Zealand beer now – two international ones on for opening day, good stuff HumphreyGalbraith’s Mr G’s Luncheon Ale. It’s copper coloured, it tastes okay, it’s a little hoppy but a little middle of the road and forgettable – not bad, just not as good as the others.

I’m impressed with the festival line up and there are a couple of must haves – Thornbridge Pioneer, Toshi’s Amber Ale from Japan and Grumpy’s Pale Ale from Tomme Arthur from Port Brewing/Lost Abbey (brewed at Shepherd Neame) really stand out. Luckily, as I work and live so close to this place I can pop in every day to see what’s on. This means the next three weeks will mainly be spent nipping in and out of here. I think I can cope with that.

[Back to the bar...]

[Another Dambuster. And damn it’s good.]

I haven’t talked about Wetherspoons properly before in a blog. I really must. I have plenty of stuff to say about them. I guess by spending every day in one for the near future I’ll be flooded with inspirational words. At least the wifi works. And the beer is good tonight. And there aren’t too many chavs around.

It’s probably worth noting that writing ‘At least the wifi works’ was a kiss of death. I now have no internet you fickle fiend.

So yes, this post was finished and published back at the flat. So much for on-the-spot, in the thick of it ‘live action’ stuff - at least I wrote it all in the pub.


  1. Wow, I'm most impressed that you actually had some wifi!

    There'll be some definite Wetherspoons action over the next few days, as well as a pint of Raging Bitch at North Bar.

    If only I had no work to go to...oh no, I'm off on Friday. Wetherspoon's Day?!?!

  2. By an astonising coincidence, "Semi-drunk Friendly Old Chap Who Pees At Speed" is my Lakota name.

  3. Valiant attempt, though, Mark! Sausage, Beans and chips - Old School yumminess indeed. I'll be checking out our branch at some point to see what they have on. It's the only time of year I visit spoon's and to be honest, they don't dont do badly at all.

  4. I thought I was a beer nerd but taking your laptop to the pub takes it to a whole new level!

  5. Damn, didn't bring laptop OR camera with me today as my rucksack was already full of BrewDog Chaos Theory and Williams Bros Ceilidh for a chilli night I'm having at a friend's tomorrow - but nonetheless I shall pop into 'Spoons on way home to see what they've got. Luckily we have about 5 'Spoons in the centre of Birmingham so I shall hunt down the Thornbridge at some point, and see what I encounter along the way.

  6. Had the New Zealand beer in Worcester. Dull with a capital ULL.

  7. A valliant effort but one day I do hope to welcome you to the exclusive club of live JDW bloggers. Of course you may never reach the dizzy heights of blogging live on Christmas Day as I did, but it's something to aim for.

  8. Ed, I'd rather tap into a laptop than a notebook in the pub - plus I was on my own so wasn't just rudely ignoring my chums by blogging!

    Tania, 5 'Spoons is good - let me know if you get the Thornbridge and the US one!

    Tandleman, yup.

    Live the dream Tyson. Was you eating a Christmas dinner at the same time?!

  9. Nah, I have some standards you know! Just popped in for a drink.