A rainbow of people, colours and sounds, all holding glasses filled with golds, blacks and browns. A chatter purrs happily, an ebb and flow of conversation, laughing, rising and falling as you pass through the groups. “Have you tried this one?!” Someone excitedly bursts out thrusting a half of something under his mate’s nose. “What do you want next?” Around a corner drinkers are three deep at the bar, stretched all along, looking up and down, all around, a constant passing back and forth of glasses, money and beer; an empty here, a pint of stout there, a half of pale ale, a fiver, another empty, another half, a couple of quid change. Another corner and the smell of food strikes. Another corner and it opens into a line of bars and a huge seating area, so big you can barely see the other end, a rock star stage in between. People everywhere drink their beers, they talk about their day, their week, the weekends ahead; they gossip, talk about the news, cinema, sport; they talk about what they drank earlier, what they’ve got now, what they’ll order next; they say this is good, this isn’t, this is great, this is incredible, this is insane, this is… All around are the interested eyes of friends in conversation; the glazed-eyes of seven hours of being there; the eager eyes of the newly arrived; the crosshair focus of the poacher eyes of the ticker. And then it starts. It begins later in the day, five hours in, maybe six. The grip loosens, the excitement fails the hand. We don’t hear the shattering tink of glass on hard floor, what we hear is the cheer. The ‘whay’ which grows and spreads throughout, getting louder, building like a wave as everyone joins in, passing it on, the growing smiles and whoops and then the laughter and then back to where we left off, talking about this or that. Then later, nearer the end, it happens more, a constant flow of crash and cheer breaks conversations for a moment to join in - a second to drop everything and shout with the crowd.
That cheer is the uplifting soundtrack to the beer festival. It’s more than laughing at the loose fingers of someone unknown and unseen, it’s about having a chance and a reason to stand up and just cheer and let it all out, to call out because you are having a great time, to express the joy and belonging and spirit of carefree drinking fun that we are all feeling, and to do it in the simplest, most primal of ways. It’s a shared, united ‘cheers’ to our fellow drinkers, a way of chinking your glass with a thousand other merry men. The cheer is not for the broken glass, it’s for the full ones about to be emptied and then refilled - it’s for us. I’ll drop my glass to that.