I arrived on the Thursday at around 5:30 ready to start my shift on the handpulled beers bar at 6pm not knowing what to expect really. Luckily I already knew either to talk to or by sight a lot of the other volunteers and of course I know the Committee. Having signed in and been given my festival staff tee shirt (a bright orange number) featuring the name of one of the sponsors Great Newsome Brewery I toddled down to the bar - a very, very long bar. It was nice and quiet for a while so I could familiarise myself with the layout, all beers being alphabetically by brewery, it was easy enough to negotiate. Once people started arriving, it was all about keeping an eye on who might be waving a glass in the air for a refill and not keeping people waiting too long. I soon got into the swing of it. The church setting was stunning as was remarked upon by a large number of the festival-goers and with the added advantage of keeping the beers nice and cool and the disadvantage of us volunteers being absolutely freezing!!
Patrick arrived at around 8pm and had a good mooch around whilst waiting for my shift to end at 9pm when I could join him for a couple of beers. I had enjoyed a half of something that I can't remember for the life of me now whilst working and as soon as I was able to get away, I made straight for the Gravity Bar area where the stronger beers are dispensed straight from the cask. I was aiming right for Brass Castle Brewery's Bad Kitty, a chocolate/vanilla porter that I have been hearing great things about. I wasn't disappointed, it was wonderful. I didn't have anymore to drink after that, up for work on Friday and all that!
I also worked the 6pm to 9pm shift on Friday evening, this time on the tokens and glasses desk. This was very hard work and I never stopped once in three hours. I think three hours is too long for that task personally, having now experienced it. There is a constant queue of people coming in, needing to buy tokens to exchange for beer and pay a deposit for a glass as well as the people who are bringing back tokens to cash in and wanting their deposit back on the glass they have returned. Lots of people didn't know the drill so having to explain the system and work out how many tokens they wanted/could have and giving change because almost everyone had notes rather than pound coins was all a bit mind boggling and I really felt exhausted at 9pm. We had started to run out of the more popular beers too so a few people, having paid to come in and then bought tokens were a bit miffed and were coming straight back to cash in their tokens in disgust. This is a problem every year really, a successful festival obviously wants to have sold all the beers by the time it finishes but customers want to be able to come in and have a choice of all the beers in the programme. You simply cannot have both of those things and I really don't know the solution, or even if there is one.
Patrick's friend Paul had come along so after my shift I went to find the pair of them. I had a few beers, chatted to a few people and generally relaxed and enjoyed the rest of the Friday evening session. The beers I had wanted to try had all sold out but I enjoyed the ones I had instead. By Saturday morning there was only 9 casks left out of 85 and those sold out before 1.30pm. That is a successful festival and thanks must go to the hardworking Committee and volunteers, most of whom did much, much more than my palty two shifts. And of course the church itself because there is no doubt at all that the surroundings made the festival much more accessible and interesting to the general public. There were a lot of people who had never been to one of our CAMRA festivals before and if we've managed to convince a few of them that cask beer is good stuff, we'll have done our duty!
I'll leave you with a few photos from inside the church and I think you'll agree, it's beautiful, even if the photos were only taken with my phone. (I do hope there is no one there who shouldn't be!!)
|Behind the Bar|
|Behind the Bar|