I must admit that this year’s trade session’s attendance was either or the infrastructure was a lot better built so we managed to grab a table just before 2 o’clock and in very close vicinity to the food stalls. The first one we visited was the Crusty Pie Company. They had a wide variety of pies, pasties, and sausage rolls alongside their homemade pork scratchings – the perfect match for a pint of beer! Next to them was Gupta’s Bombay Sreet Food – they did have the best chicken wrap in town but also yummy Karahi chicken masala with long-grain basmati rice and breath-taking Tadka dahl, samosas, and bhajis. Their neighbour was Simon’s Sausage. They were flame grilling Bratwurst, Cheesewurst, Smoked Krakauer, and Jumbo Bratwurst for the most hungry. Some of our colleagues enjoyed No 2 Pound Street’s great range of handmade farmhouse cheeses served on their own or in platters, baguettes, ploughman’s lunches and focaccias. At the other end of the food lane, there was Shawarma that looked and smelled amazing and it also had a vegetarian option. There were some more stalls spread around the festival area and those included another place specialised in pork scratchings, a crisps stall, a Greek food place, a handmade Cornish Pasty stall that had a great selection of Scotch eggs, and for desserts – Henley’s traditional sweets that are made in the UK. We stuffed ourselves as we normally do but not to the point that we could not handle more beer, so we headed to the brewery bars just opposite the food stalls. The first one hosted Siren, Vocation, and Wild Beer Breweries and they all had great selections of beers to taste. We had a quick session there and we all loved Wild Beer’s – Shnoodlepip 2022 – a foudre-aged solera Saison brewed raspberries and pink pepper, then blended with some spontaneous coolship sour beer and passion fruit and hibiscus. It is a beautifully balanced beer with floral notes, a hint of spice, dry woody tannins, and rich tropical fruitiness and we recommend it. The next brewery bar in line hosted Adnams, Fyne, and Harveys, and the one next to it – Arkells, Bedlam, Bishop Nick, Black Storm, Bradfield, Titanic, and Anspach & Hobday. We had a quick tasting and probably because we were still in dessert mode we all loved the hand-pulled Titanic’s Plum Porter (that we sell in bottles), and also Titanic’s Chocolate and Vanilla Stout.
The hours were passing very quickly as we were having so much fun and there came the time that the live music kicked in. That particular night the entertainment included a gig by Fisherman’s Friends, Britain’s favourite buoy band hailing straight in from Cornwall, followed by two gigs by Chaminade, one of the most established string quartets in the field of background music. Originally formed in 1990, they have been playing music that appeals to all ages and musical tastes.
One of the gems of CAMRA’s festivals is the Real Cider and Perry bar. Traditional still ciders and perries are so difficult to find nowadays – they have become almost extinct in favour of their modern fizzy variants sometimes flavoured with exotic fruits. Stay tuned for the next episode where we will cover some of these apple and pear drinks as well as some non-traditional beers from abroad.
To be continued . . .