I can’t believe it has been so long since this year’s Morecambe Beer Festival already. Nearly a month has gone by, and the only reason I’ve not already written about it is because of being so busy with university work and whatnot.
First off, I just want to say what immense fun it was. There were people there from all different backgrounds. Some were staunch CAMRA members, some didn’t even like ale, but everyone was welcome and, judging by all the comments we got, everyone enjoyed themselves. Personally, I’m not a CAMRA member (I’m more experience-centric rather than politically active when it comes to alcohol), but I am a big ale fan, so despite not being at the height of fan-ness, if you will, I had a great time.
It was truly amazing on so many levels. Yes, firstly, there’s the drink. Where else but at a festival do you get the chance to try over fifty great-quality ales under one roof? When you consider that some were brewed especially for this single event, and that there were also a number of high-quality ciders and wines, the possibilities for trying and enjoying new things was just phenomenal. I’ve put a wee list of some of my favourite ales from the festival at the end of this post.
Also, the social experience is very touching. This year I experienced it all while I was working, but that actually made it better. You are in a commanding position behind the bar (especially on the sloping floor of the Winter Gardens where it was held) and get to see hundreds of people milling around, chatting, supping, laughing and dancing to the band (yes, both bands – Twisted Soul and The High Society Jazz Band – were great and you should check them out if you have the time). It’s a real people-carnival and would’ve been fun even if I was just watching it happen. Then there are the volunteers; the banter is second to none, the support is total and there are so many memories I’ll cherish (one of which was enjoying Manchester United’s loss to Swansea on the opening day of the 2014 Premier League season with someone getting updates on a radio).
The third big draw to this is local pride, even more than the usual pride in making a difference for a cause. Not only did this festival once again raise the profile of Morecambe (to people as far-flung as New York, don’t you know), but we also made donations from the proceeds to the Winter Gardens itself (still in need of repairs, but better than it used to be) and the Marfan Association UK. I’m passionate about Morecambe – I’ve lived here nearly all my life – and it’s great to help at such a big event that serves local people and tourists too. When charity is involved too, how could you be happier about how you’ve spent your time (apart from when reading HashtagBeer, perhaps…)?
But the main point of this isn’t to brag about how much fun I’ve had, all the great ales I’ve tasted and all the great people I’ve met – it’s to encourage you guys to get stuck in. Wherever you are in the world, or whatever your interests, volunteering is always awesome. I’m guessing that, since you’re reading this, you’re probably into beer. Well, there are probably festivals happening near you so see if they want a hand! You’ll probably get beer for helping, maybe food too, and it truly doesn’t detract from your enjoyment of an event like this if you’re working. Everyone’s usually so friendly that you feel like a valued member of a team, not a down-trodden slave. Maybe there are no events near you, but maybe you have good organisational skills and would like to set some up? Chat to your local pubs, they might want to host (great for their business), your local councils etc etc. There’s a lot of stress involved in the organising, but also great rewards seeing it all completed. You make so many memories for the public and get so many for yourself.
The world is full of so much excellence. It can’t all be sampled, sure, but it’s a shame to willfully let any of it pass away. I’m not trying to guilt-trip anybody or get on my soap-box and lecture. I’m just saying, if you’re passionate about something, there’s something you can do.
Peace and love Hashtaggers!
Stand out beers:
- Brentwood’s ‘BBC2’
- Mauldoon’s ‘Blackberry Porter’
- Kelham Island’s ‘Cabbychino’
- Peerless’ ‘Full Whack’
- Bank Top’s ‘Old Slapper’
- Cross Bay (all)
- Lancaster’s ‘Cherry Crush’
- Bear Town’s ‘Ginger Bear’
- Green Jack’s ‘Baltic Imperial Trader Stout’
- Box Steam’s ‘Piston Broke’
- Hexhamshire’s ‘Wapweasle’
- William Brothers’ ‘Froach Heather Ale’