It was with much regret that I left Manly a few weeks ago after 13 months working in Sydney, on a daily basis being inducted to the fascinations of the growing boutique beer industry in Australia. I am indebted to bladdamasta and chums for their ceaseless enthusiasm for the craft, especially the tasting part of it, and the introduction to a veritable affluence of hoppy beverages on the 6pm out of Circular Quay. It was with tremendous pride, as a card carrying member of the Press, that I presented myself at GABS in Melbourne as a representative of the maritime BOTF crew, as well as one of their ambassadors in numerous new pubs and old hotels from Hervey Bay to Hobart – spreading the good news to anyone willing to listen (or read), of which there were many.
Beer drinking has always been a passion for me. As I left Sydney, it was the start of the Craft Ale Week, and as I landed back in the UK, I was unsurprised to walk straight into a multitude of CAMRA sponsored beer fests, including “IPA is the Only Way” at the real ale pub, the Hollybush (just outside Duffield in Derbyshire, if you’re ever passing), as well as the age old annual Norwich Beer Festival, which, with an unprecedented 40 or so seasonal dark ales on offer, even I had trouble sampling them all – not to say I didn’t give it a go, of course, thanks to the innovation of the third measure mark on their 1 pint glasses… the consequence being I’m unable to recall or scribe upon the merits of those I sampled (probably just as well, as it would make for an unreadably long post). Suffice to say, with another 3 times as many other ales also on offer, including a healthy injection of international beers (sadly none from Australia), a good time was had by all; not least because of the traditional pub games on offer – your intrepid reporter is happy to declare earnings to the tune of one fez for winning a bout of Shut the Box. I should say that the flavours available at GABS were more diverse, interesting, and superior to those on offer in the UK – refer to my previous GABS posting to whet your appetite over an espresso beer, for example.
But to me, yes, beer festivals have their place. I’m a lifetime member of CAMRA, and these events are a critical way to promote the wonders of the amber bead, despite the ludicrous amount of these public gatherings you now can choose from. However, the real festivals are those which are serendipitous – informal gatherings of friends, brought together for no other reason than to socialise over a pint or schooner, hell bent on trying out new, exciting concoctions in the alchemy world of brewing. And that’s where we come back to the unique BOTF concept – I mean one can hardly introduce Back of the Clapham Omnibus group to Londoners going home after a day in the office – for starters, the driving’s so atrocious you’d spill your beer everywhere.
No, with the kind permission of the committee, I will attempt to spread the BOTF gospel in wider fields around the world – I shall endeavour to take pictures next time and limit the length of my contributions – and I’ll push for a world that is exposed to great Australian beer… just the reverse of olde England shipping IPA 200 years ago to Australia, let’s leverage the modern distribution network to bring real flavour to those who have now lost the plot (but not the enthusiasm). Let the spirit of BOTF – all about bringing the idea of impromptu beer festivals to any gathering – spread it’s wings… Let the global Australian beer festival commence!