Nottingham (again) and a Beer Festival (again).

For someone who can’t stand beer I spend a lot of time at beer festivals. Although if you take away the beer there’s nothing about beer festivals I don’t like. The people are great – they’re down to earth, span all ages and wear silly hats. The atmosphere is laid back, there’s delicious food, new things to try and everything’s cheap. The only way they could be improved is a liberal application of sunshine.

Cheers!

Luke and I drove up yesterday and met Matt and Lucas at the festival. The Cambridge beer festival was the only one I’d known anything about and I’d been impressed by its scope. However the Nottingham beer festival was even more extensive. Approximately 1100 different beers. Lucas pointed out that about a mouthful of each would still equal 33 litres of beer to drink. I don’t think there’s that many individual beers produced in the southern hemisphere. On top of that there’s over 200 ciders and perries.  There was also a fantastic range of food options, from cheese platters to zebra burgers.

Just part of the cider selection.

We stayed for about four hours then headed to England’s oldest pub, ‘The Trip To Jerusalem’, which was almost under the beer festival, as it is partially built into the hill on which sits Nottingham Castle, where the festival was held. We had a drink there then moved on to the Canalhouse, which is a pub with a section of canal in the middle and bridges to walk across. After that we stopped at the Vat and Fiddle, which is attached to the Castle Rock Brewery. After that we wove our way back to Matt’s  (some weaving more than others).

Friday we took a break from the festival in order to drive out into the countryside and… drink more beer. We stopped at a pub called The Unicorn for lunch and then visited a farm shop. Farm shops in the UK are big sheds full of local, top-shelf produce. They almost always have venison, fancy sausages, pheasant and whatever is in season plus jams and chutneys and posh shortbread etc. They, foolishly, had an untended bowl of chocolate covered almonds out for people to try and I ate quite a few before Luke’s frowns shamed me away from them.

It was a rather miserable day so we ditched our plans to visit the extensive Clumber Park and went to see a cathedral that, fortuitously, was filled with the sounds of an army band (although they sounded more like an orchestra to me) rehearsing for a performance that evening. They were very good.

Cathedral interior, right before I was told ‘no photos without a permit’. AGAIN. Bah.

The boys decided to do their own beer tasting at home that night and bought a range of beers to share. We watched more Archer, ate a roast chicken and then went to bed early (well, earlier than we’ve been going to bed lately). ready to face another day of festival on Saturday.

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Here Comes The Planet 35 – England 09

We meet up with our friend Justin in Saltburn-By-The-Sea, in my personal favourite episode of Here Comes The Planet thus far!

Justin was the first Couchsurfer Amanda hosted, and whilst in Melbourne he also came along to our Samsara 2012 party (although I have no footage of that, here’s some footage from Samsara 2011). He was keen to return the hospitality, and did so in spades! We had a fantastic time with him and his mates, as you’ll no doubt be able to tell from the video. Apart from a great tour of Saltburn, he took us out to an excellent club night being run by a mate of his, as well as a joint birthday party where there were tasty noms, numerous games (some of which no one knew how to win, especially not the person making the game up as they went) and a lot of padded wrestling. We’re already looking forward to the time we can all catch up again. 🙂

Also, if you’ve never considered taking up dinghying as a hobby, Burno makes a compelling case.

Cambridge Beer Festival.. this time with pictures!

After 2 days of loitering around and getting in for free, yesterday Luke and I finally got some work at the beer festival – and work we did. We started at about 2pm and worked through til nearly 10pm. We started off on the mead and wine counter, then did some glass washing, then when the festival reopened at 5 we were back to the mead counter but then Luke was taken away to serve beer after a bit.

The indoor area before opening. Over 200 ales on tap.

I had a great time with my lovely manager (actually the deputy but the real manager never showed up while I was there) Jo who was really friendly and thoughtful and organised. At the end of the night I told her what a great manager she’d been and she looked shocked ‘Really? What did I do?’ but it’s hard to put into words just how good it is working for someone who isn’t a raging ego maniac, a control-freak micro-manager or useless hippy – like half the people I’ve worked for at Rainbow (an Australian festival).

Working on the mead counter was very enjoyable. My knowledge of mead has gone from zero to better-than-most in one day. I tried nearly all the meads we sold. They ranged from very light to dark and there was a Christmas mead, which tasted exactly like Christmas, if Christmas was made of honey. There was also a blackcurrant mead, which wasn’t bad. We also sold perhaps 10 wines, all made in the UK. I didn’t even know wines could be made in this sort of climate.

The mead selection with the tiny wine (all English) fridges below. Uncorking wine was my least favourite job.

I think our stall was different to most, in that nearly everyone who came up hadn’t tried mead before and wanted advice. This was a bit daunting as I didn’t know anything, but all people really want is to try a couple and decide for themselves. Quite a lot of people were shocked or disgusted by how sweet it is and made funny faces, particularly a group of Japanese people.

A pork pie and a cheese plate. There was a terrific selection of cheeses – sadly not all were put out simultaneously. I’m still waiting to try a scotch egg. Toni – tried a Wensleydale with cranberries. Delicious!

I’ve saved up my tokens that we get for working and bought a few more in order to acquire a couple of bottles of mead for myself. I think there’ll be one to send home (at least!) and one to have here when a bunch of us get together in Edinburgh in July.

Cambridge

I lived in Cambridge in 2002 and coming back has been a trip down the proverbial memory lane. We haven’t actually been into town yet and I’m curious to discover how sharp my memories of the place are. Just being with Andrew and the whole Englishness of the suburb he’s living in is almost like déjà vu.

Last night we went to a lovely country pub owned by Andrew’s former boss and met up with a bunch of his workmates, quite a few of whom I’d met years ago. It was like a window into what life would have been like if I’d stayed. If the food at the pub was anything to go by I’d definitely be a lot fatter. Chicken, camembert and cranberry pie – so good!

The pub was called The Golden Ball and it was everything a pub should be. Lots of wood paneling and red carpet, a fire was going and there was the constant hum of conversation. There were even little pots of original edition Trivial Pursuit cards on each table. Sitting there, with a group of nice, funny people my age was just so comfortable.

We stayed til nearly midnight then Andrew decided to leave his car and a friend of his, Andrea, kindly gave us a lift home. We fell (gently) onto our air mattresses and had a solid night’s sleep.

….ooo000ooo….

This morning we walked back to the pub to pick up Andrew’s car. It was a beautiful hour or so’s walk through the countryside. We saw horses, a prize winning village and many daffodils. We couldn’t help but remark on how much better it was than walking in Slovakia, what with the easily-identifiable path and signposts and the general lack of snakes.

We decided to stop back into the pub for a quick drink and then drove into Cambridge where it was raining then sunny then raining then sunny and altogether quite like Melbourne. Everything looked pretty much as I remembered it. Including the hordes of people clogging the footpaths.

Luke got a long-overdue haircut, Andrew and I bought lollies at the market and then repaired to a charming, old-school pub for drinks. I found two ciders on tap that I hadn’t tried before and had a half pint of each before Luke came back.

 

We went for a wander around the city centre and now we’re back home at Andrew’s thinking about what to have for dinner and what our plans are going to be for the next week. Everything hinges on hearing back from Matt and whether we’ll have a car or not.