ALE Winter 2000 No. 300

19th Pigs Ear Beer Festival

A view from in front of the bar (for a change)

To my great shame I'd never managed to get to the Pig's Ear Festival before. Not that it's exactly difficult to get to: the bus from Cambridge stops right outside, after all. Door-to-door service - what could be simpler? So, armed with the need to use up some annual leave and a boyish optimism about public transport (which had recently been bolstered by a trouble-free visit to London during the floods), I crawled out of bed on the afternoon of Friday 8 December, having finally shaken off the hangover from Wednesday night, keen to add another festival notch to the proverbial bedpost - as well as keeping my hand in for Christmas and the Winter Ale Festival.

Of course, nothing's ever as simple as that: a security alert at Victoria Station meant wasting almost an hour of valuable drinking time hanging around a very windswept Drummer Street while they got a spare coach from the depot. But eventually I arrived at Stratford Old Town Hall - a beautiful venue which I had previously visited when it hosted a Cider and Perry Exhibition (the second? I forget now) about ten years ago. Nice to see the place again.

By now, neeedless to say, I'd got something of a thirst! So, having negotiated the entrance and juggled with glass, programme and tokens, I started off with a (very) swift half of an old favourite, Caledonian Porter (4.1%), before seeking out the chaps from Talking T's, at whose stall I would find myself thoroughly entertained for the rest of the day.

By the time I'd consumed some delicious Orkney Dark Island (4.5%), some lovely, smooth Ventnor Oyster Stout (4.5%), some tasty Hampshire Penny Black Porter (4.5%) and a slightly disappointing Roosters Outlaw Oyster Stout (4.7%), I felt the need for some fodder, so I braved the canteen. My burger and meagre handful of chips was uninspiring to say the least, even with its garnish of trendy leaves. But, as the song might have said, any blotting paper's good blotting paper, and I at least felt suitably fortified to seek out some Old Chimneys Winter Cloving (7.6%) - possibly the loveliest winter brew of the lot. This was followed by a dose of Milton Prometheus (5.5%). After that things get rather hazy, but I remember deciding to move on to the Milds! For some reason, after the lovely and nutty Churchend Gravediggers Mild (3.8%) I don't seem to have noted any more down!

Eventually it was time to bid farewell, and to stumble out into darkest Stratford to try to find the bus back to Cambridge. No easy matter: the stop for the return journey is far less handily placed, being a shopping centre away. In my confused state it took me a while to work this out, but luckily not so long that I missed the bus.

The next London event is the London Drinker (21 - 23 March 2001), in the Camden Centre, which is very near King's Cross. So if they've managed to put the railway back together by then, get your glasses down there!

Steve Linley

For those inclined to travel via rail, Stratford is a major interchange: Stratford is in Tube Zone 3.

From Cambridge at the moment, the best route seems to be to change at Liverpool Street for the Central Line.

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