ALE No. 310: 30th Cambridge Beer Festival Programme

[Logo : Birth of Venus in a pearl]

All ale the birthday bash

Cambridge Evening News 14-May

If you enjoy birthdays, get set to toast a very special one.

Next week, Cambridge's famous annual Beer Festival celebrates its 30th anniversary - and of course, there will be many thousands of pints sunk to mark the milestone.

The six-day festival was the first of its kind in England, and was initially held in the Corn Exchange. Nowadays it takes place on Jesus Green, and with the festivities due to get under way on Monday, organisers CAMRA - the Campaign for Real Ale - are preparing to move on to the site to erect the festival's enormous marquee.

A small army of volunteers, CAMRA supporters, will be doing much of the work, and manning the pumps during the festival too.

Elizabeth Jackson, spokeswoman for the event, said: "My husband and I went along to the festival last year as volunteers, and were amazed at how much hard work goes into it, and how many people give up their time to make it a success.

"We were keen to get involved again this year, and it's marvellous to see all the other people now working behind the scenes as well.

"The festival is the oldest in the UK, and when it started, the initial line-up of beers, including Adnams, Ruddles and Elgoods, were virtual unknowns. The casks were stored in the vaults of Barclays Bank in Bene't Street. Since then, the formula of good beer coupled with good food has led to many refinements and, whilst the first festival was intended to showcase beers produced within a 20 mile radius of the city, the emphasis has gradually changed towards exhibiting the great range of beers produced throughout the country. Foreign beers also feature large, as do ciders, perrys, and English wines."

As with the first festival, next week's event will be opened by the Mayor of Cambridge. Coun Philippa Slatter will do the honours at 4.30pm on Monday.

Mrs Jackson said: "We have always had excellent support from the city and, as a thank you, we will be conferring life membership of CAMRA on the mayor's office."

Festival organiser Shaun Marsh said: "This is the third year we have been on Jesus Green, and there will be more than 100 real ales to try.

"What people may not know is that we don't get the special rates that are available within the trade and the beer has to be paid for whether it is sold or not. We do try to keep our prices as fair as possible - the cost of the hire of the tent, scaffolding, fencing, flooring and the like all play their part.

"The one thing that enables us to remain relatively competitive is the fact that all of our staff are unpaid volunteers who come from all walks of life. I'm a long-distance truck driver and we have secretaries, window cleaners, sales assistants - the list is endless."

He said as well as attending the festival and buying the beer, people could also support it by joining CAMRA.

"Although many pubs now have at least one real ale, we are still campaigning for a better deal for the drinkers, landlords and brewers of this country. People who care passionately about their legal pint, and keeping up the quality and availability of good British real ale, should therefore join CAMRA."

Details about the campaign are available on a website -

The opening times for the festival, which runs from Monday, May 19 to Saturday, May 24, are: Monday: 5pm-10.30pm; Tuesday-Friday: 11am-3pm, 5pm-10.30pm; Saturday: 11am-10.30pm

* Admission is normally 2.50, but readers buying the News next Monday, Wednesday and Thursday can use a token published in the paper to get free entry on those evenings.

ALE No. 310: 30th Cambridge Beer Festival Programme
Cambridge & District CAMRA