Fest of fun: Newark

I've been cutting back on the CAMRA festivals I attend in recent years; too many bland halls selling featureless bitters. But some make a supreme effort and Newark is a prime example.

Under the watchful cellarmanship of Steve Westby, the branch put together an enviable range of LocAle and unusual / debut casks inside a splendid tent or three.

In the shadow of the ruined castle with the Trent meandering past, I met up in the marquee with the usual suspects (John and Brian) for an afternoon with a difference. Well, different for me; such is the quality and range of beer on offer here that I decided to approach this fest in a different way. Instead of maximising new beers & breweries, or sticking with old favourites, I thought I'd try both approaches with one caveat - no more than one glass of any given style.

A porter isn't perhaps an obvious style to start with, but there's method to the madness. The porter in question was from a fairly new brewer - Malt B - and I wanted to make sure I got some before the ticker hoardes bottled it all. Smarties Night Porter had a slightly sweet aroma from its deep brown body, a frothy coffee flavour without any assured roastiness developing.

So what better way to follow that up than with a ..lager. Mallard Featherlight is an old favourite of mine. Good tang, superb malty edge, simple stuff. Cask lager in this country seems under-rated which is a damn shame when you think of how much nitro-swill gets necked every week.

Onto a pale one. Plenty to choose from but I plumped for a brewer I love and don't see too often around the north Midlands - Pictish Green Bullet. Just superb! Exploding floral nose, vanilla and cream and hints of fruit salad. Long lasting hop oil finish. So good I had to have another one. Brian and John made a quick trip to the bar to go get some. One guy was pouring it from height to get a good frothy head of it. The other managed to dribble it flat and over the sides. I had both approaches - yes, when beer is this good I'm prepared to throw the arbitary rule book to one side and have another.

A bit of bitter next- and lots of them to choose from, which is what put me off the new brewer hunt at festivals. Everyone does a 4-ish % bitter, they're all average. So I plumped for a brewer that again I don't often see, Grafters, and their Over The Moon. And a pleasant surprised; though I was prepared to be underwhelmed, this was a fruity, clean bitter with fair balance.

For my strong bitter I had fewer options and ended up reluctantly with one from Red Squirrel. Reluctant not as I've scooped it before but that I've often found their beeers lacking in character. No such issue with Prohibition Bitter, though; an earthy body, resinous fruits riven through it, well balanced finish; by far and away the best Red Squirrel beer I've tried.

Almost spoilt for choice for IPAs according to the list, but when I say IPA I mean a beer of at least 5%. That narrowed the range down to a handful of candidates with Keswick's Thirst Celebration getting my vote. Not too sure where I got the hint of tea from in the aroma but I got the sweetness, saturatingly so. And then it all kicked off; a mellow fruitiness that seeps into your ears, a warm pepper sauce nose. The first sip brought back memories of building Airfix kits on a hot day in a small bedroom, a warm fuzziness pervading. Somewhere, a sliver of pineapple was fighting its way across the palate. Almost too sweet but still a super drink for a halfpint.

It is May after all, so a mild was always on the cards. With a fair few of them on today, it was tempting to try something leftfield but I thought I'd stick with the knitting and go for a mild that was mild. Brewsters Cheval Mort ticked all the boxes; black to brown body, silky feel, washy coffee.

For my stout, I unreluctantly plumped for Bees Wobble, one that I first sampled at Leicester BF earlier this year. It's a solid stout, a wisp of smoke and roast. Uniform black, tan-ish head... you get the idea.

Then, cider time. Olivers Medium, a no messing about cider. A cider that actually smells of cider rather than wet straw or cow fart. There's a warm apple aroma, strudel not long out of the oven. Just enough carbonation to tickle a little. By far and away the easiest drinking, sublime flavour of a cider I've encountered this year.

Only one way to finish off such an experiment and that's with a perry, in this case Ross-On-Wye's Blakeney Red. Incredibly pale, shimmers white at the glasses base with a thin custard coloured body. It's a pear delivery system, a sweet wafting aroma betrayed by a whiff of glue. But glue in a good way (warm Airfix again) with the sweetness seeping into your very core.

Excellent beers, ciders and perrys then, it has to be said. And what of the fest as a whole? Well, beer quality and choice was also excellent. Not being one to trust portaloos given a choice, I didn't mind the couple of minutes walk down the the proper bogs (which at least had a cleaner in attendance). Food seemed pricy (three quid for a baguette) so I was glad for the pork pie from Porters that I took with me. Friday was a quietish day, service was generally swift and pleasant, the quiz session reminded me why I don't participate in pub quizzes any more (someone at the next table always takes it too seriously). And Brian and John's company was as fun as always, even though they were ever-distracted by any young woman in a strappy top...

And aroma of the day - pushing the freshness of Pictish Green Bullet into second place - was Brian's new German menthol snuff (that seemed to have been cut with fibreglass).

An excellent fest; well kept beers, good venue, easy to access via public transport and proof positive that fests are even more fun if you're prepared to be adventurous with your beer choices.


Fest of fun: Rail Ale, Barrow Hill

I've been on the lookout this year for fests I've not frequented before and this one looked interesting - a beer festival inside a working engine shed. The Barrow Hill roundhouse is home to a collection of restored steam and diesel locos and runs an annual beer festival with train trips included. Sounded like a fest of fun indeed!

First stop, The Babington Arms in Derby. Yes, I know I was about to spend the thicker edge of the day drinking high gravity beers but.... I can never resist a swift half or three in the Babby if I'm passing. And glad I did pop in too - the Great Newsome Holderness Mild and Great Oakley Welland Valley Mild were superb.

Catching an earlier train up to Chesterfield than I planned, I was able to take in the sights. Firstly, there's the famed 'crooked spire' of St Marys church:

Secondly, there's.. er... the Portland Hotel:
Well, all that sightseeing made me thirsty. Odd for a Spoons, perhaps, in that
1) it was an interesting building
2) the tables seemed to be clear of dirty pots
3) there was an separate 'unofficial' coffee and tea queue so beer drinkers didn't have to wait half an hour behind the blue-rinse-and-cappuchino crowd
4) it served dream beer. I really fancied a pint of Jaipur - and that's what they had on.

Eventually dragging myself back down to the railway station, I caught the heritage bus up to Barrow Hill. As I somehow got onto the staff bus, I ended up with a half-hour wait outside and opening time couldn't come soon enough.

As the gates creaked open, I stamped my circulation backinto action and hotfooted it into the shed. I had my eye on a special Thornbridge beer, a mix of Jaipur and St Petersburg Imperial Stout. Ignoring the steaming wonders around me, I sidled down the alphabetical stillage to 'T'... and what a disaster! All the Thornbridge beers had gone! Always willing to chance my arm, I asked if there was anything left at all and was rewarded with a mere mouthful of the mix, not really enough to gauge the measure of the beer. Ho hum. So, I sought solace in Destitution, a typical hoppy Leadmill beer, and went for a look around.

Standing back and looking at the stillage, there was the stunning looking LNER A2 Class 60532 Blue Peter. And steaming away on the turntable was the Great Central Railway 'Butler Henderson'.
This was great; steam and oil, diesel fumes, hissing pistons and quality beers.

I soon met up with some fellow Ratebeer members, Mes and Ang, who seemed impressed that the idea of a festival in a loco shed worked so well in practice.

Whilst they stocked up on chips (the breakfast of champions) I cashed in my CAMRA members voucher for a free half pint. And what better way to use that voucher than on a half of Bass No 1.

The stuff that legends are made of, Number One is such a sublime brew that it'll be sad if Steve Wellington at the 'White Shield' brewery doesn't get to brew it so often, what with all the changes going on at Coors.

We pitched up in a marquee tacked onto the side of the main shed and worked our way through a number of decent - and high strength - beers. I enjoyed a few that I've tried before (hey, that's why I'm a Reluctant Scooper) of which Bottle Brook Imperial Russian Stout and Kelham Island Brooklyn Smoked Porter were both as stunning as I remembered them to be.

Mes and Ang were availing themselves of some quality Midlands beers (as all of you who live south of Watford ought to do more often). And then, What Mes Did Next was either inspired, sacriligious or the product of a genius mind addled by strong drink: The Bass No1 - P2 Stout mix.

Either way, he'd get flayed and covered in salt if he tried it in Burton and probably won't make it onto brewer Steve Wellington's Christmas Card list. Or would he? Because this actually works - the smoothness of the P2 carries the heat and alcohol of the Number 1. It's a fiery hand in a velvet glove, designed to reach down your throat and not stop til it hits your cockles. In fact, it ought to be a regular brew, Bass Gestalt: flavours emerging as a whole, reification kicking in to bestow nuances that were never intended but seem all too real, the multistability of a palate rocking unstably between P2 and No 1 before the invariance as the genius of the drink becomes recognisable even as perspective deforms and your brains leak over your shoes.

(note to self: you should have drunk less before your psychology lectures all those years ago; that last paragraph reads like the impaired ramblings of an undergrad ripped to the nips on snakebite)

I needed more pure Bass Number 1 to recover. And indeedy I did.

By this time, or possibly earlier, or possibly later as my temporal perception was waning rapidly, we had a table full of merry sorts - Sim had exhausted the shops of Chesterfield (which probably left several hours to go for a coffee) and turned up with her Mum, Sue, soon followed by Mes's brother Nick and his soon to be wife Kylie.

Beers were imbibed, ciders enjoyed (I'm sure someone had the Olivers Pyder which has to be the strangest thing I've ever tried from that renowned producer) and foreign bottles secured for the journey home. To be honest, a day of drinking beers at ever increasing strengths had left me feeling delicate around the edges so I did what I had to do - had a pi55 that seemed to take ten minutes, got some chips down my neck, bought the strongest beer I could find and went for a train ride.

Up and down the Springwell branch isn't exactly the greatest rail journey in the world, but you can't beat sitting back in a well-sprung seat in a compartment of a proper coach, decent beer in hand as steam wafts through the window. And that beer was The Doctor, the pinnacle of Falstaff's Dr Who series of bevvies that I've seen sloshing around Derby and local beer fests for the last few months.

Following on from this, I know that the following things happened:
1) I took photos of random strangers and, for reasons unknown, pictures of my feet.
2) Mes and Sim et al beat the retreat to all points north and south. I wasn't sick on any of them and I didn't molest the womenfolk. And I didn't give Mes a shoulder massage this time.
3) I drank even more Bass Number 1.
4) I caught the bus back to the railway station and caught a train. Miraculously, I got off at Derby. I have no recollection of either the bus or the train journey.
5) My ever-loving and patient wife let me gabble incessently at her for several hours that night about beer and trains.
6) I didn't feel hung over the next day. Which could be testament to the quality of the ale, or the fact that I just didn't get out of bed.

A fest of fun? Damn right! Top beers, decent grub and an atmosphere that wasn't painted on the walls...

If you get the chance to go to this, do so - there's no beer fest quite like it that I know of.


Fest of fun: Ilkeston

It's hard to ignore a beer festival when it's got a reputation for good local beers and it's only a short bus ride away. So, Rebecca and I ventured over to Ilkeston for their CAMRA festival on a warm Saturday in May.

This fest used to be held in the Friesland sports call in nearby Sandiacre but was moved to Ilson last year due to low attendances. The new venue is much better served by buses from Derby and Nottingham and so numbers through the door have risen enough to make the festival viable. And it's a superb looking room - a banqueting hall large enough to take the stillage and still have room for sitters and standers.

We arrived on the dot of opening to ensure we got a table nearest the lifts, all the toilets were on other floors and Rebecca didn't want to be fighting through a crowd in her wheelchair. Sat at the back, I journeyed up to the front of the room to fetch Bec's first perry of the day, Oliver's Medium. Always assured of a tasty drop with something from this producer. With the papers to read and decent perry, Bec was set up for the rest of the afternoon.

I plumped for a beer on the stillage next to me - Thornbridge Kipling. Well, it's a dirty job but someone's got to drink it.

There were a couple of standout beers. Hollard Lipsmacker was a good, gentle bitter and proves there's more to the brewery than Chocolate Clog. Beer of the festival for me was Atomic First Lightning, a Locket lozenge orange body, smells of freshly baked lemon meringue and has lashings of itchy lemon to taste.

But it's local brewer Funfair that caused me concern. These are usually excellent - indeed, the Sky Diver was in good nick and I was disappointed at missing out on the cask lager Fun Stripe. But Divebomber (voted beer of the festival) was strangely muted compared to my previous samplings and Metorite was decidedly warm. And that was the real problem - a fault with the aircon was taking its toll on beer quality. The staff were forced into filling bin bags full of ice packs to act as cooler blankets on the casks and by mid afternoon they seemed to be fighting a losing battle. Even the perry which Bec had continued to drink all session was starting to feel tepid.

We beat a retreat slighly sooner than originally anticipated due to the heat and cooled down at the nearby Spoons (The Observatory) with drinks that seemed frozen by comparison.

So, still a fest on fun overall? Well, I like the all-in-one venue, a decent mix of LocAle beers and proper morris dancers (the Black Pig Border Morris - check out their calendar).

We brought our own food but there was a restaurant downstairs. Loos were clean and functional. Easy to get to on the bus. But that beer quality was offish towards the end - to be fair, the staff were doing all they could.

Yes, then; still a fest of fun that I'll gladly give another go next year. Here's hoping the aircon holds up next time!


Fest of fun: Royal Oak, Ockbrook

It's a hard knock life, this reluctant scooping. Forsaking the scoopfest that is Reading beer festival was an easy decison; as fun as it is, the lure of a decent pub fest just a few fields away from home was enough for me.

And not just any old pub - the Royal Oak at Ockbrook is a gem of a place, a proper pub and one that will certainly feature in my Pubs To Love column at some stage soon. This was a fest with a difference for the Oak. Their usual offering is an autumnal affair, based on the brewers found in a single county. This was a special occasion, though, as landlady Olive Wilson was celebrating her 55th year in charge - that's right, fifty-five years as licencee. Her son-in-law, 'Smiling' Steve Hornbuckle does the hard work behind the bar and in the cellar nowadays and he sourced a range of beers from breweries based less than fifty-five miles away that are not normally featured at the pub.

With about a dozen beers on stillage and another three on handpump in the bar, I decided frequent visits should be the order of the day - er, of the weekend - to maximise my chances of being reaquainted with some great beers as well as reluctantly scoopiing a few new 'uns.
Cycling John and I trolled over to the Oak on the opening night (well, my wife Rebecca drove us over). Ensconced by the stillage, we set about the beers in no apparent order apart from ensuring we hit the Brampton beers first. I'd not had these too often until this year; John knows the Chesterfield area well and the brewer had become one of his firm favourite.

Brampton Golden Bud was top notch, as were Ashover Poet's Tipple and Holland Delph (good to see some great light beers coming from Kimberley). Whim Flower Power and Black Christmas were dangerously drinkable. And tonight I had several glasses of what was to become my beer of the fest; Wirksworth Cruckbeam, a superbly balanced bitter with a depth of flavour and finish that was missing from their earlier ventures.

With a fair few more people present, Steve gave us all a hearty welcome and introduced East Midlands CAMRA Regional Director Julian Tubbs who said a few words honouring Olive's work and the value of community pubs. More of the same beers as before were then imbibed, by which time Brampton Mild had come on. At which point, any vestige of scooping hope was lost; this mild is excellent and I was happy to keep supping it until my better half arrived to give us a lift home.

Back to the Oak on Saturday lunch, this time in a taxi so that Rebecca could avail herself of cider. Yes, we do cider in Derbyshire too - in this case, from only a few miles up the road at Morley. Three Cats is seen flying the flag for Derbyshire cider at a fair few festivals nowadays, an Eastern counties style cider made from cookers and eaters donated by locals.

Some of the usual suspects joined us today - John meeting Brian on the bus (yes; Brian on a bus). They both then spent a fair bit of time playing with their phones - Brian had given John one of his wife's old models and they were soon into full techno-mode.

Later in the afternoon, Rebecca's work colleague Susannah turned up with her beau in tow, Graeme. And he we all are (apart from John behind the lens) in smiling, drinking pose.
With most of the beers still on from Friday, I was happy to drink my way through more Brampton, Whim and Holland before being enticed into the bar for more than several pints of Thornbridge Jaywick on handpump. So, there was the rest of the afternoon gone - this is such an easy drinking, deliciously golden ale. And I've rarely been more grateful for a taxi ride home afterwards...

On Sunday I picked up one of my bikes from John and we didn't need much persuading to amble over to the Oak. The stillage was decidedly thin now, with emergency beers from Grafton and Derby Brewing Comapny called into action. Our saviour was Amber Ales Stout on in the bar, amazingly refreshing after the short but sweaty bike ride.

Certainly a fest of fun and one that's already given me an appetite for their main festival in October.

You can read more about Olive's story by following these links:




Fest of fun: Victoria, Beeston

You can't beat a short train trip out to a renowned real ale pub for a festival. The Victoria at Beeston is only twenty minutes or so from Derby, so that leaves plenty of time beforehand for essential shopping. A Walter Smith pork pie, cut four ways; a newspaper to write beer notes on. And beer, of course.

A lovely morning, so I took a short walk from Derby marketplace to the station via the soon to be sandblasted Royal Standard (due to reopen as Derby Brewing Co's first pub).
A nip into the Smithfield for some sublime Thornbridge Kipling (yes, with warm weather, the Smith's HUGE chip butties and beer this good I could easily stay all day). Then meeting up with regular festival reprobates John and Brian, ably assisted this Friday by Sleepy Bernie (who we know to have had too much of The Usual in the Brunswick when he nods off unannounced). Halves of Father Mike's and Railway Porter were polished off before the short waltz to the station.

Where the travel time to Beeston is just long enough to enjoy that pork pie. Proper course meat, firm pastry, just enough jelly. Superb pie!
The Victoria faces Platform One of Beeston station, but the gate from the platform to the beer garden has long since been locked off. So it's a hike up and over the flyover and footbridge to cross the line twice and get inside.

I won't say too much about the pub itself - it will certainly feature as one of my Pubs to Love later in the year - but suffice to say it has a decent sized bar, a lounge unhindered by tables, a couple of rooms laid out for dining and a large beer garden. No smoking throughout and no mobiles either, a blessed relief.

With the weather blustering on the typhoon side of inclement, we bunkered up in the bar - where they don't serve hot food, so no braying tables of foccacia chomping lecturers from the nearby university. cluttering up the space needed by proper ale drinkers. Magic! A festival here is like a normal beer day doubled; the bar has its usual selection of local beers (including regular Castle Rock stuff), guest casks and a dedicated dark beer section. Outside there's a small hatch to an outhouse with a dozen beers or so on gravity.
Unsurprisingly, those beers outside were a tad on the cool side - even cooler than Spoons would serve them. The Itchen Valley Godfathers eventually warmed to some fat, juicy fruitiness. At one point, the outside bar was closed as the rain came down in sheets. But the weather tidied up, as did the beers - after some hit-and-miss Allgates I ticked into some superb stuff; Funfair Ghost Train and Showmans IPA were both superb, the Crouch Vale Snowdrop from outside managed to hold its own through the hail and the rain to be a beautiful drop as the sun suddenly blazed and cast rainbows over the beer garden.

We ended up with Brian buying a round of Bathams bitter, he was in full-on reminiscence mode over how the beer used to be. I found it quite buttery compared to my previous glass of Showmans, but I could imagine his hazy days of lazing in fields having your face licked by a cow....

Beer of the fest for me was Full Mash Fisherman, a stunning gold concoction full of sustained citric fruit and biting hops.

A fest of fun? Absolutely: an excellent pub that only differed by having a few more people around and twice as much beer as usual. A comfy place to while away a few hours, excellent cold cobs, ideal for the trains and superlative beer quality when the outside beers stopped freezing.

More to follow on the Vic later in the year.


Fest of fun: Coventry

Now, I wouldn't usually bother with the likes of a CAMRA festival in Coventry. But this trip had several factors in its favour; a direct train service from Derby, an interesting venue (Coventry rugby club) and the chance to meet up with some of the England Ratebeer.com crew.

It was a gorgeous blue sky morning, so with an early arrival into Cov I set up off to the cathedral for a spot of photography and a trip up the old tower. All 180 steps to the top where you're rewarded with a sobering view of the bombed out shell of the old cathedral. And a view of the multi-story IKEA, where (apparently) devout flatpackers flock on a Sunday morning...

With my heart beating its way out of my chest, I decided a beer stop was in order. Fortunately, there was a Spoons/Lloyds close by, the Earl of Mercia. As well as intermittent free wifi, I got the 'other' foreign-brewer-brewing-in-the-UK-Spoons-fest beer, Tokyo Yoho black. Which wasn't that great - if I hadn't seen it come out of the cask, I'd have questioned whether they'd given me extra cold Guinness.

So, after a tramp around Cov's exquisite ring road (having asked a policeman the way) I found the rugby club. And a fine place it looked, too. Sadly, there was no drinking in the stands which I thought might have been the case.

It was a busy place, a cram of tables in one room and a stillage in a room further along. Getting warm , too - more about that later. Ratebeer stalwart Glen from Oxford was already there and had secured a table. Mark and friends had made the trip up from Northamptonshire and were there too, busy tucking in to some decent ales.

And those ales - some -though not a lot of - fun local beers (Discovery Darwin's Delight was probably the best), good beers from further flung parts (Dark Star Over The Moon) and the occasional standout (Fullers London Porter, Leyden Raglan Sleeve). The beer of the fest for me, though, was Alehouse Sauvin So Good; good to see the Nelson Sauvin hop being used more (as it is to stunning effect in Thornbridge Kipling).

Whilst at the bar, I spotted a familiar face; Mes and Sim without the Sim. He'd blagged a trip in the Phil L beer taxi. Always good to share a few beers and more than a few laughs with him, particularly as he never fails to remind me how good my ratebeer review of Full Mash Drizzlecombe Porter is ;-)

As for Phil L; first time I'd met the man and what fun it was - a genuine, knowledgable, affable guy who knows his onions but doesn't ram them down your throat. If you see what I mean. And, what's more, he brought a couple of bottles to share round the table; Dragonmead Final Absolution (a US Belgian-tripel style) and my first Finnish beer, the incredibly moreish Mikkeller Santas Little Helper.

So, a fest of fun? Just. The venue was OK; a little cramped perhaps and certainly on the warm side. Just before kick-out time (4pm) the beers were getting decidedly warm. The loos worked most of the time. Access was on the level but it was a bit of a struggle for some wheelchair users as everywhere in the place had drinkers dripping off the walls. I didn't try the food (as I did take a Walter Smith pork pie) but the trays of chips seemed to be going down well. And it was a bit of a hike in the wrong direction from the rest of the city.

Let's be clear - it needs a bigger venue (or perhaps a marquee on the pitch after the season's finished). But the beer list was interesting and the ratebeer company was as fun as ever.

Will I be back? Get some coolers on the casks, let us sit in the stands, get Phil L to smuggle some more foreign beers in and I'll seriously think about it.


Fest of fun: Burton

A rare treat for me - my wife gets to tag along to a festival! Rebecca likes her cider and perry, so as we both had a few days off work we decided to heads over to Burton upon Trent for their first Spring fest.

An early start on the X38 express from Derby gave us a chance to pop into a Wetherspoons and try one of their festival beers first. Bec eschewed the cider this early on and plumped for hot chocolate, but I couldn't resist a St. Georgen Brau Keller Bier, a wonderfully soft, slightly spicy concoction.

On to the Town Hall, then. I like this as a beer fest venue; one main hall for the stillage, two rooms at the back for seating (or more beers for their main fest in September). It's all on one level, which was ideal for Bec's wheelchair access, with the exception of the theatre seating upstairs.

We met up with some friends in the back, all regulars from the Brunswick in Derby; John, Brian, Ray and 'Magic' Mitch all like a beer or five and have plenty of tales to tell.

Here's a rare picture of Mitch - not mid-magic trick, not trying to sell you a car ;-)

The beers were fairly varied and in good nick. For me, Burton fests tend to be ones where I stick with the beers I like; Beowolf Dragon Smoke Stout, Whim Black Christmas and Robinson's Old Tom were all in fine fettle. The cider and perry list was small but well formed; Bec tends to drink through the perry list until she finds one she likes and then sticks to it. Here, the firm favourite was a Severn perry that had been finished with whisky - Bec liked it so much that she threw one glass of it all over the table in sheer excitement!

I don't mind being sat away from the action - I like to hear myself think and hear what others have to say - so I'd no problem with the large round tables set up in the rear hall. Though, compared to previous trestle table years, it did seem to cut down on the total number of seats available - especially as what seemed to be a CAMRA meeting had closed the other seated room for a few hours on the Friday.

Food was good fest stuff - freshly made rolls, Broughton's splendid pies and the incomparable pork scratchings from Tony's on Burton market.

As for the entertainment - what more could you want than a sing-a-long with the salmon-jacketed maestro of the WurliTzer, Martin Atterbury? Indeed, many of the older ladies I spoke to that lunchtime said they'd travelled to Burton just to see Martin finger his organ on stage.

All in all, fest of fun. Good beers in good nick, well-proportioned venue, plenty of decent snap, plenty of scope for a laugh and close enough to the rail station / bus stop for the short hop home. Now, Mitch; that's magic!