I wonder what the epically-bearded patriarch would think about the 2011 Bradford Beer Festival being held in his sumptuous Victoria Hall? Last friday, Our Lad and me were lucky to snag two of the last 300 tickets held back on the door. The queue was a long one, and with the festival sold out, a lot of people would have gone home disappointed - or to Fanny's Ale House up the road. One thing that always strikes me about the crowd at a festival back home is how 'normal' everyone looks. Where I grew up, Real Ale isn't just the preserve of a few enthusiasts. For many people it's part of life. Even lager lads will sink a bitter now and then. The über-tickers with their dandruff and their trackpants pulled up to their armpits were (largely) absent from this queue.
Once inside (CAMRA members got a token for free half) we got stuck straight into some real keg: a bitter and smooth (if a tad overcarbonated) Kacour IPA Samurai, a visitor from the Czech Republic. Grand Ridge Bitter from Oz was soapy and sort of 'veggy', but drinkable. After that, we stayed cask. Deep and tangy Acorn Bullseye; floral, light and fruity (and hazy) Allendale Wagtail. We found the Liverpool One Maharaja IPA lacked any real hop bite, unlike Summer Wine Gambit which was almost puckeringly bitter. Salamander Garuda was gently hoppy, light and smooth and creamy. All this was to the sound of rockabilly foursome the 309s. Other nights entertainment was from Carl Heslop and the hall's Wurlitzer organ, which must have been a surreal drinking experience. After pie and peas we wound down with Yorkshire Dales Nappa Scar, which smelt like a farmyard but went down bitter. Last beer of the night we stuck it to bullies Sam Smith by downing a Yorkshire Warrior from Cropton. It was a great end to a disappointing day, on which I failed my 3rd (THIRD) driving test. I thought I might find the streets of Skipton easier than East London. And I did, until I hit the kerb trying to park behind the very same car I'd practised on an hour earlier. Better than my last test though - on that occasion I reversed into a bollard and failed without leaving the test centre car park.