The Hunter's Column
Autumn 2011

T for Tattoo

Even for Old Codgers like me, the summer is a season of festivals, be it beer, blues, boat, Bugatti, or tattoo. No, maybe not tattoo, that's one fest step too far and it doesn't begin with 'b' anyway. Something that used to be a bit of a dare for a drunken sailor is now visible on guys (and gals, although for some reason we're all guys now) from Birmingham to Birlingham and Beyoncé and... without asking too many questions, quite possibly somewhere on a body part near you. They're breeding like rats; you're never more than 10 feet (old money) from a tattoo and if you are brave enough to venture on to the internet and type in the word tattoo, you will not believe your eyes. There are some seriously weird, if not freakily disturbed, people out there in cloud cuckoo land. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry out for another pint and there were plenty of pints to cry out for at the 12th Worcester CAMRA Beer, Cider and Perry Festival, held in August, on the racecourse, next to the Severn - over 200 ales and 100 plus ciders; a veritable A to Y of British brewers, starting with ABC and finale-ing with York. There is a London brewery starting with Z, Zerodegrees, but maybe the organisers didn't want to tempt the weather. The weather wasn't to be tempted either; it remained dry and mostly overcast, throughout. In previous years I'd been stood in the marquee, which is the size of a small industrial estate and almost as atmospheric, with the rivers of Babylon running through it, courtesy of the downpour outside. This year was just the opposite. I was serving near the A's - the ales were arranged alphabetically - and one of them had 'Slight haze' scribbled on the label. I wasn't sure whether it referred to the ale, the effect of the ale or the micro climate that was slowly developing at the other end of the big tent. It didn't actually turn into a twister (Is it a bird? No! Is it a plane? No! Is it the twister? Hmm?) but on the far horizon there was a desert storm of a dust cloud building up, as punters were shuffling from their seats to the bar and back, in order to quench their dust-dry throats. We battled on amongst dust covered beer taps and table tops.

Working at beer festivals has had a serious effect on my health. Not the breathing in of the dust (maybe they'll provide face masks or optional burkas for the ladies next year) but the serious exercise that I have to do all year, in order to stay fit enough to serve behind the bar. The ales are stillaged two casks high. The top one is no problem but with the lower cask you have to decide whether to risk your back or your legs. Over 3 nights, you notice the difference. After one of the first festivals that I served at in Bromsgrove, I found that I couldn't move my legs the next day, so ever since I've done a daily routine of exercises, which enables me to serve from the 'bottom fermenters'. You never read about these healthy outcomes derived from drinking, when it's discussed in the media; beer drinkers are definitely keeping the nation fit or festival bar staff at least. I did manage to slip some drinking of my own in, in order to advise the undecided on what to go for; duty before self. In our section we had Acorn's Gorlovka Stout 6% (you either gorlov it or you don't!), which ought to put Guinness out of business, if there was any James Robertson Justice in the world - and there was once; he of the booming voice and brusque bedside manner. From Halesowen (always reminds me of the Waggon & Horses motto: 'We put the ales in Halesowen'. I won't mention Scunthorpe), Angel Ales' Angel Ale and Vanilla Sky were both excellent; the Vanilla Sky is hopped with Amarillo, probably my very favourite 'Saturday Night' hop. Show me the way to… There was Ape Ales' 99 Red Baboons, Birds' Amber Soleil (you can't beat a festival with loads of 'Birds') and my own favourite ale of the festival, Dark Star's Seville: "A complex recipe using malted wheat in addition to Maris Otter barley malt with the new El Dorado hops for the primary fermentation before maturing with a hint of pure Spanish bitter oranges." Should suit ELO fans. Techy fans would have been pleased to see notices that read FREE BEER WIFI AVAILABLE, one of which had been altered by some wit to FREE BEER WIFE AVAILABLE. I wonder what her tattoo's like?

Bill Hunt