The Festival was held in a dusty old Masonic Hall and I entered with trepidation, fearing to meet men in strange garb with their trouser legs rolled up.
To my amazement, the place was fairly full of normal-looking people. Not only that, but there were very few beards or pregnant-looking men in sight. This couldn't be a CAMRA Festival, thought I, I've landed in the wrong place.
Beam me up, Scotty, toot de sweet, and the tooter the sweeter!
But the line of beefy guys behind the row of hand-pumps at the bar reassured me, so I bought my tickets, hired my glass and joined the fray.
I was soon in deep conversation with a pleasant couple who had motored up from the monkey-free zone of Hartlepool, about forty miles away, especially for the Festival (what some people will do for beer!).
They were Mike and Dorothy (see pic) and he told me he was a fiddler.
I said that he didn't look much like a Councillor, but he explained that he meant a violinist, a violin teacher at that. Fascinating stuff. He was one of those guys who disbelieves everything you say, but he laughed at my jokes, so I forgave him. Suddenly a guy who looked like Rasputin came in and we all felt finally convinced that this WAS a beer festival after all (doubts had lingered, tormenting our minds).
Meanwhile the beer was having its effect and a feeling of benign well-being set in. First I tried Orkney Red MacGregor, a bitter, fruity, hoppy ale. Nice enough, but not quite to my taste. Next came Thornbridge Jaipur, an IPA and, as such, light and pleasantly sweetish with a bitter aftertaste. It rather "grew" on me. Then I tried the Houghton Brewery's new version of that old favourite Double Maxim, which the now defunct Vaux Brewery used to produce. It was a pleasant enough drink with a distinctive taste, but did NOT compare with old "Double-Max" that I knew and loved. It certainly did not have as much body and was nowhere near as creamy as its predecessor.
After that I had an excellent glass of Nethergate Old Growler, a full-bodied porter, dark and powerful with a sort of coffee aftertaste. Finally, and best of all, was Ironbridge Brewery's Shropshire Gold. Now there's a session beer for you, cool, sharp and light. I had found my ideal and I got no further........