Real ale… it’s not for the faint of heart…

On Friday I attended the hallowed event known as the Chelmsford Summer Beer Festival. Now this is an event that holds a little bit of sentiment for me since the first time I ever went to Chelmsford (or Essex in any shape for that matter) and the first time I ever met, Dave, Paul’s brother was at the Chelmsford Winter Beer Festival.

The summer festival is akin to a music festival… without the music and a lot more old men. The make-up of the “crowd” has similar categories though. There are young, underdressed girls with back-combed hair who are not interested in the beer at all but have heard that this is where the cool boys might be, so they’ve showed up anyway. There are the serious enthusiasts, who have little booklets in which they are ticking off everything they have tasted and there are way, way too many people in Goth/Viking dress… where do these people work?

Everyone at the festival appears to be slightly glazed… as if their senses have been dulled. It only takes me half a pint to feel the same way, after all this is “real ale” and alcohol percentages are at best estimated… like liquid measures… a half is more like a two-thirds here. Everything I taste is vile and the names are perplexing… Dragon Wee, Blonde Maiden’s Armpit, Thor’s Revenge, Mother-In-Law’s Wrath. If real ale is an acquired taste then I haven’t acquired it yet. In fact the only thing I do like is some kind of brown sludge with a yellow scum on it that Paul brings back. It looks terrible but it tastes comfortingly like cough mixture I remember having as a child.

By eleven PM some have lost the power of speech, some are giggling uncontrollably and others have started skipping… also we have seen pretty much everyone Paul has ever met. I think it would be considered sacrilegious to miss such an epic event. Never has a statement been more true than when Marc tells me he would kill for a pint of Fosters. It is time to go home…

The next morning I don’t feel sick but rather like I am walking through a haze, although that might have something to do with the ouzo we wisely consumed when we got home. Fortunately I am not the only one and having an afternoon nap seems to be the only way forward as not one of the resident’s of Paul’s family home is anywhere to be found at 3pm… most particularly the man himself… who I must say is rather adorable when asleep…

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