I am a great fan of real ale. It is refreshing and nutritious, environmentally friendly and socially responsible. I love beer. So it pains me greatly to have to report that I have never in all my born days seen such an unappetising bunch of individuals (male, to a man) as were congregated at the London Drinker Beer Festival this lunchtime. It wasn't just the fact that well over half of them had beards; I have nothing against beards. Many boaters have beards, albeit luxuriant, freshly washed and lovingly combed ones. It wasn't just the clothes, the decades old Scruttock's Old Dirigible* T-shirts that hadn't been removed for... well... decades. It might have been the smeared spectacles; it might have been the wobbling stomachs, and the shuffling trainers, the dandruff. This was not masculinity at its alpha male best, it has to be said.
But hell, I wasn't there to size up the talent. I was only there for the beer (and the commemorative glass and the T-shirt. Cos it's got a boat on it). In fact I wouldn't have gone at all but for the fact my lunch date cancelled and I got an email reminding me to support the event because CCNA (aka Tarporley) is the festival's chosen charity this year (although worryingly I failed to spot any collecting tins).
And what an amazing event it is. Turning up at the first session, a Wednesday lunchtime, I expected it to be fairly quiet, but the former St Pancras Town Hall was absolutely heaving; there was barely space to weave through to the bars that took up two entire walls of the hall - and that's without the cider (14) and perry (6) and the foreign beers, which had their own spots. It was - as these events usually are, for who would invite the inevitable opprobrium of doing otherwise - very well organised. There was food too - I had a very nice sausage; apparently they have a different one every day, which made up for not going to Carluccio's. I couldn't stay long (well, to be perfectly honest, I was running out of places to put myself) but I sampled two of the beers on offer; they weren't chosen entirely on the basis of their names, but one was called Navvy, and the other, brewed especially for the festival by Brighton brewer Dark Star, was Battlebridge (as that was 5.6% I thought I had better make it my last).
So if you can stand the clientele, it's well worth dropping in.
*With apologies and/or grateful acknowledgement to Alexei Sayle circa 1982 - it has stayed with me ever since. You may recall the distinguishing features to be found in the bottom of the glass; if not, I don't think I'll repeat it.