I think it’s time to wave goodbye to beer festivals (and UKIP)

UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Photo: David Hughes/PA Wire

UKIP leader Nigel Farage. Photo: David Hughes/PA Wire - Credit: PA

UKIP figurehead Nigel Farage is a fan of a pint of real ale. He certainly likes to hold one when the cameras are flashing - preferably accompanied by an England flag and a good, honest tweed jacket.

Norwich Beer Festival 2015.
Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Norwich Beer Festival 2015. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

The sight has always been rather ridiculous to me, and could only be topped if he had a bulldog in a pork pie hat.

But I guess it had its time when UKIP was playing on the prejudices of people whose nebulous need for change found a target across the English Channel.

The time has passed, though. Narrow-mindedness won, Brexit is coming and UKIP now has no purpose - it has dragged us out of Europe and I can't see its members hanging around to explain why when we feel the impact of their folly.

It's an illustration of how everything has its day. Like Chopper bicycles, black-and-white TV, real fur coats and Sir Paul McCartney, UKIP will soon be nothing more than number 15 in one of those awful TV nostalgia countdowns.


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I think there's a danger that it could be joined by another of those bastions of recent Britishness - the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) and its beer festivals.

Camra is itself at a crossroads. Having saved real ale (and it was in genuine peril during the 1960s and 1970s, when watery Watney's Red Barrel flooded the market) what does it fight for now?

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It could bang the drum for the preservation of beards and jumpers. But in an ironic twist hipsters, those notorious drinkers of craft beer from a keg (the Devil's work to Camra) have grabbed the beards and sweaters and made them look good.

How about campaigning for steam trains? On second thoughts, most Camra members are already volunteering at railway preservation trusts and ticking off trains on platforms on their days off.

No, the only option is to fly the flag for the great British beer festival (not the actual Great British Beer Festival at Olympia in London in August, the generic one).

But even here I have my concerns.

It's not that I don't like a good beer festival. I've attended loads of them and enjoyed the atmosphere and the range of ales.

Only a few years ago, these festivals were among precious few places for us to enjoy enough different ales for a long session. Pubs with a broad range were rare - and many would crow if they had two or three cask beers on offer at the same time.

There were exceptions, like the Fat Cat in Norwich. But exceptions prove the rule.

Now, beer heaven has descended to Earth, showering our towns and cities with pubs and bars with the kind of choice that makes indecisive people die of thirst.

It's not all cask. In fact, there's a lot of keg beer, plenty of bottles and even a growing number of cans with very eye-catching designs (which is why I collect them). The range of styles and flavours is mind-boggling.

For this reason I have no overwhelming need for a beer festival. Countless pubs and bars are like beer festivals every day, with superb choice, knowledgeable staff, comfortable seats, a great atmosphere - and no need to stand all day and elbow your way through crowds to get to the servers.

In Norwich, I could spend all day and night in The Plasterers Arms, BrewDog, The Mash Tun, The Vine, The Fat Cat Brewery Tap, The King's Head on Magdalen Street and many other places, without having the same beer twice.

Last weekend, I visited Leeds, Chesterfield and Sheffield, where the situation was very similar: loads of great places with loads of great beer.

It all meant that I didn't go to Camra's Norwich Winter Ale Festival - I just didn't feel the need to. I understand the turnout wasn't overwhelming, though to be fair it was a new event.

Time will tell. But I suspect that one day people will say: 'Do you remember when there used to be beer festivals?'

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