BEER FESTIVALS 1977 to 2003


The first beer festival we went to was at The Farnham Maltings in 1977. As so often told, four of us (Paul, Ray, Mick and Gary) were having our usual start to a Friday evenings drinking in the William Cobbett. Enquiring into the noise coming from across the road, we were told that a ‘beer festival’ was on in The Maltings. Never having heard of such a thing, the barman explained you could get to taste of a lot of different beers, not just Courage Best. If we wanted to go, he still had some tickets left for the Friday session. Not wanting to miss our usual pub-crawl we declined but did purchase some tickets for the Saturday lunchtime session. As they say, the rest is history.

Although we did enjoy our first experience at a beer festival, we were not immediate converts to ‘real ale’ and continued to drink mostly British lager.
However, when the tickets went on sale in ‘The Cobbett’ for the second Farnham Beerex we again signed up for the Saturday lunchtime session.

We must have been getting the taste, as in 1978 we decided to go to another beer festival but, try as we have, cannot remember which one. This did set the trend – for the ten years between 1977 and 1986, we went to one extra beer festival each year.

Gary was the first to slip by the wayside when he and Kev set of for Darkest Africa in 1981, only to return a couple of years latter and almost immediately venture off again to canoe down The Amazon. Ray also departed in 1982 for a job in Germany, returning four years latter. Joined by Trev on occasions, this left Paul and Mick to carry on the Crusade

During the early years, we became ‘groupies’ of The Fulham Brass Band and Peter, Paul and Mary’s Brother, one of which seem to be playing at nearly every festival we attended. You can still catch The Fulham Brass Band most years at The Great British Beer Festival.

Regrettably, no one has kept the all the programmes for the festivals we attended and as Paul V sold a lot of his glasses, we do not even know when some of them were. However, with the glasses Mick has kept and the programmes Paul has retained some details are available.

For those festivals where programmes and beers tried are available a report has been prepared. These are for Farnham, the GBBF, Woking, the Indie Brewers and a few odds and sods. No Farnham programmes survive for 1977 and 1979 and the 1978 programme does not list the beers tried. Our first GBBF was in 1980.

As for the others, there follows some brief notes.

Alton (1981) Held in the Assembly Rooms, this turned out to be a ‘one off’.
ROC, MG, KOC, GM & DF remember going on a Friday evening.

Basingstoke (1982) Held at The Viables Centre, we caught at least two festivals there but only a 1982 glass remains legible. The taxi driver’s conversation from the station was one long diatribe on the number of roundabouts in Basingstoke. We seemed to use most of them on our journey.

Bath (No date but probably early 1980’s) Held in a sports hall near Bath Rugby ground. Took hours to get there by train.

Camberley Rugby Football Club (1981) Held in the clubs bar and hall to celebrate 50 years since its formation in 1931.

Dorking (No date but late 1990’s) Dave ran a minibus trip from ‘The Red’.
Held in a sports hall.

Greenwich (1990) Totally unmemorable.
MG and he has the glass to prove it.

Guildford and Godalming Rugby Club (1979, 1980 & 1981) Held on the playing fields with the 15 beers in a large marquee. Notable for the abject failure of the ‘Aldershot Anti Drinking Society’ in the tug of war (we lost to a group of fifteen year olds one year) and the aerobatic display by a Pitts Special ordered by the Godalming Fete but performed over the beer festival.
PV, ROC, MG & KOC plus tug of war team.

London Drinker (No dates but mid 1980’s) Held in a Victorian council run hall with stage, balcony and wood panelling. You know the sort of place.

Luton (1984, 1985 & 1986) Held at the Technical College. After the beer festival session finished at 3.00, we would get a taxi to Kenilworth Road and watch Luton play whomever. Notable for the game against QPR (which ex-chairman Bob may have refereed) after which we were treated as away supporters and stewarded by police into the cattle truck train back to London.

Petersfield (No dates but late 1970’s/early 1980’s) Held in a tent. When we turned up the first year at the start of the Saturday lunchtime session we were the only customers. Did not get much busier. No wonder it only lasted a couple of years.

Pigs Ear (No dates but early 1980’s) Held in London. Same sort of place as the London Drinker.

Portsmouth (1981) Held underneath the grandstand at Fratton Park in October. Absolutely freezing. So cold, most of the beers had a chill haze on them. Gave it a miss the next year.

Portsmouth (1983 & 1985) Held at the Guildhall in August. Absolutely boiling. So hot, most of the beers had a heat haze on them.

Rushmoor (1983) Held at Cove Labour Hall. Notable as we actually have some photographs of the event.

Salisbury (1983) Held in a redundant church turned into an arts centre. Accompanied by our partners, they soon became disillusioned with the beer festival and never came to another one.

Sandown Park(1981, 1982, 1983 & 1984) Held underneath the racecourse grandstand. Memorable for Courage Imperial Russian Stout and a smashed glass.

Swindon (1980) Held in the Mechanics Institute Hall, which, unbeknown to us is about a 100 yards from the railway station entrance. Running late we jumped in a taxi. We wondered why the driver was smiling as he took us around the town centre one-way system until he deposited us within site of our starting place.

Wimbledon (1987) Held in The William Morris Club, which was pokey and very crowded.

Winchester (1983, 1984 & 1985) Held in the sports centre. Very nice venue and a particularly nice glass in 1983. TC left his glass in the pizza restaurant and the next year spent a fortune on the Tombola winning it back.

We may have also been to beer festivals in Battersea, Brixton and Colchester, but no one is really sure.