Friday, 8 August 2008

Behind the Scenes at the GBBF

Yesterday got off to a bad start. An hour and forty minutes on a delayed District Line did nothing to cheer us up, nor did an enforced change of lines to the Piccadilly at Gloucester Road. We dashed through torrential rain to the hall as I was getting perilously close to being late for my beer tasting. I arrived in time, dishevelled and looking like a drowned rat. I was wet through to my underwear!

The tasting went well. They asked lots of good questions and gave me two rounds of applause. For those interested in such things, I talked the National Grid and guests through Tryst Wheat Beer, St Austell Proper Job, White Shield, Fullers 1845, O'Hanlon's Port Stout and Thomas Hardy Ale. No. I wouldn't have chosen that list either! The most interesting was the Proper Job. A pale, golden ale with lashings of Yankee hops. This was seriously good beer. The Fullers and the White Shield were underwhelming, though they, like the Thomas Hardy, will be better in a few months time. OK the TH will be better in a few years time!

What the public don't see is the scene behind the many bars. They are designed to give large working and rest areas at the rear and a tour of back stage reveals people sitting reading papers, drinking beer, poring over computers and dip sheets, hauling fresh beer out of coolers, stacking shelves, anxiously checking beer for clarity, or just quietly resting before hitting the fray again. Upstairs is a canteen which churns out grub for the hungry at reasonable prices, a bar The Volunteers Arms with twenty or so handpumps, plus all the admin and staffing areas as well as staff cloakrooms,toilets etc. There is an army of cleaners,site construction staff, fund raisers, hospitality staff and all sorts of weird backroom jobs that while not glamorous, are the glue that binds it all togther. For every person you see behind a bar dispensing beer, there is at least one other doing something more mundane, but as important. When you look at the sheer size and complexity of the festival it is a wonder that it gets done at all.

Today is going to be our busiest day at BSF. We will be battered. Friday night will be a massacre with queues more than four deep at our very long bar. We'll sort them out and see them off. We always do!


7 comments:

Bailey said...

Proper Job is brilliant, although much better from the bottle than a cask in our experience, and almost certainly made to an entirely different recipe. It's one of those beers I'm always in the mood for.

Reidyboy said...

Proper Job on cask at the Prince William in Dartmouth a couple of weeks ago was a tidy little pint, although not massively dissimilar to Tribute, somewhat more hoppy in my very inexperienced opinion. Am wishing I'd bought a couple of bottles from the Spar the day before, but settled for Red Rock something and something else, which were quite disappointing.

Keep up the good work, hope the customers appreciate your endeavours, and hope you manage a few bevvies after a hard days slog.

Jeff Frane said...

Did you take photos of all those hard workers?

And, seriously, there's a recent invention called an UMBRELLA (aka brolly, bumbershoot, parasol). Very handy when living somewhere where it occasionally rains. I know the UK is a little backward, but still, you ought to be able to find one on the Internet.

Tandleman said...

Jeff. The problem is that here we are unrealistically optimistic about the weather despite years of experience that should point us otherwise. We don't carry brollies. We just get soaked and yell "fucking hell" a lot.

Tandleman said...

Reidyboy. Can't agree that Proper Job is ANYTHING like Tribute. It is ten times the beer that Tribute is.

Laurent Mousson said...

The cask and bottle-conditioned versions of proper job can't really be compared, as the latter is one full percent ABV higher.

And I do agree with you Tandleman, BC Proper job was the highlight in that selection we had to lead our corporate guests through.

Cheers !

Stonch said...

It's amazing how the faces NEVER change behind the beer festival bars - particularly on the international bars. The visage of that big fella from East London, John I think he's called, is now etched on my brain for life.

I must say the service standard at the BSF was absolutely excellent - people who were clearly enthused about what they were serving and happy to stick their neck out and make suggestions to those of us who wanted them. As I didn't really drink anywhere else, I can't comment on the rest of the festival bars!