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Nottingham Experienced: The Robin Hood Beer Festival

 

Believe it or not, there’s more to do in Nottingham than lectures, clubbing and societies, and Impact is determined to experience as much of it as possible. From heated political rallies to teeth chattering ghost walks, we’ll be there. This week, Sam reflects on a day spent sampling the dual luxuries of an endless supply of good beer and a well cooked llama burger.

The day had finally arrived, my favourite Friday of the year, the Friday of the Robin Hood Beer Festival. Lectures finished and meditations complete, I dashed into town and by 2pm found myself passing under the gatehouse of the castle and into the ethanol plain that opens up behind it for four days a year. For those of you that don’t know, the festival runs from a Wednesday to a Saturday every October, and offers punters an endless range of proper booze. This year it offered over 1200 real ales and ciders, making it the largest offering of different beers in the world!

 

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After collecting my souvenir glass and beer tokens (drinks are purchased with tokens to speed up your enjoyment of them), I met with one of the chaps responsible for organising the whole thing. A delightfully bearded chap named Andrew Ludlow ensured that both of our glasses were full before sitting down to share his wisdom with me. He was excited to tell me that even though he had helped organise 37 of these festivals before, this was the first one that had a ‘fun-fair’ (provided by a brewery no less) and how this year they’d re-arranged the tents to squeeze in even more beer taps.

With Andrew’s enthusiasm, not to mention some of his recommendations, ringing in my ears I ventured out into the keg-fuelled buzz before me. First though, it was time to line my stomach.

In life, a man is faced with many a difficult decision. Red or blue? Blonde or brunette? Keenan or Kel? None of these, however, were as difficult as having to decide between a zebra, or a llama burger. On the one hand stripes; on the other hand, fur. Helpfully, an amiable rotund gentleman informed me that ‘ the zebra isn’t really all that mate’. Llama it was then, and it was delicious.

 

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Suitably emboldened by such an exotic meal, I sauntered past the various curries, stir-frys and sausages on offer and made my way to the bastion of beverage that was the main tent. Here the party was in full swing and I made a point of seeking out the most eclectic options from the approximately 500 that were presented to me. A chilli beer, a lemon meringue beer and the odd barley wine that broke the 8% mark left me feeling, amongst other things, as though I’d accomplished this aim.

 

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As afternoon turned to evening, steps began to falter and my appreciation of fancy dress increased exponentially. Spread among the more mundane revellers was the odd Viking supping from a horn, a few traffic cones, more than a few Robin Hoods and even the Bavarian contingent made an appearance, leather and all.

The Beer Festival really is a great place for spotting characters, not to mention the odd lecturer letting their hair down. Before long I was attracted by the light and sound to the entertainment area. Imagine how my face fell when I found out that I’d missed both the unicycling juggler and the Morris Men.

All was not lost though – as I arrived an old-school punk trio took the bandstand. Even though they were playing the sort of stuff that even your dad would turn off, the atmosphere was such that the crowd enjoyed it and, against my better judgement, I did too.

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You absolutely have to do the Beer Festival at some point. It is unique and it is something at which Nottingham excels. Andrew and his pals start work planning the next one before the month’s end and it gets bigger and better every year. Tickets for the Friday and Saturday sell out about a month in advance so unless you want to queue like it’s Ocean at the end of term, get on it!

Sam Rigby

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