Tonight we’re off to Poole Beer Festival. This annual festival, organised by CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale), is being held for the 23rd time. The event takes place at St Adhelm’s Centre in Branksome, just 3 miles west of Bournemouth, on the main (A35) road to Poole. It would, theoretically, be an easy place to drive to. But who drives to a beer festival? The M2 Bournemouth to Poole bus stops right outside the centre. Particularly convenient at the end of the night with not too far to stagger to get home.
The festival runs over four sessions; Friday and Saturday afternoon and evening and costs £10. This gets you entry to the event, a programme, souvenir glass plus two half pint beer tokens. On Saturday evening, this also includes live music.
The choice of beer is pretty impressive, boasting over 85 cask ales, plus bottled and keg beers, ciders and perries to choose from. Unfortunately, as we opted for Saturday evening, the final session, when we arrive, are were already a lot of empty barrels.
Having perused the extensive menu, I set forth for the cider section. The cider had been particularly popular, so my first choice; Tutti Frutti (sweet exotic cider with cherry and pineapple) is not available. On to my second choice; Cherry Cider, also finished. Third choice; Stormy Lemonade (Sweet retro cider with a lemonade tang), none left. And finally, fourth time lucky, a pint of Dorset Strawberry Sunshine (with New Forest Strawberries).
It is a similar story with the beers, but finally we have our drinks and find a seat in the marquee, to enjoy our beer/cider whilst bemoaning the reduced choices available. Once alcohol has been imbibed, we find in hilarious to complete the ‘beer of the festival’ slips for our first, second and third choices of drinks, none of which we have actually drunk. Well, it was funny at the time…
According to the programme; “If you are lucky enough to have Saturday evening tickets, you have the chance to experience the one and only one man band extraordinaire that is Andy Smooth.” That’s some build up. Turns out Andy Smooth has a guitar and sings covers. But he sings them well, so we enjoy his set before returning to the marquee for another drink.
By now, even my fourth choice of cider has finished and I’m not keen on real ale, so I commit a cardinal beer festival sin and purchase a bottle of lager, which goes into my souvenir glass so I don’t look like a saddo drinking lager and a real ale festival.
The end of the evening is nigh. The event finishes at 11 pm, so I depart just beforehand to catch the 10.56 bus back to Bournemouth. They must be anticipating some leftovers at end of the evening, as on the way out I spot an advert for a ‘Beer and Hymns’ church service on Sunday evening. Unsurprisingly, there are lots of other people at the bus stop, none of them particularly sober, which makes the journey home all the more entertaining. Overall, we had an enjoyable evening and shall be back next year, but at a session earlier in the weekend.