Isn’t this the most brilliant giant-bronze-fairy-statue you’ve ever seen wearing fetching hand-knitted cuffs?
Last weekend I visited Bishop’s Castle in Shropshire, in order to partake of its sixteenth annual real ale and cider festival. It’s a fantastic event. Bishop’s Castle is one of those places that seems to be stuck in time, perhaps some time in the 1960s: a place where everyone knows everyone else, where gossiping wives hang out their sheets in the back while the men share a friendly silence over a quick pint. It’s an easy place to have a quick pint. Somewhat typically of Shropshire, it has six pubs to its 1600 inhabitants. A couple of these pubs brew their own beers, and rather lovely beers they are too.
The thing about beer festivals is that you may go in with plans and intentions to pace yourself, or to try a certain number of beers, or to go for cider one day and ale the next, or whatever … but these plans and intentions are difficult to remember by the third or fourth visit to the bar. The thing is, it wasn’t only my fairy friend above that was being warmed by hand-knitted adornments: many of the lamp posts and railings in the town were also clad in a rainbow of woollens, and I had intended to photograph some of these and do a blog about them. But then the following happened:
Two half-pints of Grainstore Brewery‘s Rutland Beast and one of Rutland Panther; a half of Steamin’ Billy Bitter; half an On Your Bike from Parish Brewery; half a Six Bells‘ Cloud Nine; half a Monty’s Desert Rat; a Theakstons Crime of Passion; an HPA from Wye Valley Brewery; a Citadel from Clun; Stonehouse’s Cambrian Gold; and an XXX, a Jubilation, a Strife Knot, and a Solstice from Three Tuns. Not to mention music from The Nuclear Weasels and The Pete Keeley Band.
So yeah, all thoughts of blogging abandoned me soon after the third pub, except when we passed another masterpiece and would grab each other and exclaim, “More ninja-knitting! They’re everywhere!”
Most of the beers I chose were very lively, hoppy, citrus-rich pale ales (favourites were the Citadel and Solstice) or dark and smooth (Rutland Beast is immensely enjoyable). The beer was so nice I decided against indulging in the scrumpy, and as a result had an almost entirely clear head on Sunday morning!
To the real ale and cider drinkers out there – if you’ve never been to the Bishop’s Castle festival, pencil it in for next year. It’s always the first weekend in July (Friday and Saturday) and it’s fantastic. The Foxholes campsite is booked up by about April, though, so make sure you call early!