“We’re also celebrating Camra at 40 years old,” says Gordon, probably unaware that the organisation is – by the University of Kent’s findings – well over its adolescence.
“It’s our biggest venue yet and it gives us a lot more scope. It can hold 2,000 at a time rather than the previous 1,250. I reckon we’ll get 5,000 people through the door next week.
“We’ve got all different sorts of ales – 132 at the last count – which works out at 170-plus casks, and 125 of cider. New for this year is a fast-track entry system, meaning people won’t have to queue outside.”
Ian Lee adds: “There’s a bit of a theme to the beers in that a third of them are from Yorkshire, a third local – for the LocAle bar – and a third from elsewhere in the country.
“There are also some ‘tickers’ beers never brewed before. We’ve got the best we can get: the beers are all of better quality than ever, which is better for everyone. The likes of Thornbridge Jaipur and Fyne Ales Avalanche are big sellers.”
Adam White, Northumbria University Student Union president, is delighted that the festival will take place on his patch. He says: “For us to attract such a prestigious community event onto campus is great. There used to be a real ale society at Northumbria – it’s a very British drink, isn’t it? – so a lot of the foreign students will enjoy the experience.”
We have to emphasise that the beer festival is not exclusively a student event – it’s a very public affair organised by the Tyneside & Northumberland branch of Camra.
“Surprisingly, we don’t get a lot of Camra members visiting the festival,” says Ian Lee. “The vast majority is general public. If Camra dropped down tomorrow, people would still come and we’d still get great support.”
The news that 58 is “over the hill” will come as a depressing thought to anyone who is hovering around the milestone. The sight of a Swedish Blonde – or Northumbrian equivalent – may just be the required tonic.
The 35th Newcastle Beer and Cider Festival is at Northumbria University Students’ Union from Wednesday April 13 (4pm for Camra members, 6pm for the general public) until Saturday, April 16. Visit www.cannybevvy.co.uk for full details.
Elsewhere in town
TWO spin-off beer events will also take place next week. Mordue Brewery has decided to continue a mini-festival it started at The Hotspur in Newcastle last year. A full range of eight beers is available for a full week from tomorrow.
Similarly, at the Newcastle Arms, landlord Neil Amos is complementing the Newcastle Beer Festival by introducing some new ales into the St Andrew’s Street pub.