Tag Archives: CBF40

The start of something bloody brilliant

Today, during the 40th Cambridge Beer Festival, I served a man who told me he was at the very first one, back in 1974 when it was held at the Corn Exchange.

What was it like back then, I asked.

“It was the start of something bloody brilliant”


“They ran out of beer and my mate had to drive a truck to Young’s brewery in London to bring some back. He can’t drive a truck anymore. He couldnt drive one then”

He talked about some pubs in the area at that time.

“Pubs didn’t have the pipe cleaning equipment they have now. They had a little sponge they’d shove in the pipe and then force it through with cold water. Sometimes, not reading the instructions, they’d put pipe cleaning fluid in the pipes and leave it overnight – it was supposed to be washed out after an hour”

“There wasn’t much choice of beers. It was keg Double Diamond or Watney, or some terrible local homebrewed ales. If you walked into a pub that had Greene King beers, you thought you’d reached the promised land”

Cellarmanship was apparently lacking at a local football club bar.

“Keg beer was indestructible back then. At the end of the football season, they knew how to look after the grass, but the beer was just left there until the next season started. They had lovely grass…”

The infamous Watneys Red Barrel was referred to.

“Well, Watneys Red Barrel was weak. You could drown in it and never get drunk.”

“The winter of 1963 was a harsh one, but although the water in the taps was still running, the landlord’s barrel of Watneys froze and all that came out was a bit of alcohol because there weren’t much of that”

As he walked off, pint in hand, he turned and said “I’ll be coming back here to the next forty Cambridge Beer Festivals”. I’ll drink to that.


Cambridge Beer Festival 2013

Cambridge Beer Festival is this week celebrating its 40th year. Way back in August 1974 when everybody else was Kung Fu Fighting, Cambridge CAMRA was serving up beers from breweries such as Hoskins, Rayments, Ridleys and Tolly, while local pubs the Ancient Druids, Bun Shop and Cambridge Arms featured in the Good Beer Guide. None of those breweries and pubs have survived, but the beer festival still has plenty of life left in it, as evidenced by last year’s record breaker, when over forty-one thousand visitors enjoyed the sun-baked sessions. Beers have arrived here this year from as far away as the American West Coast, and as nearby as Cambridge’s own Brewhouse, less than half a mile away on King Street. And if the thought of over 200 different beers, over 60 ciders and perries, plus meads and wine doesn’t whet the appetite, there’s always the cheese counter.

Cambridge Beer Festival

Cambridge Beer Festival runs weekdays from 12pm-3pm and 5pm-10:30pm, and Saturday 12pm-10:30pm

Volunteers are always much appreciated (and rewarded with beer tokens, free food and a T-shirt!), particularly for this Thursday evening.