Wednesday, 10 October 2018


Being a personal account of the 2018 Sunderland Beer & Cider Festival.

Day 1 - Collection of equipment.

All the equipment for the beer festival is held in a lock up somewhere in South Tyneside ; and it all has to be transported to the festival venue, The Point in Sunderland. So thats everything that is needed to make up the 2 bars, the racking for the casks, handpulls, flooring and dozens of glasses and boxes. The heavy stuff went in one van which would be unloaded at the front of the venue, the rest in a second van to be unloaded at the back of the Point into the cellar. Access from the cellar was only possible by this dodgy lift that took our stuff to the festival, floor.

Several trips up and down were made in the lift, which only had one light - on the verge of going out. At some point at the end of this up and down, seven of the guys found themselves in the cellar waiting to go up. Luckily I wasn't one of them. No lift arrived. Where the hell are they. After 5 minutes I banged on the door. A muted response. Apparently they were stuck. We found out later the lift went down a few inches instead of up. The cellar door was locked from the inside so we couldn't get in to "rescue "them.

We found the caretaker who promptly rang someone and said " Hes going to try and get an electrician out "  Try ?

Suddenly the phone rang of one of us in the safety and comfort of the main hall. Updates were given and to comfort the magnificent seven down below, we told them an engineer would be out at 9am the next morning.

After half an hour ( some later said 20 minutes and 45 minutes ) the lift apparently "woke up ", and the door opened. What happened next was probably the fast exodus from a lift in history.

Day 2 - Set up day.

After collecting most of the casks and cider boxes from Maxim Brewery, as we do every year , we headed into town in the van to drop them off, to be carried up in the notorious lift. This time there were no incidents. 

Most of the guys were assembling the racking for the casks  and bar so decided to keep out of the way and wash the 400 plus glasses we had left over from last year. There is a small kitchen with a small glass washer. After spending several minutes figuring out how it worked, our efforts were helped enormously when we switched the power on at the wall. 
After a few button presses it was loaded up and we were good to go.

After about 10 mins and a few successful washes the guy who managed the place walked in. " That's broken" he said. " Well its working now, where do we send the repair bill ?"

Just then we all looked down at the slowly growing pool of water on the tiled floor of the kitchen. The water was heading to the door leading to the landing at the top of the staircase down to the entrance. With quick presence of mind the manger grabbed 3 ( I counted them) tissues, stuffed them against the door, then buggered off !!   He didnt come back.  

Luckily I found a mop and bucket so spent the next few hours with 2 others washing, re- boxing and mopping.  Another behind the scenes drama the punters never see.

Day 3 - Day One ( if you see what I mean)

I was busy behind the bar for most of the afternoon. This couple, who I remember from last year, kept coming to the bar and ordering one of the stouts. She came first, wandered off then shared her half with her boyfriend. Then he would come up and so on. After an hour of this they had gone through all the dark beers, including an 11% Russian Stout. They came over to say they were off, as he had a woodwork class to go to !! Visions of scenes of the DIY guy, Reg Prescott from the Kenny Everet show came to mind as they left for another year.

Day 4- Day two

I was helping out on the front desk today which included wrapping a wrist band round the payees and handing out glasses/ programs. One guy came back for a new wrist band as the one he had on was too tight, digging into his skin and severely restricting his drinking hand ! Cant have that !

I was a good way to get to know our customers but if I was honest I preferred behind the bar   

Day 5 - Day three

An interesting experiment was carried out today. One of the beers was from Black Sheep, a milk stout - newly released in bottle and cask . Now to me, it didnt taste like one, with no or not much lactose in it. Anyhow, one of the guys had a bottle so we had a blind taste of both. I thought the bottle was better -  in fact the score was 10 -7 in favour of the bottle !
I bought a one after the festival but have not tried it yet. 

This was a Saturday and we were just ticking over. Also my last day as heading for Glasgow on Sunday morning - see next blog soon.


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