it's not particularly scientific but the answer to the above is - go to another one! And then return to the first, but more on that later.
On Friday The Hop in Sheffield hosted it's Sheffield Showcase beer festival, with an extra bar jimmied into the small offshoot to the right of the entrance. I was looking forward to meeting Fluffy in the Bath Hotel first, and we were going to spend a few hours trying the beers but Fluffy, alas, was indisposed. So I went alone, on the assumption I'd bump into someone from the world of drinking along the way.
I started by having a pint in a nearby hostelry - erm, the Closed Shop, at Commonside. It wasn't overly tortuous getting there for once, and I arrived to find a good range of ales, and plenty of customers. I had a pint of Brampton Mild, and it was excellent. A really complex rich dark beer at 4.5%, and selling for £2.90 a pint. In fact, it was so damned nice that I "had" to have two more pints, although I was tempted by the Dukeries Gold on the other end of the bar.
It was a visit that heralded new information as well - it turns out that multi-instrumentalist Beck was in fact the founder of the brewery that make inoffensive fizzy drinks like Vier. This fact, which is made up, stemmed from a conversation about apostrophes - why aren't there any on pump clips? A case in point was J W Lees Bitter. Surely Lees'? Robinson's? Thwaite's?
I don't know why this doesn't apply, or whether indeed its needed (the only explanation I could come up with was "its different for beers", but I had nothing to back that up). None of this would have arisen as a subject if The Closed Shop hadn't elected to sell a product with an amusing superfluous apostrophe, thus "Kevin's Pie's hand made in Sheffield". As far as I can tell, that slogan informs the consumer that the hand that belongs to Kevin's pie is made in Sheffield. Am over it now though, obviously....
Anyway, off to the Hop next and it was rammed as always. I quickly spotted Mr and Mrs Greg Robbery and sat down with them supping a very quaffable pint of the 4.2% Bramling, a collaboration between The Hop and Tapped Brewing Company. Although delicious, it soon became clear that some of the other specials and collaborations were somewhat lacking.
I had a pint of Oatmeal Stout from On The edge, which was surprisingly heavy on the vanilla, which perhaps let down an other wise excellent beer. The Blue Bee and The Hop collaboration Ideal Mash was pleasant enough, but to my surprise, the Steel City Corrosion of Conformity was grim - although I suppose a pale beer with rum and raisins in has a lot of work to do to be enjoyable.
I got my final pint as the Robbery's were leaving, an excellent Dark Hart from Harthill Village Brewery, who seem to have hit the ground running. Alas this coincided with the band starting playing, and sat on he fringe of the infuriatingly large crowd of punters stood at the bar, I suddenly remembered why I can't get on with the Hop. Not least, because Dark Hart was misspelled Dark Heart. Disgraceful!
I finished the night in the Bath Hotel, where I was pleased to spot the rare visitor Steff, and even more pleased, having first had a pint of the Espresso Stout from Dark Star, to spot the Thornbridge Halcyon. On cask. Oh. My. God. Even better than I remembered it on cask, having more body to it than on Keykeg, and served drinkably cool rather than cold, it was an absolutely amazing beer.
I drained my glass whilst catching up with Sparklepete, who is that much easier to spot now I know what he looks like. However, I only spotted him because I thought I recognised someone from Shakespeares sat near the door - and having rather drunkenly established he wasn't who I thought he should be, I discovered he was sat with Pete. Recognised by proxy, as the young man commented.
So, a mixed bag regarding the Hop festival really. Ironically, I'd heard someone in the pub earlier in the week suggesting that rather than go to a beer festival, even one in a pub, I should just go to some great pubs. I did. And as it panned out, they were better.