Well I braved the beer bellies and crowds of men and had a hoot at the Great British Beer Festival. I did indeed find ‘the only gluten free beer at the beer festival’ and enjoyed quite a lot of Stringers Plan B which is a very drinkable, light ale – perfect for a drinking session!
I met some very friendly, very drunk people. Mostly men. I made friends with some lovely Scottish men who were also drinking Stringers Plan B, “Look there’s a lassie drinkin ale!”
- However it was hidden amongst all the other beers.
- No one would have known it was gluten free.
- It was not advertised as gluten free, no labels, signs, nothing.
- But on the plus side lots of people drank it.
- They didn’t know it was gluten free
- They didn’t run out because most people were ordering the strongest beer or beers called something like Ginger Tosser! (excuse the language)
- The more beer for me the better
I also drank some Adnams and Proper Job which I knew where wheat free and the stomach is calm with no adverse reactions so I know I didn’t get wheated. I also sneaked in a very tasty perry when no one was watching and I was on a mooch searching for anything freefrom or gluten free. I searched in vain unless you count the soap and the crisps, and and the Stringers Plan B, did I mention the Stringers Plan B?
Here are my top tips for next time:
- Book online to save money – It costs £10 to book before going or £12 on the door – you also get a free programme when you book online. £2 if you buy on the night. It doesn’t sound like much of a saving but when you consider you pay for your travel to get there, you pay to get in, you pay for a glass, then you pay for the beer it does add up.
- Buy a pint glass – even if you want to drink halves. I stuck to half pint measures all night so I bought a half pint glass. Now this seemed the sensible thing to do however it cost the same price as a pint glass and meant that when I wanted to buy a bottled beer, having checked there was no wheat in it, I didn’t have a glass big enough to fit all the beer in and I was not allowed to leave the stand with the bottle! Something about fights and glassing. You hire the glass so you can get your money back when you leave if you manage not to break it!
- Try a third – you could also try a third of a pink for a bout £1 a time which was much cheaper and meant you could try more different beers I guess but when you’ve queued to get served buying a third of a pint seemed crazy…
- Bottled beers gave me the option of knowing the beer was wheat free – however whilst you were allowed to drink the beer you had to drink it at the bottled beer stand! If you’ve left your pissed mates in the other hall you don’t really want to stand on your own downing half a bottle of beer. If you had a pint glass however you could pour the beer into your glass and leave. Drinking beer fast isn’t usually a good idea but I managed to gulp down most of it, slop the rest in my half pint glass and gave the rest to the man serving me – who knocked it back in one!
- Definitely eat before hand – There was food on offer but if you want gluten free or freefrom safe choices the best bet is to bring your own food. If you’re brave enough to try jellied eels then you’re in there. You could also get bacon rolls, burgers, noodls, pasties etc. I had eaten a delicious picnic on the train consisting of a whole tub of caramelised onion humous, precooked venice kitchen mini pizza bases, just plain. Oak cakes, an apple, some plamil chocolate and lots of water. I did manage to find a large pack of Pipers ready salted crisps which were just perfect with beer but didn’t escape the notice of beer swilling husband… and his friends! (must book sharing food lessons – can’t-share-my-food)
- Drinking while using protopic is just about bearable – I’ve been using protopic for eczema on my face which is working amazingly (more on that follow soon) and got so many compliments from friends we met at the festival about how amazing my skin looked. So then I’m thinking, blimey how bad does it normally look? (must book ‘learning to accept compliments’ short course – bad at taking compliments). One of the side effects of protopic is a burning sensation on your skin when you get hot, cold are in sunlight or drink alcohol. It feels like my face is on fire but it’s not. It wasn’t too annoying, I just ignored the burning sensation but couldn’t resist a trip the loos to check I wasn’t really glowing like a beacon.
- Plan what you want to drink, find, do, see before you go because when you arrive you will be swallowed into a seething mass of beer swilling crowds with silly hats on and it’s very easy to get lost and give up. I am glad I found the Stringer Plan B. Very nice it was too, but really with only one GF beer in sight it was the only one to find. Thankfully they didn’t run out. It was a shame I couldn’t try more beers though, since I just couldn’t find out the ingredients.
- Queues at the loos – The Great British Beer Festival – possibly the only place where the queues for the men’s loos were enormous and there we no queues for the ladies. Ha!
- Beer soap – Go shopping – there was loads to do, games, stalls, shops etc. I found some beer soap made from wheat free Black Isle Organic blonde beer and olive oil. That’s it. No other ingredients and no perfume. They do a range of beer soaps but I chose the simplest for my ultra senstive skin. The woman who makes Spartisan soaps said she washes her hair and body with the soap bar and I cannot wait to try it out. I as so pleased with my soap, which spent the evening resting on a nest of straw in a brown paper bag which seemed very impressive after quantities of real ale. Check out www.spartisan.co.uk and on twitter https://twitter.com/beer_soaps
- Check out the entertainment – the beer festival takes place in two halls and you can wander around not finding that beer or your lost friends for ages… I did! But there is a stage down one end with live music. Highly recommended and only sad we didn’t discover the entertainment until we were about to make the mad dash across London for the train home.
- Cheer if you hear breaking glass – you know like you do in a restaurant when a poor waiter or waitress drops a tray of crockery? The same rule applies at the beer festival. Glasses seemed to drop at great regularity so I was clutching tightly onto mine, but every time it happened the whole great hall burst into cheers and clapping and the dropper raised their hands in the air to accept their applause with beaming face. I’m sure that elation is short lived when they find themselves back at the glasses stand buying another one for £3.70.
- What goes on at the beer festival stays at the beer festival – whoops! I just told you everything!
So I had a fantastic evening and even avoided the dreaded hangover but I have one question. Here it is.
My question for the brewing industry
Why, why, why, when bottled beer has ingredients listed for cereals e.g. wheat and barley does cask and beer on tap have no ingredients on offer EVER? And why do people who claim to be beer lovers know nothing about what’s in it? In pubs they NEVER know, not even the landlord. They don’t know because barrels are not labelled. They don’t need to know I guess, they just drink it or serve it. But it’s frustrating not being able to find out.
The looks I got when I asked to read the labels on bottles of beer to see if it contained wheat. Honestly! “All beer has wheat in it love!” I managed to hold back from replying, ‘Erm no it doesn’t moron – think you know beer? You know nothing…and I am most definitely NOT your love!’
Instead going for the much safer, ‘No, some beer is made with barley and wheat and some beer only contains barley. Since I have a wheat allergy I can only drink the beer which doesn’t contain wheat’
Their eyes glaze over. You’ve lost them now.
They’re not hearing you. They’re thinking, ‘Who is this crazy woman?’
Just hand me the bl**dy bottle you annoying *****.
So did anyone else go? Any coeliacs brave it? And any brewers got an answer for me? And finally any gluten free beer brewers have comments about whether we could get some more presence for #GF beers next year?