Ale drinkers with a real thirst: Beer devotees gather for Camra's annual extravaganza to celebrate the best of British brewing

THERE ARE few people more fanatical than real ale drinkers. For them, real ale demands the attention to detail of a connoisseur, the unconditional love of a mother, the strict discipline of a headteacher, and reverence worthy of the Pope, writes Marianne Macdonald.

For this reason, the Campaign for Real Ale's annual extravaganza - the 16th Great British Beer Festival, which opened yesterday at Olympia, west London - calls forth the kind of blind devotion more usually seen in religious orders. Devotees included 60 Camra volunteers who had deserted their day jobs as auditors, computer analysts and bank managers to attend the Mecca of the beer world in the guise of unpaid bartenders, organisers, first-aid officers and public relations men.

Humdrum worries about mortgages, careers, and families were banished for the day. In the world of real ale, dilemmas get no tougher than working out how to drink 12 pints and stay upright, a question on which the festival guide offers valuable advice. 'Whatever you choose it is wise to start off with the lowest alcohol drink you wish to try,' it says. 'Remember to eat. It helps soak up the alcohol.'

A second concern is how to drink 12 pints a night and keep your figure. 'Take exercise,' suggests the inappropriately named Ian Drinkwater, a Southampton auditor. 'I personally try to have a couple of alcohol- free days a week.' Others debate why real ale drinkers almost always have beards. 'It's a sign of independence,' Tony Millns, head of information at the Association of County Councils, said. 'It's unconventional and the one thing you can always say about real ale drinkers is they don't like their beer to be consistent, and they do like adventure.'

The ale flowed and the judges withdrew to decide the Champion Beer of Britain - eventually emerging to declare as the winner Adnams Extra Bitter, brewed in Southwold, Suffolk, with Taylor's Best Bitter, from Keighley, West Yorkshire, as runner-up.

Mr Millns was inspired to new heights. 'A beer drinker is someone who is looking for flavour, for length - not the typical spirits drinker who wants instant gratification,' he said. 'Beer drinkers are more relaxed, reflective. They're extrovert and sociable. If you had to give them a star sign they'd be a Leo or Aries. They are absolutely marvellous.'

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us