I should probably state at the outset that the festival's nomenclature is the full county, not just the town as I've been referring to it all along. Anyway, as a first time beer festival worker, I have to say I really enjoyed myself.
I started on the Tuesday, helping set up the beers on the stillage. This involved putting gauze socks on each barrel and then taking them to the appropriate area of the stillage for placing. This was dirty work, and for a weakling as I am, quite knackering. I returned home after three hours or so knowing I'd worked bloody hard. I was filthy and thirsty, and knew I'd used what muscles I have.
Arriving early afternoon on Wednesday, all the casks were in place, and had their taps and pegs in place. There wasn't really a lot of work to do, but I went round the majority of the 206 beers pouring a small sample to identify which of the colour coded cask end labels: yellow for light beers; pink for mid coloured, and blue for dark beers, we would need. The beers were not yet ready to drink, a lot of them looking really hazy, but they were getting there as the aroma of some of them told me.
We opened at 5pm on Thursday, and I arrived about 1:30. Most things were in place, although the cask end labels had not yet arrived. Four of us erected a large banner between a tree and the lorry which acted as a stage. This was a tough task and one of our group fell unceremoniously from the tree. Fortunately no bones were broken. At 3 ish, the cask end labels arrived, but alas they needed laminating. What a long winded labourious task this was. Three laminating machines were on overdrive for around two hours (except for the fifteen minutes when the one I was using had to be repaired!!!). As all the other staff arrived we set them to sticking the labels on the cask, a task we completed at about 5:01. We almost made it!!
In total the festival was open 28 hours and I worked serving beer for around half of them. It was great fun. All of the guys and gals who worked were fun to work with and we had a laugh. There was loads of staff at all times. I really cannot imagine any punters have any complaints on that score, as every one seemed to be served within seconds of choosing their beer.
The ciders and fruit wines ran out on the Saturday early evening, but at closing time there were still around 80 beers on by my reckoning. There was no trouble (there rarely is at festivals), and of all of the customers I served just three got on my nerves. I had the expected comments and heard some funny remarks from punters which I'll save for another post, but all in all the festival went swimmingly.
It's great testiment to the festival organiser Phil Greenway of Great Oakley Brewery and Paul Barton of The Queen Adelaide who worked like troopers arranging staff and organising the event, just how successfully everything went.
I won't hesitate to volunteer again next year, and to any of you considering volunteering at a CAMRA beer festival - just do it!!