Monday 31 October 2011

Whew, what a week...

With the restored Twickenham Beer Festival now over - wow, that was a long week! And that's even after I had to work Monday & Tuesday instead of helping with set-up right from the start.
Into the beer festival on Wednesday morning - I was the bar manager for the main ale bar - to discover they already had all the casks up on the stillage. Hurrah! We set up the bars, customer seating and what have you. At least that wasn't too late a finish.

Then Thursday morning in again around 9, completed the set-up and as the day went on I started briefing the bar staff and sorting out stuff for later in the week, such as going to meet the estimable Tom Madeiros of the nearby Twickenham brewery who'd agreed to let us have samples of hops and malt for the planned introductory beer tasting session on Saturday. The beer manager and his crew had done a brilliant job of getting the beer ready in plenty of time, and once the labels were all up we were ready to open at 5pm.

It's three years since the last Twickenham beer festival, so in a way it's like a new event and it was a bit slow getting started. We had also been given an almost absurdly low fire limit by the council H&S people, so the organisers hadn't promoted it as heavily as in the past. Nonetheless, by 7pm it was humming - the bars were busy and everyone was having a good time, volunteers and customers alike. As bar manager, one of my more important jobs is to make sure the volunteers take breaks whenever possible and practical, as it's easy to overdo it and burn yourself out when you're enthusiastic.

During the evening quite a few local publicans were around as our guests, along with the brewer from the new Botanist Brewery in Kew. The branch's new Pub of the Year was announced, with the Prince of Wales in Twickenham just pipping runners-up the Magpie & Crown (Brentford) and the Roebuck (Hampton Hill).

Come closing time at 10.30pm, I thanked the bar staff and headed straight home, as I knew the alarm would have to be set for 5.30am to get Helma and Roric to Heathrow for their flight to Germany. We were up and they were checked in mostly on time, and after walking the dog I cycled back to Twickenham for Friday which was to be the first full day's opening.

It was getting harder now, and then when during the afternoon I cycled home again to give the dog his afternoon run my energy was really running low. Still, it was back to the fray, and our fears on the festival fire limit were realised when around 6-7pm the hall was nominally full - though in fact there was still spare room - and we had 40-50 people queuing outside waiting for others to leave so they could get in.

Fortunately, the council folk saw sense - they acknowledged that the space available to us was sufficient for another 10%, and that pretty much instantly cleared the queue. At the bar we were thoroughly busy all of a sudden, but the volunteers were brilliant. In fact, I don't think anyone will have had to wait more than 2 or 3 minutes all festival, and most were served within a minute.

Come Saturday morning, I have to confess I found it difficult to get there even by opening time. The tickers and a few other keen types were in early, but it took a while to get busy. By lunchtime though it was pretty lively, especially with Harlequins rugby fans in ahead of their game. It quietened down once they went off to the match, then picked up once more around 5-6pm. The afternoon tasting session went very well, with some good interest and plenty of relevant questions from the participants.

By now beers were running out all the time, but we still had plenty left, and come 9.30pm we decided to cut prices and start pushing takeouts, which shifted a few extra gallons. On the one hand, by closing time we still had a good choice of beers left - festival-goers often complain about festivals running out before the close - but on the other hand, by closing time we still had quite a bit of beer left...

In again Sunday to help take everything apart and clear the venue - we had to be out at midday. By rooting around for all the plastic bottles I could find, I managed to salvage a few beers for later. Unfortunately one of the wretched bottles then leaked in the car onto the carpet, the smell of which will not help if I'm stopped by the cops...

A day later, I've finally managed to catch up on some sleep, but it's still hard to get back into work mode!