Robert Louis Stevenson said 'it is better to travel hopefully than arrive.’ Obviously a man with experience of Bury’s Sir Robert Peel. Despite the low expectations-realistically there seemed more chance of seeing Nessie than a festival beer, we decided to give it one more chance. After all, surely they would offer us something for the weekend?
Getting there before the expected post-work rush didn’t work as planned. The place was heaving with old codgers, mostly harmless, but quite loud. Very odd. The mystery was soon solved when I overheard a couple bemoaning the loss of their usual sing-along. Of course, the Knowsley-a real dump opposite the travel interchange, was closed for refurbishment. Friday afternoon is traditional sing-along time. Or OAP karaoke as it’s known locally. Since the Knowsley closed, its rather special patrons have been turning up in other town centre hostelries. Most annoyingly, it’s the young chavs that have discovered the Trackside at weekends. Where, much to the consternation of the locals, they clutter up the place with baby buggies, whilst they stand around outside smoking and drinking.
Anyway, back at the Peel, there were actually guest beers available. A rarity, it has to be said. But, of course, none of them were festival beers. Teasingly, they had Hydes Mumbo Jumbo on the bar, but with a ‘coming soon’ tag on it. Both the George Wright Blonde Moment and Outlaw Wrangler tasted the same. Obviously very green, there was only the slightest hint of flavour, and that was after they had warmed up. Then joy unbounded. There were a few empty pumps and one was brought into action dispensing Shepherd Neame Fuggles. The very first festival beer-only 32 hours late. Unfortunately, it tasted like every other Shepherd Neame beer.
Bored with the beer and the plebs coming in, we set sail for the Trackside. A full board greeted us but there was one slight problem. The place was crammed with people waiting for the evening train, making it difficult to get to the bar. Luckily it wasn’t my round, so I slithered into a corner and awaited the drinks. All the beers were Halloween themed, by the way. Harviestoun Number of the Beast proved to be a little belter. Only 3.6%, it was pale yellow with a lovely fresh fruit bouquet and a lingering bitterness that made it very moreish. So good in fact, that I mostly stayed on that for the rest of the night. I did divert to try Phoenix Uncle Fester (4.5%) which was how I recalled it-amber coloured with a good mix of dry fruit and bitterness. However, the Harviestoun proved irresistible and a good few were sunk before the twinkling lights of home beckoned.