Published on April 5, 2017 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Festival is more than just a number
Roger Bannister wore the number 41 on his vest when he broke the mythical four-minute mile in 1954. In mathematics, 41 is the sum of the sum of the divisors of the first seven positive integers. George HW Bush was the 41st president of the United States, and this month the 41st Newcastle Beer Festival is unveiled to the region’s real ale lovers.
Organised by the Tyneside & Northumberland branch of the Campaign For Real Ale (Camra), the event at Northumbria University Students Union (April 26-29) remains a highlight in the beer and cider calendar.
“We believe there aren’t many older Camra beer festivals in the country,” says Martin Ellis, Newcastle Beer Festival committee chairman. “I think Bradford might have been running as long as Newcastle, but I think they had a break at one time.
“However, I do know that Cambridge beer festival is 44 this year, Kent is 43, Wolverhampton is 42, and there are one or two others on 41, the same as Newcastle. So we can safely say we are among the oldest beer festivals in the country – and therefore the world.”
The Newcastle Beer Festival is not exclusively an event for Camra members – it’s an opportunity for the general public to sample some of the region’s wide range of beers and styles. Running alongside that is a theme of beers from Yorkshire and Lancashire, two areas with a burgeoning ale culture.
“We’ll have some from small producers who have never made it over here,” says Martin Ellis. “What’s great these days is there are an awful lot of young people who are very knowledgeable about beer – people on their late teens and early twenties, particularly students. They also know about its heritage and history.”
The annual Battle of the Beers invariably attracts keen competition – to say nothing of bragging rights – from North East brewers and this year the brief is to brew an IPA specially for the festival. Organisers are expecting a range of colours ranging through black to pale gold and from session strength to sip-and-savour.
Students will have free entry on the Wednesday evening of the festival, while Thursday is the famous Hat Day which is self-explanatory, but raises considerable amounts of money for the St Oswalds charity. If you turn up without a hat, you can make a modest donation to the charity’s stall – and pick the headgear that takes your fancy.
One slight change to the normal format is that the cider bar is on the main ale floor, making it simpler for staff and customers alike.
Other Newcastle Beer Festival 2017 statistics include: 120 different beers, 30 ciders, and 48 breweries representing the Tyneside & Northumberland Camra branch. The number 41 is also the smallest integer whose reciprocal has a five-digit repetend which is a consequence of it being a factor of 99999.
Beat that, Cambridge.
* The 41st Camra Newcastle Beer Festival, Northumbria University, April 26-29. Details: www.cannybevvy.co.uk