Escape London, to the Cheriton Beer Festival

2 Sep

Escape London has a great deal of time for the annual August Bank Holiday.  Not simply due to the obvious benefit of a 3 day weekend (that goes without saying).  Escape London loves this long weekend for a certain event that has forced its way into local tradition.  The Cheriton Beer Festival, hosted by the infamous Flower Pots Inn and it’s award winning brewery is now the primary event of the calendar.  Set in the midst of the wonderful Hampshire wilderness between Alresford and Winchester, Cheriton appears as if created by some form of Enid Blyton-regurgitating deity.  The village is an unspoilt, pristine series of houses, babbling rivers and carefree ducks surrounded by Granny Smith green countryside.  People may accuse Escape London of waxing in an overly lyrical fashion here, but the place really is pixel perfect.  All in all, a rather nice setting for a piss up…of gargantuan proportions.

Now, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have heard about the Flower Pots Inn and the yearly Ale extravaganza that it provides.  There’s a reason for this.  If one is to google the event, there appears to be almost no obtainable information.  Go to the Pot’s own website, there’s but a solitary sentence afforded to it.  The only place Escape London was able to locate even a whiff of beer festival belch, was here http://www.shantscamra.org.uk/beerfestivals/ , half-way down the page is a little snippet, a foamy, watered down dreg of info.   Rather gloriously, it states that the Flower Pots Inn keeps the festival a secret, due to it’s already overflowing popularity…those in the know, go.   How can Escape London heap more praise on a mini-beer fest that requires not a jot of advertising?  Folk simply understand that the August Bank holiday means a weekend of sitting in the sun, drinking warm Ale and hugging complete strangers.  And, like tankard bearing lemmings, they stumble and descend upon Cheriton year after year.

Escape London likes a beer, enjoys a Cider even more and as you might have gathered loves it when they’re coupled with a great setting, an adventure and some good friends.  The tradition has taken on it’s own little intricacies, akin to the minute ingredients added together in the Flower Pot’s own award-winning ales.  Eascape London and friends have their own recipe for the perfect pint of fun.  For a start, the initial walk to the Pub must have adequate rations (i.e Strongbow) to survive the entire night should the party find themselves lost en route.  There are many paths that lead from Alresford to Cheriton and Escape London is pretty sure that a new direction has been experimented with every year.  The wander through woods and fields is possibly one of the highlights of the festival, its a time for climbing trees, rolling in grass and consuming beer.  The hike can last anywhere between 1 and 4hrs in duration.  Another pre-requisite (for some) is to adorn extravagant attire for the occasion.  If one is to collapse in a drunken heap, one must do so looking one’s very best.  This year Escape London went for a waistcoat, trouser and shirt combo with a slick side parting.  Thirdly, drinking games are a given.  They appear in various forms and at times will induce tears, however they are a vital ingredient and play an important part of the night.  When added together with a healthy dose of ‘Hey Jude’ played by the local tribute band, this potent mixture can smack you in the face like the flailing arm of a bearded beer enthusiast…yet you’ll find yourself wanting to hug him for it.

From miles around folk make their way to Cheriton.

The beer festival itself is of course only a blur.  Escape London believes that the secret nature of the event is achieved through attendees’ inability to provide any concrete evidence that the party ever ACTUALLY happened.  It’s a mangled mirage on the horizon, an enigmatic happening that feels the next day, as if it all took place underwater, beneath the frothy surface in a pint glass.  This is largely down to the incredibly strong ales and cider on offer.  Folk decide that it’s a great idea to consume the strongest of the strong ‘because its a beer festival’.  Day turns to night incredibly quickly.  Curry is consumed in vast quantities from the perfectly placed food tent, the exotic smell lingering in the nostrils and on clothes for the next week.

Dancing is the one thing that Escape London is positive takes place during the night.  Cast your mind back to the jigging of the ‘poor folk’  below deck on the Titanic, it was pretty frantic and a bit boisterous.  Up the tempo and passion by around 7.3% (the average alcohol content of the Cider on offer) and you’re halfway to realising the spectacle that awaits anyone falling into the dance tent.  Carnage.  Expect face-fulls of beer.  Crowd surfing.  Total stranger embracing.  Impromptu micro-phone thrusting.  Ballad screaming.  And massive amounts of new found love for EVERYTHING; the world, nature, music, beer, the person next to you and when Angels rears its head even Robbie Williams becomes ‘a hero’.

To conclude:  The beer festival takes place the same August bank holiday year in year out and is up against stiff ‘eventy’ competition, Notting Hill Carnival manages ensare 1000’s of people,

The perfect setting....

religiously grinding on the streets of London.  Yet The Flower Pots Inn is packed to the rafters every year, without a whisper of a marketing campaign.  They don’t want, nor-need many more people to flock their way, things are brewing nicely as they are.  Yet if you can draw yourself away from the throng and fancy a decent countryside frolic, there really is nowhere quite like the Cheriton Beer Festival.

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