A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do - but before that its time for the 38th Cambridge Beer Festival

ROWS and rows of barrels of real ale, a fine selection of local wines, mead and cider, and more cheese than you can shake a stick at. It’s the Cambridge Beer Festival.

In its 38th year and now a highly-anticipated fixture in the city’s calendar, the beer festival attracts all sorts of people - from the suited businessman nipping in for a ‘working lunch’ to the more hardy punter equipped with pen and palate to tick off each of the 230 or so beers.

“You can see just looking around we have such a wide range of people,” said festival organiser for the Cambridge and district branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Bert Kenward.

“We get a quite a young crowd – not too young, of course – and the CAMRA usuals as well.

“We don’t seem to get that many students because they have exams. Some seem to think revision is more important than beer.”

And, of course, it is. In the long run.

But this week, it is not.

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This week – until the closing day on Saturday – is about the fantastic atmosphere this festival creates.

Last year 32,000 people attended the volunteer-run festival and Mr Kenward is hoping for a similar showing this year.

However, it is slightly weather-dependent. It feels like this week has been the windiest in Cambridge’s history, but fortunately for the festival it looks as if the wind is actually blowing people through the gates.

The buzz of conversation fills the tent as people mull over their next tipple – Ginger Bear? 99 Red Baboons? Nessie’s Monster Mash?

Roughly half of the 230 beers on offer originate from East Anglia, with four breweries from the Cambridge area showcasing their ale - Milton Brewery, Cambridge Moonshine, Fellows Brewery and Lord Conrad’s Brewery.

Also on offer is the now-famous cheese stall.

Starting the week with a tonne of cheese, the range of local, and often experimental, cheese eventually makes up the plates of hundreds of ploughman’s lunches.

Outside, braving the wind but enjoying the sun, are hundreds of people sprawled out on the grass.

Corynn Wilbur, and friends Jennifer Batten-Phelps and Jess Harris, were sipping on their first pint of the day.

“It’s really relaxing,” said Corynn.

“We judge the beers a little on their names but we just asked the guy what was good.

“I know beer is seen as a male thing but I think there are just as many girls who drink it just as much.”

Tom Gaskell popped round the corner from his house to the festival – it’s free to get in during lunch – and praised a different aspect of the event.

“It’s not every day it’s acceptable to walk down the street at midday with an empty pint glass,” he said.

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