Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Festivals Stalwart Alan Has Tasted Delights of 9,000 Ales; BEER

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Festivals Stalwart Alan Has Tasted Delights of 9,000 Ales; BEER

Article excerpt


THE dictionary can only go so far. Ticker 1 Sl. 1a the heart. 1b a watch. 2 a person or thing that ticks.

A ticker in the beer world, however, is defined differently.

Tickers "collect" beers in much the same way as train spotters gather numbers. Their preoccupation, often greeted by shaking heads and spluttered mirth, is surely no more obsessive than the blind, faithful following of an underachieving football team home and away, yet the head shaking continues.

Tickers will form a tiny proportion of the 6,000 visitors attracted to next week's Newcastle Beer Festival, organised by the Tyneside and Northumberland branch of the Campaign For Real Ale (Camra), where 120 different beers will represent 69 British breweries. A special selection of 30 beers from Kent and Sussex will complement the same number of North East beers, with 30 ciders and perries acting as delegates for the nation's finest.

This year's ale choice and logistics have occupied Camra member Alan Stobbs' spare time for several months. He is a regular at beer festivals across the country, monitoring how problems are tackled, then noting, checking, querying, and yes, ticking. Alan is a self-confessed ticker with an astonishing 9,000 cask-conditioned beers tasted, then tucked into a notebook, a palm recorder and his home computer. "I'll note where I've tried a particular beer and can point to any pub, any hour, any year," he says. "No matter what style of beer it is I'll try it, drinking a half-pint at least - but if I were to put it in footballing terms I'd be Second Division. Some tickers take the beer's temperature and some grade them on a one-to-five scale."

Alan, a former railway man with a round ticket to roam, has been to beer festivals in Sheffield and Doncaster this week and was an observer at Leicester and Leeds the week before. His experience is invaluable in the smooth running of the Newcastle event. "I have a budget to work to and have to be cost-effective," he says. "The local Camra committee asked if it would be possible for a certain area to be covered, so we've got the Kent and Sussex ones, but part of the festival is to promote local beers. It's a nice little split and we've tried to mix up milds, IPAs, porters, stouts and bitters. It's a very time-consuming job and all voluntary.

"Two festivals in London aren't running this year because they can't find anybody with the time to take it up. It's all unpaid and some people will take the week off work to help out at our festival. We'll go in on Monday morning about eight o'clock and start setting up with about 25 volunteers. The scaffolding lorry is generally there by then. The beers are all due for delivery too, so we'll put them into place and start tapping them and get the cooling system into operation. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.