Anatomy of a Beer Festival Part 13

Part 13 Setup & Deliveries


At our festival, setup starts with the collection of equipment from Mansfield CAMRA’s container.  As a relatively new branch we have little in the way of our own equipment and so virtually all of it is borrowed from other branches with nearly all of it coming from Mansfield and Ashfield Branch.  In return for loan of the equipment we have all the electrical equipment PAT tested on their behalf every year.


There is an awful lot to fetch – cooling equipment, all the stillage, the bars, taps, tills, cash boxes, spiles, pegs, drip trays, hire glasses, extension leads and the list goes on.  We are very fortunate that a friend of some of our members runs an organic fruit and veg business and so very kindly offers us use of his van for the collection and return of said equipment.  There is that much, though, that we fill a horse box full of it as well as the van and that doesn’t include all of our own hire glasses or the sundry items in our own storage!


It takes around 4-5 hours to load and unload the equipment and then even more time to set up the perimeter fencing and to erect the stillage in time for Tuesday morning deliveries.  The marquee is delivered and erected by the supplier on the Monday whilst our crew are busy fetching the equipment.


On Tuesday morning the breweries deliver beer, often with more than one in and out of the marquee at the same time.  We have to keep a check on what’s arriving in order to chase up the missing beers early afternoon.  There’s usually one or two breweries that have either forgotten or didn’t realise that it was a morning delivery rather than an afternoon one.  We have to tap and vent them, load them on to the stillage and then hook each of them up to the cooling system so they remain in cellar condition throughout the festival.   The sale or return beers are positioned carefully underneath the stillage near to where the other casks from the same brewery are located.  These are never tapped or vented unless we need to use them later if we anticipate running low on the existing stock.  They have to be moved very carefully on to the stillage if we do need them, otherwise you can upset the sediment in the bottom and the settling process has to start again.


Some brewers have caused us last-minute problems in the past by delivering a day late.  You might expect this to be restricted to the small breweries where they only have a few staff who each have multiple roles. It has happened with the big breweries just as much though and some on more than one occasion.  This basically means their beer probably isn’t going to be ready until late Friday afternoon or early Friday evening at the earliest.  This can annoy some customers as we’ve advertised that all the beers would be on at the start rather than being held back and they don’t always understand that the logistics are out of our control.  If the beer takes even longer to settle, there’s also the chance that you won’t be able to sell as much of it as you need to and the resultant loss in sales has a knock on effect on other things.


This year, due to a change in the law last December, we’ve also got the added work of compiling the allergens information for every drink we serve.  Whilst we already have the information for the ciders, perries and wine in advance, we don’t have it for many of the beers so we are going to have to take the missing details from the information printed on the cask for each beer as it is delivered.  This might seem a trivial matter but unless we have accurate and complete information available on site at all times we are open to the public we could be closed down immediately without warning if we get a site inspection from Environmental Health.


Bringing the blog right up to date, this year hasn’t started well as the first brewery delivered a day early which fortunately isn’t a problem but one of their beers wasn’t available which I only found out at the last minute.  They’ve also provided no allergens information in advance, there’s none on the cask or arrived with it and their delivery driver knew nothing about it!  A few other breweries have followed suit today so it looks like more work for me in the morning then.  Do they not know I am supposed to have a full-time job as well!


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