20 November 2010 (Saturday) - Beer and Cakes

“My Boy TM was doing overtime this morning. I expect most of my loyal readers heard him getting up quietly at 6am, then silently coming downstairs before making his breakfast (as quietly as a mouse). I breathed a sigh of relief as he finally thundered out of the house at 6.30am.

To work – I too was doing overtime, and after a (thankfully) quiet morning and a quick sandwich I popped round to the home brew shop. They were having a demonstration of how to brew and bottle and generally “make the stuff”. I thought I’d better put all my beer-making on hold until I’d seen today’s demo, and I got there with quarter of an hour to spare, just in case there were loads of people. In the event there was a rather disappointing turn out. There were a pair of mates, one of whom had bought the other a beer-making kit last Xmas and they thought they’d better use the thing. There were a pair of hippies, one of whom claimed to make marmalade beer, and there was a rather quiet chap who seemed to be a friend of the bloke giving the demonstration.
The chap giving the demonstration was very good; knowledgeable but without being condescending in any way. He showed us how to sterilise all the gear and make up a kit of beer. Then we had a “Blue Peter” moment when he produced a barrel of beer he’d made earlier; two weeks earlier. That brew was ready to be bottled, and he showed us how to bottle the stuff. This bit was very “hands on” and I got to have a go. He also showed us (me) the ins and outs of keeping beer in pressure barrels, which I found useful, and a bit of a though-provoker.
I’d been told that the session would probably last for about half an hour: it actually went on for an hour and a half. It was really good. Everyone joined in and chatted, the chap running the show involved everyone, I learned loads. I’ve decided against my original idea of brewing beer in recycled saline boxes. Since they were offering 10% off of purchases for people who’d been to the demonstration I got a fermenter and a pressure barrel.
I also got a complimentary bottle of the beer we bottled this afternoon as well, which (I thought) was a nice touch.

The only reservation I had about the demonstration at the home brew shop was the turn out. I was there because I’m keen on my new-found hobby. I got the impression that the hippies and the friend of the demonstrator were also keen beer brewers. But I don’t think that that the two mates were really going to spend a lot in the brew shop. And in retrospect it was somewhat disconcerting that during the course of the demonstration, not a single customer called in. It has to be said that the shop is more than a little off the beaten track. I hope they stay in business, but they can’t really be described as doing a roaring trade.

And then to Furley Park Primary School. It’s as well that I checked the directions for the place before I set off. I knew where this school was: I’ve known for years. Or so I thought. I actually knew where Wyvern school was. Furley Park is on the other side of town.
Friends were organising an Xmas fete to raise funds for their scout group, and ‘er indoors TM was running a candle-flogging stall. I thought I’d wander along to add my (im)moral support. If nothing else, fetes are good places to get cake which is both cheap and of good quality.

The fete was running from 4-7pm. My initial reaction was that that was an odd time to have a fete, but then none of the fetes I’d been involved with when I was a scout leader had been especially lucrative. Perhaps the 1st Park Farm scout group knew something I didn’t. I arrived to find the fete pretty much set up. In fact all that was missing were punters. There seemed to be quite a few people milling round, but most of them seemed to be like me – “hangers-on” of the various stalls. Of the few customers we had, few were remarkable. There was a rather aggressive looking lady who refused to part with any money on any stall because “it would be a waste of money as I don’t live in Ashford” (!) I laughed as her child started eating the make-up products on the Body Shop stall. And there was a visiting child who was a dead ringer for Draco Malfoy (of Harry Potter fame). Unfortunately Furley Park school isn’t ideally placed to pick up passing trade, and it’s probably fair to say that the fete was never really busy at any point.
There was a respectable turn-out from the astro club, and I had a good chat with friends. I had a go on the badge making stall, and then I made myself rather ill from eating too many cakes. And then with someone else calling the raffle (makes a change!) we packed up early and came home.
Was the event profitable for the scouts? I don’t know. Talking to stallholders I got the impression the thing wasn’t a washout. I hope they made enough. If anyone deserves cash, it’s the scout association.

And then home. I’ve got my fermenter filled with sterilising solution ready for tomorrow (when I intend to get my beer for Xmas started). And I’ve lifted my barrel of stout into position for dispensing. The formal launch of the produce of “The Manky Brewery” will be on Tuesday evening, but I have to admit I’ve had a crafty sip of the stuff.
I’m reasonably impressed. I’ve tasted worse…

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