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The return of Warwick Real Ale Festival demonstrates campus life is back

Alcohol is back! I don’t mean the intoxications people consumed throughout the pandemic to get them through the different lockdowns, but collective drinking. Though I am personally teetotal (except at Christmas), it’s impossible to miss the return of circles, the presence of the Dirty Duck and numerous pubs around Leamington making the most of life being back in March 2020. 

Last taking place in February 2020, just a month before life as we know it transformed, the festival is back for its 42nd outing between 17th and 19th February 2022 in the Copper Rooms

However, perhaps the surest sign that the spirit of campus life has returned is the confirmation that the Warwick Real Ale Festival will take place this year. Last taking place in February 2020, just a month before life as we know it transformed, the festival is back for its 42nd outing between 17th and 19th February 2022 in the Copper Rooms. To mark the occasion, I spoke to Scott Montague, one of the society’s publicity officers, about what attendees had to look forward to. 

Montague joined the society ‘thanks to the society’s fair’ and through the encouragement of a ‘particularly pushy and charismatic social secretary’. Brewery and Real Ale was a ‘completely new’ passion for Montague, who knew ‘next to nothing’ about the crafting process. Involved from the start, he became fairly engaged ‘serving at the festival and was on reception’. Responsible for handling all the money, Montague says ‘somehow they’ve trusted me to do all that again’. 

The festival is now back in full form and raring to go

The University of Warwick Real Ale Society, like all societies, was deeply affected by the pandemic. Spending most of last year ‘scrambling to keep [the society] alive’, Montague admitted it was more of a ‘storm weathering exercise’ as weekly socials took place online and alcohol was consumed in parks, which he promised ‘isn’t nearly as sad as it sounds’. 

There will be more than ‘100 beers…with more than 50 ciders, meads and wines’

However, the festival is now back in full form and raring to go. Taking place in week six – Reading Week for a large section of the student body – there will be more than ‘100 beers…with more than 50 ciders, meads and wines’. Aiming to cater for people ‘with all sorts of different tastes’, the festival seeks to be as open as possible. 

Although the festival is happening on campus, it’s reach is far and wide. I was intrigued to see how they did this as students, given incessant emailing is no guarantee of a response. Montague mentioned the ‘longevity of the society’ helped with finding collaborations with different breweries. Given that the society ‘is going to be 50 years old next year’, the Twisted Barrel has been the biggest ‘flagship sponsor’. Montague argues something just as simple as saying ‘can we meet and talk about this’ allows this cross-collaboration, given the shared passion across ages for great beers.

Part of the brilliance of the festival is its openness to all

Indeed, part of the brilliance of the festival is its openness to all. Members of the public can enter, no doubt including many former members of the society. Accepting cash only – an important point to stress – £3.50 on the door will offer access to lots of beers. 

I wanted to have a picture painted for me of the atmosphere prospective festival-goers can look forward to, making Montague’s previous experience essential. Describing the festival as a ‘Willy Wonka kind of experience’, goers first step through two sets of doors to see ‘keys and castes of beer as far of the eye can see’. 

It becomes clear to me that the atmosphere is what is so important about the evening, with the festival going on ‘until around midnight, sometimes later if the SU are feeling generous’

Alongside the drink, there is the ‘sense of a hog roast to your left, the tunes of big bands or whoever’s playing that night on your right and it’s quite something’. It becomes clear to me that the atmosphere is what is so important about the evenings, with the festival going on ‘until around midnight, sometimes later if the SU are feeling generous’. 

Consumption of beer is not the only priority, with the money raised being donated to immensely good causes

Consumption of beer is not the only priority, with the money raised being donated to immensely good causes. Montague highlighted how the society donates ‘over 50% of the surplus to charity and we’re doing two this year: 25% to Shelter and 25% to the Myton Hospices’. The Myton Hospices are ‘very local and they’ve had really close ties to festivals in the past’, with £5,600 donated a few years ago. 

Guaranteeing brewery satisfaction and helping worthy organisations, the Real Ale Festival is a win-win event. So, it seems there’s little else to do but find £3.50 of cash, rock up to the Copper Rooms and choose your poison. Cheers!

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