Monday, 9 July 2018

Beer and Pilgrimage in Hereford

On Saturday I had a day out to Hereford.

The first port of call was the Cathedral, where a new heritage route called the St Thomas Way was being launched. This is based on a real pilgrimage in 1290, from Swansea to Hereford, by a man called William Cragh and a group of pilgrims who included the man who had tried (and failed ) to hang him. When William came back to life after his execution as an outlaw, it was considered to be a miracle, so the pilgrimage was to give thanks, and William de Briouze, who sentenced him to hang, was one of the party, along with his wife.
The new trail isn't a straight route from Swansea to Hereford. It's 13 circular walks along that route, each including local historical places of interest. There is a website at You can even collect badges along the way, like a real pilgrim.
So there were various activities scattered around the cathedral, including a labyrinth at the West end, medieval re-enactors talking about pilgrim medals and telling stories (and playing the bagpipes!), lectures in the Lady Chapel and specially brewed real ale in the Chapter House garden. I bought a bottle of Hanged Man Walking, which is brewed with yarrow by Mumbles Brewery. I also overheard Tom Tell Tale enthralling his audience with the story of the King with donkey's ears (he was also the bagpipe player). Later I had a chat to him, and admired his kit - he said he was very glad to be in the cool of the cathedral in all that wool!
I measured myself to St Thomas, too, by the shrine. Medieval pilgrims would cut a candle wick to the same height as themselves to make a candle to offer at a shrine of a saint. These lengths of ribbon and wool were being tied together to make a trail round the cathedral for children to follow.

Then I headed down to the Rowing Club for Beer on the Wye. I'd brought my own stool for the occasion, but I didn't really need it - there were far more chairs this year, and posher loos!
I'd had a look at the list of beers online before I went, so as soon as I got into the marquee I headed straight for the Uley Old Spot, which was delicious.
I aim to try halves of as many different beers as possible, with the proviso that my limit for any drinking is around 3 pints. Beer at the festival is paid for with tokens that you get at the door as part of the entrance fee, along with the souvenir glass, and I got extra tokens for producing my CAMRA card, and that was enough to buy me two and a half pints, by which time I'd really had enough.
Uley Old Spot is a strong bitter; my next choice was a ruby mild, Beartown's Black Bear from Congleton in Cheshire. When I was being served, the chap behind the bar asked me if I'd tried the Underworld. I hadn't, but on his recommendation that was my third choice, a milk stout from Big Smoke Brewery in Surbiton, which was absolutely gorgeous. I drank that one while enjoying falafels from the stall at the festival - there was also a hog roast, and pizzas and other snacks.
Choice number four was from Manchester's Marble Brewery, a bitter just called Pint, which was light and refreshing and quite grapefruit-y. My final choice was also from Manchester, a best bitter called Crex from Squawk Brewery.
Being on my own, I'd taken a magazine to read - and this month's Current Archaeology has a short article about Clifford Castle, with a very good picture of the top of the tower! I also picked up Pete Brown's latest book Miracle Brew from the CAMRA stall (at a small discount because I'm a member).

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