A small piece of history was made when the first horse drawn beer delivery in Northampton since 1908 ended its round at the beer festival in Becket’s Park.
Phipps Brewery, which organises the festival along with Northants CAMRA, sent out the dray pulled by Ozzy and Bobby to drop supplies off at various Northampton pubs before pulling up at the festival site by the tennis courts.
And once it had arrived on its plot amid 3,000 festival goers on Saturday afternoon the picture was complete: a glimpse of a near perfect English summer scene – something that visits us as rarely as Brigadoon but we cherish in our national identity as though it happens all the time.
The atmosphere was like your favourite pub garden overgrown in every sense: more music, more food, more people and more varieties of local beer.
I met Jeremy Phipps, sixth great grandson of Pickering Phipps, on his way to the bar with festival organiser and the leader of the modern day Phipps project Alaric Neville.
Jeremy said: “It is a great event, the beer’s great and the sun is out, music is playing. I’ll be trying some Midsummer Meadow which is a really light beautiful summer ale that we started brewing three years ago.”
The beer festival has been running since the 1970s and passed through the hands of different organisers on the way. Phipps, with its heritage inspired approach, was a natural fit to run it but it’s not simply a matter of throwing some tents up in a field.
Alaric Neville of Phipps Brewery said: “I think we were naturally worried when we were told we had to move from Delapre, because even though we had only been running it for two years the festival had been there for years so there was a formula to build on.
“It’s a new site, although many years ago in the 70s it was on Nonsuch Island, but I think this is actually better. It is nearer to town and nearer to our brewery when we have to restock, and being near water is always spiritually uplifting… being near the university is financially uplifting!
“Jeremy rode in on the dray like Boudicca. It is the first real delivery of ale by horse drawn dray since 1908. We have been around Northampton today to some of the wonderful pubs we supply. The stable yard at the Albion Brewery had horses in it, how fantastic is that? Maybe we’ll do it every year. I will be having a pint of Lacon later. They are brother brewers like us. There is this subsection of brewers who value history so I’m going to go for one of Lacon’s ales.”
A queue extended up the hill in Becket’s Park during Saturday afternoon as festival goers were searched on the way in. All public events are operating in an atmosphere of heightened security since the Manchester bombing incident but there was a good natured approach at the gate.
Nishi Patel and Chris Cooper were delighted with what they found inside.
“It’s a hot day so I went for a cold lager. This is a Brooklyn lager. It’s quite good, there’s a good selection of beers and the weather is good. It could be even bigger, it’s intimate but we’re having a good time it was well worth the queue,” said Nishi.
Chairman of the Northampton branch of the British Legion Phil York was also enjoying the weather.
“The weather has been fantastic. Maybe not the best weather to be in uniform but there is a nice atmosphere here. We expect to do well because the people of Northampton understand and support our causes here,” he said.
Writer Tom Jordan was also enjoying himself: “I’m here with some friends. We are having a great time.”