Due to a fraught couple of days, the end of my Saturday shift had left me rather more in need of decompression than normal. Good people and good beer were at the top of my list, so it was a relief that I just had to drag my weary bones down the road to Deptford and find myself at Villages‘ Taproom, who were hosting what promised to be a delightful beer celebration.
Das Harvest Fest, an Oktoberfest-y two-dayer, in collaboration with the good people of Hop, Burns & Black, was just the opportunity to unwind that I needed. Villages had put together some special beers of their own devising on tap, with HB&B providing a lovely array of bottled Bavarian goodies, too. With extended outdoor bench seating, hearty German fare and rotating DJs, it was a good ol’ shindig.
I had a certain ulterior motive, in that the Beer Shop is hosting our own Oktoberfest doings at this very moment, so keeping an eye on best practices was merely professional curiosity – nay, the mark of a committed worker!
Irrespective of any of that, Louis and Archie – the eponymous Villages’ brothers – are absolute sweethearts, so any excuse to catch up with them is a joy. That their brewery is making consistently excellent beer is handy, though. Likewise, having Jen and Glenn from HB&B all present and correct with much of their team was a pleasure, as I don’t get to see them as much as I’d like.
Now, while you rightfully expect deep, incisive drink reviews and careful explorations of venues and production sites from me, this was an event at which (a) authorial objectivity is difficult to claim, and (b) as soon as I got there, I was stuck straight into a bottle of Schäffler Bräu Hausbier (lighter than a dunkel, but with a delightful toasty-roasty edge to the malt) and had barely got that down when Archie (Villages co-founder and head brewer) thrust a pint jug of their Smoky (a dark smoked lager, perhaps slightly less complex than a Schlenkerla, but oh so drinkable) into my hand to try.
Reader, I was not at my most sober.
Still, even as my journalistic prowess further diminished, I got to catch up with Louis (the other co-founder), a few other folks I knew, and even make new friends over a glass of good beer. A full glass of the Cosmic Disco Egg (Villages x HB&B, big lemon-lime floral zing on top of yon craft crispy lager and went down very fast, very happily) appeared as if by nowhere and I reflected on the fact that we’d all taken this sort of gathering for granted in the Before Times, and how much joy I was taking in just being able to chat and mingle outdoors, even within the confines of the current Covid situation.
Reader, I was very tired, pretty drunk and getting a little emotional.
Admiring the current refinement of Villages’ brewing setup as Archie talked me through how the brewery had managed their growth and what they hoped for in the future, I realised that I had now got a pint of Villages Festbier Oktoberfest Lager (nailed that deceptively drinkable light-but-strong festbier vibe to a T) in my mitts and really, I was in need of a sit-down somewhere. At this point I think that there was also a bottle of Kössel Bräu’s Mariahilfer Weizen Hell, again courtesy of HB&B, but I don’t greatly remember it?
Reader, it was time that I took myself home.
There’s no great moral to this, though I hope you’ve taken the lesson that Villages are worth patronising should you live within reach, and if you don’t, why not look up your local hostelry and see what they’re up to? More broadly, as I woke up feeling a little dusty the next day, it was with a feeling of great relief that we can, however trepidatiously, enjoy social events again. I’ve been to a few in the last couple of months, and hosted others, but it’s only really now forming consciously in my mind that this is a thing again. I hope I won’t take it for granted anytime soon. And also gratitude that my wife had some food ready for me as I came through the door. That was amazing.