- It has no advance tickets, a system which tends to exclude casual punters.
- It is open all day, just as CAMRA campaigned for years ago in pubs.
- It is a good venue with acceptable disability access, an indoor queue at opening time and a courtesy bus between the festival and the town centre.
Wigan is a friendly festival that attracts quite a broad range of drinkers, including groups of young drinkers who start there and then go on to clubs in town. Unlike, say, Liverpool, you get groups of young women on their own, not dragged along by boyfriends. Many of these go straight to the cider and perry bar, but some try the ales. A group of lads come each year dressed in bear costumes, declaring they were told it was a real bear festival. To get a good idea of what it was like, look at the pictures on the Wigan CAMRA website. I can be seen in one unpacking glasses, something we were close to running out of at one point, it was so busy.
The Light Beer of the Festival was Dark Star American Pale Ale. The Dark Beer of the Festival was Dark Star Expresso Stout.
By 9.00 p.m. on Saturday, every single cask and bottle of beer, cider and perry was empty, and only a few fruit wines remained. So we volunteers went to the Boulevard and the Berkeley in Wigan, where I was introduced to Prospect beers. Nutty Slack is a delicious 3.9% mild which I found to be full of flavour but not overpowering. A dark beer, I announced, to add to the small range of dark beers I drink. Then I tried Silver Tally, which at 3.7% is light but still tasty; I don't often drink beers below 4% as they can be thin, but this one certainly wasn't. Another to enjoy. Finally, I tried Big John, a 4.8% dark beer, and found another dark beer to add to my 'dark' list. Keep an eye out for Prospect beers.
If you weren't at Wigan, you missed a treat.