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Morris Dancers welcome in the new Old Ale
Report on our 6th meeting in Lewes on October 3rd 2009
Harveys Brewery Tower
Harveys Brewery Tower

THE SKY WAS GREY and lowering when I arrived in Lewes, East Sussex early on Saturday morning. But the town was already thronging with weekend visitors, and there was an inviting savoury perfume in the air from the many Farmers' Market stalls that seemed to have been erected specially and unexpectedly on Cliffe High Street in our honour.

I'd arranged an early start to meet Member of The British Beard Club, James, our talented graphic artist and Young Cartoonist of the Year 2007 and 2008, to discuss designs. I spread myself out at a table in Bill's, the popular and very busy greengrocer's and café in Cliffe High Street, a few yards from Harvey's Brewery Yard.

The Sides begin
Morris Dancers celebrating the Old Ale

While we were in discussion, the crowds passed back and forth past the café, and I couldn't help noticing that there seemed to be an unusually high proportion of bearded gentlemen in Lewes that day. As we were finishing our chat, I saw first one, then another familiar bearded visage going past as well, and so our TBBC Members had started to arrive. We had a little time to wait however, standing outside the brewery and chatting in a group, because this year the festivities were timed a half-hour later than expected.

Spider tilts the keg for Tom
Spider tilts the Old Ale for Tom

When the Yard gates were opened at 12:00pm, the crowd formed a disorderly queue, and we were each given a disposable glass which was filled from a proper wooden tap as we filed past the stack of Old Ale casks. Soon the Morris Dancing began, and The Brighton Morris Men and several other Sides danced and played to celebrate Rolling Out The Old, the return of seasonal Old Ale, which is only brewed from October to April. The sun made an occasional appearance during the morning, but skies remained dull most of the time. In spite of this the crowd were enjoying the dancing and drinking, and The British Beard Club Members did what they do best, chatting and drinking beer.

Beer brings British Beardsmen together
Beer brings British Beardsmen together

I asked members for their verdict on the Old Ale, supplies of which were rapidly being consumed. Harveys describe it as "Reminiscent of the mild ales produced during the early part of the 20th century, it is brewed to an original gravity of 1040° - 1044° using a high percentage of crystal malt and black sugars. The result is a soft, full beer with a nutty palate." "Very nice", "Smooth taste", "Yes I like it", were the sort of comments received, so it was decidedly a successful brew. The Brighton Morris Men dedicated one dance to The British Beard Club, and everyone cheered whether they knew who we were or not!

Some, but by no means all of the 23
Some, but by no means all of the 23

As the dancing and free Old Ale tasting was drawing to a close, we decided to make an early move for lunch before the rush, but the closest hostelry the John Harvey Tavern was already heaving with diners and drinkers, so we mustered for mustarded sandwiches (sorry, couldn't resist it!), more Old Ale and fish-and-chips at The Dorset, another Harveys Pub a few steps into Cliffe.

I counted heads before anyone had to leave and made it 23, which is an unofficial record for attendance at a meeting of The British Beard Club. We had a good mix of bearded gentlemen, (with one backslider who shall be nameless!), their ladies and friends and one little one, and several members of The Handlebar (Moustache) Club, and everyone enjoyed the day. Many likely-looking gentlemen in the crowd at the Brewery were politely 'bearded' with Club Web site cards, and as a result we already have several new members. Below is a gallery of other pictures taken by Frazer Coppin, Mo and Charlie Saville and myself.

Best Bearded Regards
Here are some more photos taken by Frazer Coppin, Mo and Charlie Saville and myself.
Frazer CoppinWayne, TBBC Member and Morris ManMark from NewhavenEmily and HenryEmily, Henry and FrazerFrazer, Andy and James
Frazer recruiting a new memberRoss with two recruitsRoss and AndyAndy, Amanda (facing away) and JamesAmanda and JamesRoss and David (backview)
Some of the 23The Side Confers
Click a thumbnail to enlarge or play as a SLIDESHOW

Photos on this page are Copyright © 2009 The British Beard Club TBBC