The Tempest Springfest: Festivals in Microcosm

Last weekend the good people of Tempest Brewing threw their doors open to several hundred people at their Tweedbank facility for a beer festival – the second they have held there, following on from last years’ Oktoberfest (which will take place again in a few month’s time). I went along with my wife and dog, the first time she had been on a train (the dog, that is) and very quickly realised why it is a perfect small-scale beer festival. Here are a few reasons why it ticks all of the boxes.

1) Getting there

For amazing, on-point beery shindigs like IndyMan or any of the half-billion events in London this is something that isn’t ever considered by the majority of attendees – who simply hop on a Tube or local light rail service and glide to the front gates, #trainbeer in hand. That’s not always the case further afield however and up here the incredible festivals (like FyneFest, say) require more logistics and packing than the guys that went up Everest in the 50’s. Tempest works because it is literally at the end of the train line from Edinburgh; the Borders Rail that admittedly trundles along at 10mph but once you arrive pretty much every single person making it to Tweedbank wanders the same direction for a few minutes to the brewery. This also means you can’t get lost. In theory.

2) The Open-ness

Festivals that take place in brewery courtyards have one major advantage behind them. What they lack in toilet luxury they more than make up for in the ability to wander around and see behind the scenes. Offering tours for the people who attended, or for those that didn’t simply the chance to stare at where it all happens with a cup of beer in hand, immediately puts the connection into place as to where the beer comes from. Also, the folk at Tempest are the most honest around that I know of – having met founder Gavin years ago he is the most approachable and open brewery owner I’ve ever met. Well, either that or he could be the best poker player in the Borders. I don’t know…

3) The Beers

Well, of course. Trying new things is the best thing about beer festivals so having new releases, specials and the like on offer are reason enough to find that platform at Waverley you’ve never been to before. Having the chance to try Old Fashioned on draught was incredible, as was – of course – the Old Parochial from the wood and all of the IPAs that Tempest knock out with abandon. The first beer of the day was remarkable too, Dawn of Justice Citra Session IPA, a fantastic zingy refresher after wrestling with a nervy dog for an hour on the train. You know you’ll get great beer with Tempest, but poured at the brewery and drunk outside, there was nothing better. And I didn’t even mention the Longer White Cloud, In The Dark We Live or Brave New World. Just amazing.

4) The Queues

Every beer festival needs something that is slightly unnerving. Not bad or disappointing or it can spoil the day of course, but having so many thirsty people drinking 2/3rd measures meant the small bar was five deep at a minimum. The bar staff did a good job and it moved fast though – plus there was the Imperial Bar inside the brewery with ten or so beers on hovering at 10% – but without a printed booklet of the beers on it took standing in line to give you the time to consider the beer blackboard and pick something to drink – and waiting makes the heart grow fonder (for beer), thus meaning the end reward tastes all the sweeter. Oh, also a small queue for one of the best burgers I’ve had for a long time from the Grind, Newcastle.

5) The Attendees

Finally the festival stood out for the number of different people there – families, people with free-running dogs (ahem), beer geeks and raters, regular people, groups of guys having stickfights in the small area of trees. I don’t know, maybe it takes a venue like the Borders, or the backdrop of a brewery, to vest the crowd of the 30-something bearded male domination that I’ve seen in other festivals (I only say that with jealousy as I recently graduated from that age-bracket). Anyway, it just made everything feel much more inclusive, I guess. And having those stand-up plastic urinals made things easier for 50% of those there too – although someone did ask me why the guys were peeing in the handwashers…

Thanks to everyone who worked hard to make the Springfest a success, it was a great festival. As a disclosure they supplied me with a free ticket but I’m guessing not with a blog post like this in mind.

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