Be(aver) My Valentine: volunteering behind the taps at Beavertown Brewery

On the 13 February 2016, throngs of beer enthusiasts descended upon Tottenham Hale to help Beavertown to celebrate their fourth birthday. In spite of some inclement weather, the revellers weren’t deterred. The Beavertown crew were primed for the elements, spreading the brewery stalls (alongside the precious beer) across two drinking tents. To promote the entire spectrum of the brews on offer, drinks were served in 1/3rd measures and transactions were conducted via Beaverbucks- a prepaid card marked off with each drink- to keep the queues of thirsty patrons moving.

Over 30 brewers from both the UK and further afield offered over 70 beers on tap on the day. An impressive calling card of stalwarts (who were also friends of Beavertown) were invited to contribute- breweries represented included Kernel, Thornbridge, BrewDog and Magic Rock- and Beavertown unveiled a variation of Neck Oil for the party: the Double Chin DIPA. This was a one-off special edition beer in honour of us, the tie-dye clad army of volunteers.

Why and how did we get involved in this beer bedlam, you ask?

Well, in December 2015, we replied to an enigmatic tweet from the Beavertown crew. They were looking for help with an upcoming special event- only beer lovers need apply. Candidates were vetted via a concise questionnaire that queried what beers we were drinking, where we were drinking them and why we would make an exemplary helper.
We blindly committed ourselves to the date, confident that it would be something unmissable in the craft beer calendar. As further details were revealed, it became apparent that we were being invited to work alongside not only the Beavertown crew, but to rub shoulders with other breweries on the day. The scale of the party was unquestionably going to be colossal.

n the morning of the event, volunteers gathered and were given an earnest welcome by Logan, founder of Beavertown, Jennifer, the head brewer, and Kieran, the Taproom Manager. We were presented with tokens of appreciation and introduced to our loud, psychedelic shirts. Beavertown generously gifted each volunteer a branded glass, badges, pins, truffles, meal and drink tokens and two cans of Double Chin each. It was palpable at the time that this was the clam before the storm.

Two volunteers were allocated to each brewery stand at random in advance. I was assigned to The Hanging Bat Brewery, based in Edinburgh, giving me the opportunity to acquaint myself with a new purveyor and range of beer. We ventured towards our respective stands, meeting brewery representatives, helping to tap kegs and with set up. Chris, one of the owners of The Hanging Bat, bestowed us with sharing bottles and t-shirts to show his gratitude. He also delivered a bulging selection of brownies from Lovecrumbs, one of the vendor teams on site who- conveniently- included his wife. On an aside, between the beer and the cakes, Chris inadvertently gave me two firm reasons to revisit Edinburgh.

Suddenly everything exploded in action: VIPs mingled in full force, tasting the beers before the crowds settled in. There was a great sense of solidarity and improvisation, as exemplified when we needed some cables for our kegs and were rescued by Jasper from Camden Town Brewery, who wasn’t even on the brewer stall roster.

Once the gates opened to the general public, everything spiralled into a continuous stream of mayhem, serving and banter. Being on a smaller stand, we were positioned to act as an introductory agent for The Hanging Bat to inquisitive drinkers. People became less concerned about an education in beer as the afternoon progressed, however. By that stage, drinks were flowing and smaller breweries were suddenly inundated by crowds as the queues for the more familiar brands became unwieldy.

We were rescued by a delivery of pizzas, distributed by the Beavertown team who had astutely observed that many volunteers were working through their shift without respite. The queues for the food vendors were rumoured to be at a standstill, so the gesture was happily received (and devoured). Despite how chaotic the afternoon became, we cunningly did our rounds earlier that day to ensure that we sampled the best on offer- I was personally resolute on enjoying Jakehead (Wylam), the Provision Reserve (Burning Sky), the Chocolate Ice Cream Brown Ale (Omnipollo) and the London Sour Damson Berliner Weisse (Kernel). You’ll be pleased to know that I succeeded.

s a volunteer, I was worked off my feet, but thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to fraternise with brewers, brewery representatives and the Beavertown team. The various misgivings proliferated on social media about the event were merited on some fronts, but the inevitable queuing for loos, food vendors and beer at a free event of this stature was- unfortunately- foreseeable. By volunteering, I didn’t have time to complain and got insider access to some great minds of the craft beer scene.

With that in mind, I was grateful to be part of this frenzied occasion that was hosted all in the name of a congregation of great breweries and beer. Happy birthday, Beavertown- I’m reciprocating and the invite to my upcoming birthday party is in the post. Just one thing- can you guys bring some beer?