Newcastle Oktoberfest 2016
In a slight change to the normal blog, I’m going to do a review of Newcastle’s answer to Oktoberfest.
German beer festival versus Newcastle Oktoberfest.
As a veteran of Germany trips (Munich, Stuttgart, Dusseldorf) I am well accustomed to German beer festivals and German beer. It was after my last trip that I decided to pack my job in and become a full time writer. Dusseldorf can change a man.
One of the downsides to being a writer, in fact the only real major downside, is that you don’t get paid very much. With that in mind I have implemented a number of austerity measures, one of them being no trips abroad this year. I’ve seen a lot of the world over the years so it is a small price to pay to follow my dreams.
But Facebook has a habit of reminding you of how good life used to be and it’s around this time of year that Timehop starts filling in the blanks of what happened on my various trips to Deutschland. I began to reminisce about the good times I had and I was pining for it a little bit.
Then I got a message from a friend I hadn’t seen for years saying that she was thinking of visiting and did I know what Oktoberfest was like in Newcastle. I had no idea this thing existed but a quick Google search later and I was excited.
I got in touch with the lads I normally go to Germany with and they shared my excitement. It had a beer tent, real German Beer, traditional food (I’ll never be a fan), waitresses in traditional dress and a good old fashioned Oompah Band.
Much like Oz getting the old gang back together for series three of Auf Wiedershen Pet, you knew it wasn’t going to be as good as the original German trip but had to be worth giving it a go.
At this point I probably should apologise to my friend Marilyn who first put me onto this. It was only after we booked our tickets that I realised that I’d scuppered her plans to visit. Maybe another time.
There were a range of tickets on offer but despite my recent austerity measures we went for the most expensive VIP tickets. Amongst the many wonders on offer with the VIP tickets was access to the VIP toilets, just imagine how spectacular they would be. This was enough to sway our decision.
Arrangements were made and we decided to meet in Wetherspoons at 12.30 to watch the Sunderland v Arsenal match. As a Sunderland fan who has given up his season ticket this year, I wasn’t particularly keen on watching a match in Newcastle, especially with the form we are in so it was with a certain amount of relief that I arrived to find Wetherspoons weren’t showing the match. Nobody else seemed particularly bothered so we had a couple of quiet pints before heading off to the main event. We’d spotted a handful of people around town in their Leiderhosen. Fancy dress wasn’t for us but fair play to anyone entering into the spirit of the event.
It started at 2pm with the standard ticket holders having to be there by 4pm. As VIP guests we had until 8pm to arrive but we didn’t see the point of missing most of the day so we had a saunter round at about 2.30pm.
It was at this point that we realised that things were not quite as expected. There were two queues of roughly equal length and we were guided to the fast track VIP queue which didn’t appear to be moving any faster. A couple of people were turfed from the queue for not having the right tickets but it quickly emerged that the people checking couldn’t read. The couple in front of us stood their ground and insisted they had VIP tickets and even pointed to the letters on the ticket. They were reluctantly let through with the ticket checker mumbling ‘but it doesn’t normally say it there’.
We were shepherded in and five of us removed from the queue and told to stand to one side whilst one of the lads sorted out the business of beer tokens etc. A bouncer then told us that we had to move as we were in the way. It wasn’t worth explaining that we had been told to stand there and moved again. We were then led to our table in the cramped VIP area and given our ‘welcome snack’, a bag of nuts. One couple were given a traditional German snack, a bag of Doritos.
We’d also spotted the VIP toilets on the way in. This wasn’t going to be a luxurious gentleman’s water closet, it wasn’t even going to have a man trying to sell you a splash of Paco Rabanne for a quid. We knew we’d made a terrible mistake.
£48 got you three pints and a pork chop and the VIP toilets were two shit covered Portaloos that you literally had to climb over a table to get to. They’d clearly added one set of tables too many to cash in on the demand, leaving no space to get between the benches. Forcing people who had been drinking 5% beer all day to climb over other people to get to the toilet was a recipe for disaster.
As the day went on, it was impossible to get served and ladies (I’m being very generous with the use of ‘ladies’) of a certain vintage maybe shouldn’t wear a short dress and stand on a table. Once we’d seen their undercarriage, nobody was keen on eating the pickled cabbage put in front of us.
Newcastle Oktoberfest lightweights.
Worst of all were the once a year drinkers falling through tables and throwing food after being there just over an hour. If you don’t know how to drink, maybe a German beer festival, even Newcastle Oktoberfest, isn’t for you.
I can guarantee these part time pissheads will have been filled in by someone by the end of the day. The lads next to us told the manger that this is exactly what would happen if he didn’t allow them to move tables. He wouldn’t but we took matters into our own hands and shifted anyway. The other lads were then allowed to join us to prevent what was obviously going to be a violent situation.
Drunkenness is all part of a beer festival, being a twat isn’t. If you want to act like a dick, at least try to confine it to your own group. Nobody thinks you are funny, nobody finds you zany, you are just tedious.
Add in plastic glasses and our ‘dessert surprise’ being that there was no dessert, overall it was an utter shambles and nothing like a proper German beer festival.
We left early and decamped to The Town Wall for a civilised pint and it cemented our determination that somehow, we were off to Germany for the real thing next year.
Newcastle Oktoberfest wasn’t without merit. The bulk of the crowd seemed to be enjoying itself without incident (despite the fact they probably had to piss in a bucket), the band seemed just like a band you would see in Germany and the beer, whilst served in plastic glasses and costing £5 a pint was perfectly drinkable.
You may be surprised to find that we actually had a good day out despite the farce. The lads I was with were a good laugh; once we’d moved we got to talk to the lads next to us and they were great. We even had women from other tables saying they wished they’d made the move when we had as the idiots were spoiling their day.
There was a lot of potential for Newcastle Oktoberfest but penny pinching and the inability of management to know how to deal with people who get pissed at the sight of a stein ensured that we will never go back.
For next year maybe check out Stuttgart.
For general pub etiquette check out my guide.