Judging by my frosty reception at the Pig’s Ear Festival, the East London & City branch of CAMRA is quite used to having people attempting to gatecrash their events claiming to be journalists. Without any press accreditation, or an appointment through their press office, I may as well have been wearing a big sign saying “I am a dastardly beer weasel, willing to try any devious method of subterfuge to avoid paying the 3£ entrance fee to get into your Real Ale Festival.”

Instead, I was there legitimately, if a little last minute, to write a review for Hackney Hive.

The organisers, suspicious of my intentions, were begrudgingly cooperative, answering some of my questions, and permitting me to breathe the rarefied air of The Round Chapel on Powerscroft Road for ten or so minutes.

Despite my misgivings at being treated so disparagingly, it’s hard to stay mad at CAMRA, a volunteer-led organization devoted to “champion[ing] drinkers’ rights and protect[ing] local pubs as centres of community life.”

And the Pig’s Ear Beer & Cider Festival (so named for Cockney rhyming slang for a bottle of beer) was well worth my journey up the street to The Round Chapel. The church hall was rammed full of casks and bottles (some imported from as far away as Australia and Sri Lanka). The focus was a wide array of dark winter beers, though with such a carefully curated range there was surely a beer that to suit your unique tastes, even though you would likely have had to sample a whole lot to find your match. Indeed the diverse crowd of beer enthusiasts seemed well-absorbed in their quest.

In addition to the beers, ciders and selection of curries to soak up the booze, there was novelty drinking t-shirts, flasks and collectible mugs to check that raging beer enthusiast off your Christmas list.

And doing your browsing with a pint in hand is a way better way to get your shopping done than the faux-holiday madness of Oxford Circus.

Too bad for you the Festival finished last night. Good news for you, the Chatsworth Road Sunday Market is on tomorrow. That’s where I’ll be.