Another anniversary this year is the 400th of the start of the New River – now better known as Hobson’s Conduit – built to bring clean water into the city from chalk springs near Great Shelford. This exists in the city to this day, most visibly as the water flowing down Trumpington Street between Spring and Autumn. Thomas Hobson is perhaps better known for his policy on horse availability at the livery stable he ran in Cambridge. To prevent his customers from always choosing the best horse in his stable, Hobson gave them the choice of whichever horse was at the front of the line or no horse at all, and this policy lives on in the modern expression, Hobson’s Choice.

It’s far from Hobson’s Choice at the bar: as well as some 200 ales from around Britain, the Festival has one of the largest ranges of ciders & perries available under one roof. CAMRA's Regional Cider Coordinator for East Anglia (and Cambridge's cider bar manager), Chris Rouse, said, “We'll have ciders from several new producers as well as more East Anglian perry than ever before!”

As always, the festival’s foreign bar will have a large range of bottled and draft beers from around the world available. With the opinion-dividing (Ed: see recent articles) spontaneously fermented lambic beers of Belgium to the massively hopped IPAs from the adventurous and exciting North American microbreweries, there’s usually something new to try. The knowledgeable volunteers will be happy to guide you through the range.

We don’t just provide beers and ciders at the festival, with English wines and mead available too. Cambridge’s local vineyard, Chilford Hall, has been selling its wines at the festival for some years, and the recently introduced mead bar has proved very popular.

Almost as famous as the Festival itself is the CAMRA-run cheese counter, stocking a wide range of British cheeses. The festival sells the best part of a ton of cheese during the week, from traditional cheddars to some rather more unusual styles. To go with your cheese, there are locally made breads, pork pies, cold meats and more. If cheese isn’t your thing, the food stalls outside should cater for you – hog roast, curry, vegetarian and more.

Saturday sees many families coming to the festival. There’s plenty of grass to sit on, and if you’re the one responsible for driving everyone home free soft drinks are available all week.

The festival itself is open for one week, but the volunteers who organize and staff it spend many weeks planning and building the festival before hand, and another week afterwards taking everything down. We always need volunteers in all areas of the festival – working on the bar, looking after the beer or the site and many other jobs to keep things running smoothly. So, if you’d like to join us, whether it’s for a few hours or the whole festival, email staffing@cambridgebeerfestival.com, fill in the form online at www.cambridgebeerfestival.com or call and leave a message on 01223 967808.

A plug also for our CAMRA colleagues in Ely who are holding their summer festival on 14/15 May at the Ely City football ground. There will be around 50 real ales plus foreign beers and ciders.