Ah Palace and beer. Is there any greater combination? As the first ever Beer Festival at Selhurst Park on Saturday looms, FYP catches up with Eagles co-owner and ale and wine expert Steve Browett - a man who knows his claret from his beaujolais - and he tells us why he is looking forward to the event.
Steve, we'll be honest, aside from editor JD who is more partial to an appletini, the FYP team loves themselves a beer, especially on a matchday. We're guessing as a wine and beer connoisseur you're the same?
I've always enjoyed a good pint. Part of going to football for me is getting together with my mates, I've been going to Palace with the same four friends since the mid 80s and part of our ritual was always having a good pint before the game. I don't think I've ever been to a football match - and I have been to a lot of football matches - without having had a pint. You just have to have a pint before a game, it's the rules.
Some would say sambuca should also be a part of that ritual. And when I say some, I mean Andy Street. But thankfully he's alone in that, so instead we now have a real ale at Selhurst. How did that come about?
When we took the club over I was absolutely adamant we had to have at least one proper beer in the ground, because I've been to virtually every club in the league and never had a decent pint in the football ground. So I thought it would be fantastic to have a real ale in the stadium. Partly because I wanted a pint, but also because I hope it shows that we care about the little things. After Youngs closed about five years ago there wasn't a brewery in south London and that's a bit like there being no football team in south London - it's not right. It coincided that a guy called Duncan Sambrooks had started up this brewery in south London and he called the beer Wandle; the river Wandle actually rises out of the ground in Croydon and it flows through a lot of Palace areas until it goes out into the Thames at Wandsworth. To have a beer that is named after something in south London and is brewed in south London; I just thought it was a fantastic thing.
Certainly is, we're into a bit of south London love. So, how are plans for the beer festival coming along?
We've sold 1,100 tickets so that shows that people are interested. It's very exciting, it's going to be a real success I think. We get Neil Morrissey along to a few matches, he's quite a regular and he owns a small brewery so he said he'd brew a beer especially for us. It's called Palace Blond, we tried it last week and it's fantastic, a really good beer - a very light blonde colour, looks like a lager, and it's got a lot of hops in it. It's quite dry and bitter with a lot of aroma and flavour in it. A bit like Palace - lots of flavour, lots of character.
That's why we love them! Hopefully it'll prove a hit on Saturday.
We've got eight barrels of it for the festival so I'm hoping everyone that comes will want to try it. Whether we'll stick with it for next season we'll see. With Sambrooks we can ring them up before a game and order as much as we need which helps, but the big problem with real ale is if you can't sell it you have to throw it away. There is at least six pints for every person attending the beer festival, with a bit of luck we judged it about right.
That's about five pints too many for JD, but sounds absolutely spot on for the average Palace fan. We're looking forward to trying Morrissey's ale. Time for some quick fire. Firstly; favourite ale ever?
I'd say my favourite brewery is Oakham in Peterborough. They use a lot of American hops which gives the beer a very citric, grapefruit flavour and their beers are very fresh and crisp. It's kind of blonde coloured; I don't like particularly malty, brown, thick ones, I like a beer with a sort of freshness with it.
So you'll be rooting for the Posh in the League One play-offs then?
Yeah! I'm hoping they get promoted because the pubs there are really good. I was also very disappointed Sheffield United went down because there are great pubs in Sheffield.
Reckon Dougie will take the team on a pre-season tour of Belgium or somewhere else as famous for good brews if you can twist his arm?
Sadly not, I don't think Dougie wants to build pre-season around pubs actually, he's not that interested.
Can he brew it? Yes he can!
Shame. What about wine. You own Farr Vinters, so what's your favourite ever grape?
That would be Bordeaux; the most classic balanced wine in the world. It's rich but it's dry. A great wine is all about balance really and a Bordeaux has got the richness but it's got the structure.
Sounds like the Crystal Palace itself! Ok, favourite pub near Selhurst?
The Grape & Grain on Anerley Hill - the guy who runs that is a real beer expert and always had a very good choice in there. It's probably my favourite pub in the whole of south London, not just around Palace.
We'll be sure to check it out. What about your favourite watering whole ever?
This is another bloody disaster but it's in Norwich, who obviously got promoted. There is a fantastic pub called the Fat Cat that normally has about 30 different real ales from independent breweries on tap at one time. The landlord's brother runs another Fat Cat in Ipswich so we'll be going there next season.
We'll see you there sir. Finally, which beer and which wine is most like Palace, and why?
For the beer it's got to be an independent one, not a big brand. Manchester United are Carling Black Label or Carlsberg. They and Chelsea are mass produces lagers. They're made in factories; Crystal Palace is an independently brewed beer made by people who love the product. It's made by brewers in a real brewery; that's what Crystal Palace is. So I would say Palace is a beer like Fullers. It's from London, it's independent. It's London Pride!
Certainly is. And the wine?
Well we're definitely a red wine, and young red wine does have a tinge of blue in the colour as well. We are classy and sophisticated but we are unpretentious, so we are not new world and we are not a first growth. We are a good cru bourgeois, as they say in Bordeaux. We are a well balanced Bordeaux.
The Palace Beer Festival takes place this Saturday (the 14th of May) in the Red and Blue bar at Selhurst Park, from midday until 9pm. There will be lots of real ales and fans will be able to take their beers into the Upper Holmesdale seats and watch the FA Cup final on the jumbotron. Tickets are available from the box office on 08712 00 00 71 or click here to book online.