We'll Meat Again - A Brief History of Sausage Throwing
Imagine the scene in the New Bell in Harwich when our Publicity Officer walked into a beer festival meeting and found the Harwich Winter Ale Festival organising committee talking seriously about throwing sausages. The year was 2011 and although no minutes would back this up - the subject had been discussed before.
The difference in 2011 is that following a few pints of Green Jack Trawlerboys Best Bitter the subject was being taken very seriously indeed and had reached critical mass around a festival that involved a sausage throwing competition and a public taste-off based on the fine wares of Tendring sausage producers. The enthusiasm sprang as much from the Trawlerboys (thereafter named "Harwich Thinking Juice") as from the realisation that the beer-lovers of the Harwich contingent of Tendring CAMRA knew almost as much about sausages as they did about real ale.
So - the scene was set. The Harwich Sausage Festival would take place in November as a precursor to the beer festival and aim to get as many people into Harwich pubs tasting sausages and drinking real ale and cider as possible. The fact that traditional butchers were under almost as much pressure from social and economic change as pubs and the fact that quality sausages paired really well with quality real ale or cider wasn't lost on the Tendring CAMRA members as they planned the festival.
As it turned out it was fairly easy to recruit nine Tendring butchers to back our idea. Each butcher contributed 2kg of their chosen sausage and we distributed them around 3 selected Harwich real ale pubs - making sure the sausages were anonymous but we knew which-was-which. The sausages would all be cooked off on the day and presented to the public labelled with letters from A to I.
The sausage throwing part was less well-defined. Just how far could you throw a sausage and just where could such an event be held? The second question was answered quickly by Tendring District Council who wanted to make it easier for community groups to use council land and it just so happened some green space in Harwich next to the church and one of our pubs fitted the bill perfectly. The first question was investigated by our intrepid sausage subcommittee who tried chucking a sausage to see how far it went - experimental physicists please take note.
On the day the event unfolded perfectly. One of our aspirations was that the event should not be too heavily organised and become a burden for the businesses or groups involved and this worked well - giving the festival a quirky, community feel. That said the quality of the sausages and the sheer delight of walking around three excellent pubs to taste them made a day to remember and by the time the winner was announced just after 3pm everyone had big smiles on their faces.
In the following years the festival has expanded slightly to feature more butchers and more sausages but the core remains just as it was originally planned in 2011 with quality food and drink at the centre of a fun day out.
By Richard Oxborrow
Photos courtesy of Maria Fowler