Keeping it real … Real Ale
Its Thursday evening, it’s chucking it down with rain and thunder echoes through the streets of London. It’s an end to a pretty shitty week at work and to be honest I’m feeling a bit down. Then a tweet pops up on my phone and reminds me that in one more sleep all my problems will be forgotten. That tweet is from @LCBFestival and it was informing people on what beers could be found at the festival. Instantly I’m feeling better. I was gutted I didn’t go last year and seeing all the tweets/blogs/pictures left me feeling jealous, so when the opportunity came about for this year I jumped at it!
By the time it was the morning of the festival I had the feeling like a kid at Christmas! The excitement brewed as I checked twitter on the train up to London and I saw a number of tweets from other people heading over to Oval Space for the afternoons festivities. Cue more rain! It belted it down but I didn’t let this dampen my mood…
Getting in couldn’t be smoother, I joined a queue of early birds eager to get in and have a beer at midday. As soon as the clock hit 12 the queue disappeared, the organisation was brilliant. After being checked in and collecting your festival booklet and glass you had to walk up some stairs, bypassing the huge old gas holders of Bethnal Green (while of course taking an obligatory photo of said gas holders). At the top of the stairs you walked into the festival. A huge room with all the breweries circling the edge of the building, centre stage there was a DJ station all set up for the weekends music (gutted I wasn’t here for the DJ Yoda set!), along with some chairs and old sofas. Like many festivals you can’t help but be overwhelmed and feel like a kid in a sweet shop deciding which beer to have first!
London Craft Beer Festival works on an all inclusive drinks set up, you pay your entrance fee and then after that you are free to walk up to the brewers chat and get your sample of beer. I like this format, it gives you a chance to try as many different beers as possible within the opening times and you don’t have to worry about money or change. I think the price is more than fair for this format too.
The selection is top shelf, not only will you find the big craft beer names like Beavertown, Camden Town Brewery, Brew by Numbers, Magic Rock, Weird Beard, Wild Beer Co but also there were breweries new to me like Sori Brewing from Estonia, Stone Wood from Australia and Edge Brewing from Barcelona.
Straight away I bumped into Dan and Casey from Ales by Mail and started chatting as I order my first beer of the day, a Saison from Norwegian brewery Lervig.
Strategy is key at these events, so many big strong 10%+ beers were calling my name but knowing I had 5 hours in total I forced myself to take it steady and at least hold out to the final two hours before hitting the big boys, thus shortening the period of time available to make a tit of myself! Wild Beer Co – Bibble, Magic Rock – Salty Kiss, Brew by Numbers – Pale Ale Mosaic are soon checked in on my untappd account. Then the incredible Siren – Half Mast, a tiny 2.8% QIPA which packs a punch way above its weight category! In a day where so many big beers stood out this beer sticks in my memory proving what a great beer it is.
I stopped off at Signature Brew and spoke to Sam who I had met for the first time a week before at their brewery tap room opening. Sam is a top bloke and I really recommend people checking out their tap room in Leyton when they have an open day. I tried their Vienna Lager the previous week fresh from the brewery and I loved it. Lager is not usually high up on my wish list but after trying Signature Brews Vienna Lager for the second time I can honestly say it’s one of my favourite lagers that I’ve had in a long time.
The room was surrounded by beery faces I recognised from twitter and I soon bumped into Rach from one of my favourite blogs “Look At Brew” (@lookatbrew www.lookatbrew.wordpress.com). Beers continue to Brewdog – Electric India and Weird Beard – Duke of Dank, a collaboration beer with beer writer Matt Curtis showcasing that his beer skills don’t stop at writing but extend to brewing too.
The group increased as fellow SX Bottleshare companion Justin Mason (@1970sBOY Get Beer. Drink Beer.) joined us and took us down to the other room of beers, The Pickle Factory. I hadn’t even realised that there were other breweries lined up next to the bbq and Beer Merchants stand. We started with both the beers from Stone Wood, which would have been perfect for a hot summers day. Familiar faces from Oakham was next to Stone Wood with their excellent Green Devil IPA.
It was here where I tried Sori Brewing – Madonna of Sori, and their other beer Dark Humor Club Coconut. Both their beers were up there with the best beers I had all day! Next to them was Alpha State, not sure where I’ve been but I’ve never heard of these guys before but I loved their art work. Their DIPA was really good, as was their Orange Zest Farmhouse IPA, so I’m going to keep an eye out for more of their beers. It was here that Justin brought together two countries in one of the moments of the day… During a discussion on blending beers Justin suggested that Sori Brewing – Madonna of Sori should be blended with Alpha State – Orange Zest Farmhouse IPA, creating Alpha State x Sori Brewing – Farmhouse Madonna. It worked so well together that the two breweries instantly made it a new beer option and advertised it! A collaboration in the near feature maybe?
It was time to go back up to the main room and tuck into some of those stronger beers I had put off at the start, Magic Rock – Bearded Lady Grand Marnier Barrel Ages and Weird Beard – Defacer were both brilliant and worth the wait to hit the big ABV’s. Weird Beard – Defacer was super tasty and did what it said on the tin, I was starting to feel the afternoons drinking creeping in! Untappd check-ins get a little less frequent around this point and I can’t remember what Brew by Numbers beer it was that Chris Hall was pouring from the jug but it was good. It was nearly home time and it’s safe to say I was feeling rather merry. Stone Brewing Co – Saison and Founders Brewing Co – Backwoods Bastard finished off the afternoon.
The lights pinged on and it was time to leave, unfortunately I didn’t get to try a few beers I had wanted to. However, looking back there wasn’t a bad beer drank.
Walking to Mother Kellys after I was buzzing, the excitement of the event and quality of beers left me excited for next year already. After a swift drink in Mother Kellys I made my way home, sprinting to catch my train. As I sat among a packed train of commuters (looking at me slightly strangely and questioning my lack of soberness at 6pm) I reflected back on the day. The London Craft Beer Festival is only a few years old and already, thanks to the brilliant organisation getting into the event and quality of the whole day, it’s up there with the one of the best beer festivals I’ve been to.
*Photo credit to Casey & Justin (possibly Rach I can’t remember!) on the two photos with me featuring in them!