Friday just gone was my first ever experience of the Great British Beer Festival or GBBF as it’s widely quoted, it was a good experience but not really in the way I expected.
For starters I only sampled two Great British beers at the festival itself, not my intention I have to say, as I love British beer in all it’s various guises, it just turned out that way. That may have been down to the bar layout at Earls Court, or perhaps the incredibly tiny beer list in the festival programme (or so it seemed in the dim light on the day) most likely is that it “just happened”.
The seeds were sown at the Euston Tap, with a British breweries take on a foreign style, Bristol Beer Factory’s Saison, light, lemony and fresh as a daisy, on a thick humid day it was a perfect introduction to London a drinking weekend.
On to Earls Court where after a brief look around the cavernous interior I headed straight for the Thornbridge bar for a glass of their Raven black IPA, a beer I’d wanted to taste for a good while, a fine example of everything Thornbridge and a good thinking beer to plan where to start or find my feet!!
We had a good old mooch about the place, through the various bars, food stands and pub game displays. Seats were at a premium being held only by the early arriving Usain Bolt sprinters, clinging on to their prize and doing shuttle runs from bar to bar, giving up on that we took refuge at the Belgian section where I was disappointed to see that the beer I had selected as a must have “Hofbrouwerijke Hofblues” had disappeared from the menu…
Boo Hiss and all that, then a Bink Blonde to think again.. We’d passed the Fullers bar on the way, where the Brewers Reserve was due so it back to British again. Not a beer I’d tried before it’s Oak aged in Whisky casks and was beautiful beer. I’m not familiar with the whisky Auchentoshan, although I had heard of it before, but to describe the beer it tastes like a whisky, aged in sherry casks suspended in a lovely cockle warming ale. I need more of this..
That though was the last of British beer for me, we spent a good couple of hours at the Czech bar which was a revelation, the Pivonar Broumov Pepper was fantastic, massive sneezeworthy pepper on the nose, light and lemony taste with a dusting of pepper on the finish. Other class beers were the Ginger and much repeated by my Mrs Pivonar Kocour Visnovy Lezak, dark, murky and oozing cherries.
Other highlights, well the American bar was brilliant I sampled a few there (a few too many), but the La Cumbre (New Mexico) Vanilla Bean Mal Pais Stout was absolutely stunning. My last festival beer being another, it was from De Molen Brouwerij, Esra Reserva. Dark, warming almost liqueur like, with a wood fire smoky backbone. One for the ageing pot if I can source a bottle or two.
We left at around six, next stop Rakebar in Borough Market after topping up with an essential food stop, it was here though where the real fun started. Don’t get me wrong GBBF was great, a beer lovers paradise even, but as it was Friday it was packed, hot noisy and a little impersonal. We were constantly either on the move or slumped on the cool concrete floor in a quiet corner trying to rest our weary feet and so rarely met anyone never mind converse.
I saw the Rake in a new light that night, the Borough Market was buzzing and the Rake was no different, we met James and Andy from Summer Wine Brewery fresh (well perhaps fresh wasn’t the word) from their fantastic sounding IPA Day evening event at Dean Swift. James, the brewer from Sandstone was also in attendance, as was the ever present hardened beer traveller 6TownsMart, we were even joined by family and friends from London. We chatted and drank, laughed and drank, then chatted and drank some more.
To be honest I can’t remember what I was drinking in the Rake, I remember trying Otley Brewery‘s Motley Brew, amongst others, I know that they were good enjoyable beers, but more importantly they were beers in great company which made all the difference…
Last stop was The Dean Swift, scene of SWB’s previous evenings IPA and fine food pairing event (Saturday Kitchen take note), another superb beer venue which has a great chef and beers to match, my final two beers of the day being Magic Rock Curious and Kernel Brewery‘s Black IPA.
Two of my favourite British beers, in a great British bar, enjoying great British banter with Great British people, oh and not forgetting Tomas Danko, he’s Swedish you know..