Great British Beer Festival

Published on 7 August 2005 in , , ,

It’s been a busy weekend so please do excuse the fact that it’s taken me until Sunday to blog about Friday…

It’s taken me five years but I’ve finally done it – this year I finally made it to the Great British Beer Festival. For one reason or other, in all my time in London I’ve just never made it there until this year.

With this in mind, myself and Catherine decided to do it in style and turned up there around 1:15 on Friday, and didn’t leave until around 10:15 that evening.

Pint Supping

Yes that is a rather long time, and having a pretty bad tolerance for alcohol, could easily have made me very drunk had we not paced ourselves well – indeed very well. In those nine hours, I had just twelve beers – and was drinking halves all the way through.

After picking up our glasses, we headed straight for the North West Bar for a taste of home – me picking up a very bitter and malty, yet very drinkable beer called Gun Park Dark from Wentworths, before we took a tour.

Badger Brewery's thatched bar

Badger Brewery’s thatched bar – spot the thatched badger on the roof!

With 31 bars and hundreds of beers, there was of course too much to choose. Several of the brewery bars got ruled out early on. Had I come in from far afield, some of the brewery bars would have been likely to get my custom, but when you live in London, there’s plenty of good pubs to drink Fullers, Badger, Youngs, Shepherd Neame and Adnams ales.

A perfect head

Before you say anything, the lovely large head is allowed as it’s a lined glass!

That said, one bar I did pop along to was the Theakston brewery bar. I used to drink a lot of Theakstons XB when I was a student, and have always been a big fan of their ales which sadly don’t turn up very often in London. I was tempted by trying their Mild which I’ve never tried, and boy was I not disappointed. It went down very well, and was one of my faves of the festival. So good was it, Catherine got one herself later!

That said not many beers stood out in my mind – I did seem to end up with lots of very hoppy/strawy golden ales, and lots of dark milds – the former getting a bit samey, whilst the latter were generally the more interesting. St. Austell’s Dark Prince (very nice dark beer) and the utterly fantastic Beartown Black Bear (a wonderfully tasty dark mild) did hit the right note

The biggest surprise however came in the form of Cain’s Cask Lager. The publicity material proclaims boldly that few people know how good lager can be. And boy, are they right!

Pork and Stuffing Pie

An utterly fantastic pie

No beer festival would be complete without food to keep the stomach lined, and top marks went to the Crusty Pie Company’s pork and stuffing pie – absolutely fantastic. Their pork scratchings went down a treat at the end of the day too.

Top beer of the festival probably goes to Beartown’s Black Bear which just hit the spot. The Theakston Mild was snapping at the heals and wasn’t far off.

Final pint of the day went to Theakstons XB – I relented and did try something I’ve had many times before. You can’t get XB in London easily, so it had to be done. I suspect though by that point, I was beered out at 10pm, so didn’t enjoy it as much as I should.

And with all that said, one final word goes to Charles Wells. Not content with having a bus there, I spotted this advert of a Rich Tea being dunked in a pint.

Bombardier Advert

Well it amused me. Unfortunately it was positioned in the entrance to the Gents loos, which not only a bit of an awkward place to try and get a picture, but rather an embarrassing place to be whipping out the old Kodak!

You can see more photos from the festival, should you desire.

The Beers

If you’re not interested, look away now, but here’s the list of beers we samped, complete with the bar we got them from. Let’s start with the ones I had:

Andrew’s beers
Brewery Beer Bar bought at
Beartown Black Bear Midlands West
Cains Finest Cask Lager Cain’s brewery
Cannon Royall Fruiterer’s Mild Midlands West
Kelburn Goldihops Scotland
Mighty Oak Oscar Wilde Mild South East
Rudgate Alf’s IPA North East
St Austell Black Prince Family Brewers
Storm Bosley Cloud Midlands West
Theakston Mild Theakston brewery
Theakston XB Theakston brewery
Tindall Norfolk ‘n’ Good East Coast
Catherine’s Beers
Brewery Beer Bar bought at
Atlas Latitude Scotland
Cains Fine Raisin Beer Cains Brewery
Cropton Balmy Mild North East
Goose Eye Barmpot North West
Teme Valley This Midlands West
Theakston Mild Theakston brewery
Vale Black Swan Dark Mild South East
Wells Banana Bread Beer Wells brewery
Wood Quaff Midlands West

In case you’re wondering, the reason for the large number of purchases from the Midlands West bar was because as the day progressed, we had less and less energy to go wandering round the giant halls! We had a good spot near the Midlands West bar and man did we use it!