Thursday, August 25, 2016

The Great British Beer Festival 2016

If you have followed us in the past, you know that we are beer festival whores.  Our travels are based on, or around, attending beer festivals around the globe, but the Great British Beer Festival is one that we have managed to miss, until now.

The event is staged at the Olympia Event Center in west London, conveniently located on a tube line so that you can stagger out the door and right onto a set a rails, becoming a magnificent red smear for all of London to admire.  Or, perhaps you would have been one of the people lucky enough to actually find the train in your drunken fog, and then proceed to offend sober people from around the world while missing your stop and ending up in East Lostingham.  I'm not saying that this did happen, but it could have happened.

CAMRA (CAMpagn for Real Ale) the sponsor of the event, prides itself on supporting traditionally crafted ales.  All of the ales are hand pumped from barrels located directly behind the servers, but don't expect cold beers, they are all served at the proper temperature (about 55 degrees) for a proper ale.  The event is run quite differently from events here in the states in that you pay a small admission fee, buy the glass, then purchase all of the beers from 'bars' located within the venue.  There were several bars in the venue and seemed to be sponsored or provided by pubs located in and around London.  We much preferred this method because those attending the festival did not seem to feel the need to 'get their money's worth' of beer by power drinking all of the beer that they could shove in their face, then immediately spackle it on the sidewalk outside the venue.  Instead, you purchased a pint, a half pint, or a third pint at a normal retail prices and then took out beers to a table and chatted with the locals while enjoying our find.  By doing this, we didn't drink 116 tiny glasses of beer, 2 oz. at a time, we just bought the styles that we enjoyed.  We also didn't have to dodge nearly as many staggering idiots here as we do in festivals in the States.  The 'bar' layout was odd in the beers that each bar served was alphabetical, rather than by region or style, which would have been preferrable.  One bar specifically featured American beers only and sold out the first night, but we did see the list of beers offered and were a bit surprised that some of them sold at all as that they were quite common and not known for having much in the way of flavor.

We were also quite surprised that the British beer tastes have changed somewhat and a few of the styles that we were specifically trying to find were not available at all or were only available in a few locations.  The venerable brown ale has fallen completely out of favor and we were unable to find a single brewer producing the style.  Stouts were few and far between and we only found 2 instances of Porters.  Bitters were still fairly common, but we were told not nearly as much as in the past, and Milds were few and far between.  Lagers, pilsners and IPA's were by far the most represented at the show.  Sours also have not caught on and we found only one brewery created them.  Overall we found the selection to be quite limited and really rather boring.

I won't bore you (if I haven't already) with tasting notes of the beers we sampled, that will be your quest in the future.  The civility of the other patrons and the calm, low pressure atmosphere makes this an event to schedule in your travels.  You may even find a few true British loonies to brighten your day.  See you at the next festival, cheers, Bon.

The next Great British Beer Festival 2017 is 8 - 12 August, 2017