The Great British Beer Festival. CAMRA’S showpiece of the year returned once again to the Kensington Olympia in London.
This was my third visit in a row and on this occasion I decided to do something slightly different. I decided to initially try and focus on the beers from the Midland’s breweries, all in the name of research for blogging of course.
Before heading off, I had already done what I found out most beer nerds had done and decided in advance what beers I wanted to try and where to get them. Sound strategy if you don’t want to risk missing out on certain beers.
Upon entry my ticket was scanned on my phone but when I tried to get my tickets scanned for the complimentary glass and guide, no one appeared to know what to do. Although paid for, I could’ve tried to take advantage of this as your money was returned to you upon returning of a glass. I could’ve made a couple of quid back here by obtaining several glasses and returning them but alas I am sensible and sorted it out.
There was a decent selection of the greater Midlands based breweries on show such as Church Farm, Swan, Wye Valley, Lenton Lane, Slater’s, Sadler’s and Fownes just to name a few. And it was with a beer from the latter that I began my festival, a rather pleasant tasting of The Elephant Riders. A 4.0% pale ale with juicy grapefruit overtones and a nice lingering bitterness. I followed this up with some tasty golden/pale ales from some of the aforementioned breweries until eventually, I had a delicious mild. The mild in question Phoenix Mild was from Derbyshire based brewery Lenton Lane that personally, I had not heard of before. A light mild with an overwhelming flavor of cherry, rich, and luscious and reminded m of cherry cough sweets. A delicious beer indeed.
Many of the bars were individually named as well as numbered. The names derived from varying pubs across the country that the volunteers were allowed to decide on. The Roscoe Head bar I spent a lot of time as as it had a good representation of Midlands based breweries.
Some slight criticism I guess was the rotation of some beers. Now it was good to see that some breweries had brought with them more than one beer and I guess this gives the consumer some choice. However, there were quite a few including myself wanting to try certain beers and across the days I was there, some of these beers weren’t to be seen. Sad to say I didn’t get chance to try some beers including ‘The Mechanic’ from Errant brewery or ‘Dark Raven’ from Beowulf as these weren’t on whilst I was there, nevertheless they did have other beers from these breweries.
For those that have visited the GBBF before they already know what they are getting. And even though this was my third visit, the festival did throw up a couple of surprises for me. One in particular was from the Budvar bar. I was rather surprised to see a bar renowned for producing lager given such a prominent position right in the middle of the festival. Their brew master was present pouring Rezane, a combination of their dark and original lager. For me though, amazingly one of my favourite beers was their Krausened, a double fermented lager. Their big promotion was their Tankove Pivo, tank beer straight from the brewery to the venue in a matter of days which proved very popular. For those that do enjoy Budvar, thankfully the Lord Clifden pub in Hockley currently has a range of Budvar on all of the time as well as The Head Of Steam in Birmingham City Centre, who also sell Budvar original.
However, it wasn’t only Czech lager that I enjoyed. Whilst checking out the rest of Europe and other seemingly other lager bars, I thankfully stumbled across an amazing beer from another Czech brewery that everyone seemed to be enjoying. The brewery? Rodinny Pivovar Zichovec. The beer? Sour 12 Passionfruit & Guava. It soon sold out so I am glad I got to try it before it did. This was unlike any other sour beer that I had ever had. A nicely tart beer with some acidity to it but the fruitiness from it simple tasted like fruit juice without any hint of alcoholic content whatsoever. Having looked into them a bit, they seem to do quite a range of beer styles and it would be great if one of the many great bars in Birmingham could them for a tap takeover??? Please Please!!!
Other highlights of the festival included finding Cantillon Gueze, Cantillon Kriek and Giradin unblended lambik not in a bottle and actually on tap. A rarity in the UK? I had to question, did I suddenly walk into a different beer festival?
Another bar that was getting a lot of attention was the Thornbridge bar and quite rightly so. The Derbyshire based brewery had some amazing beer on show and it was only fitting to try as many as possible.
The Florida weisse with its rich raspberry flavour and slight salty tartness was amazing. But what was really flying was the Lucaria range. I first had the strawberry Lucaria. A delicious porter with a strong chocolate and strawberry flavour. I followed this up with the ice cream porter which was equally as rich in chocolate and vanilla. All three beers were simply a pudding in a glass and to a background of classic pop and rock coming from the neighboring St Austell bar.
Finally, there was plenty of food available throughout the festival. Sausage rolls to pulled pork and chips. I even managed a couple of pickled eggs, always nice with a beer.
As well as beers from the Midlands I obviously managed to try a lot of others besides the ones mentioned. However, its always great to see local representation and hopefully next year there many be more. Judging by the improvements I witnessed with GBBF this year and some surprise elements, this beer festival can only get better. Who knows, we may even see it return to the Midlands one day as it used to be?