I can’t resist a beer festival. Living near London means that throughout the year I have a good selection of them. The big one is the Great British Beer Festival in August, then there’s the Pigs Ear in December, Battersea in February and the London Drinker in March, plus a number of smaller ones taking place in pubs.
This week I went to a meet the brewer event for the Wetherspoon’s International Real Ale Festival which starts in April. Say what you want about Wetherspoons, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives and I am particularly excited about this year’s selection of 50 beers. We will see Goose Island’s Honkers Ale, Maui Brewing’s CoCoNut Porter (a 5% version), Zulu Blonde from Zululand Brewing and Val-Dieu Abbaye Blonde. There are also many ‘Spoons specials and there will be a lot of American hops present in the beers. It should be good one.
After this I went to the London Drinker Beer and Cider Festival where I met up with my mate Matt. The festival is in the Camden Centre in the shadow of the hauntingly beautiful Kings Cross Station. This is always a busy event and while the centre is good for a festival (high ceilings, square hall, side bar), perhaps they have outgrown themselves… Anyway, it’s all about the beer. In the main hall is the UK stuff and then to the side there is a very decent selection of European bottles and draught.
I started on the British cask beer, as I promised myself I would. Crouch Vale Amarillo, a 5% pale ale full of gorgeous Amarillo, was fruity and light and absolutely delicious. We had some Thornbridge Jaipur, of course (it’s impossible to resist), then the new Fuller’s special, Bengal Lancer, an IPA with that typical Fuller’s spicy marmalade with a top note of lemons and fresh jam and a kick of pepper. Between us, the rest of the evening included, in alphabetical order: An okay half of Acorn Motueka IPA; a lemony Art Brew Hip Hop Bobek; Brodies Special which was a very nice, dry-finishing bitter which actually was bitter (as opposed to those sorry boring brown beers); Brodies Amarilla had lots of fruity hop flavour wasn’t quite as good as the wonderful Crouch Vale; Cheddar Goats Leap, a decent IPA with a nice biting hop finish; Cliff Quay Black Jack Porter which smelt and tasted exactly like black jack chewy sweets and that’s not a good thing; Gales Prize Old Ale, which Matt declared the best beer of the night, was big and fruity, complex but not complicated and with that teasing hint of sour cherry beneath; Denton’s Glory from Hornbeam was a very nice pale ale with a super-dry finish and a good find for the night; Naylors Magnum was a tasty drop, fruity and with a nice bready sweetness; and, Redemption’s Urban Dusk was an interesting dark amber colour with a huge coffee nose and a light body, interesting and intriguing and great to try something from this new London brewery. We also had a couple from the bottle bar too, just to finish us off. Hanssens Oudbeitje and something from De Molen, I don’t remember what but it was a fantastic stout.
London Drinker is a very good festival, although perhaps over-busy which detracts somewhat (squeezing through a packed hall of men to get a half is not particularly fun). The good thing about this festival, for me, was drinking some new beers from London – Brodies, Fuller’s and Redemption, plus choices from Sambrook’s and Twickenham. With a few new breweries on the way, and some new or improved pubs, things are looking good in London right now.
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