Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Great British Beer Festival 2010

Last year I went to the Great British Beer Festival for the first time. This year, therefore, I made my way to Earls Court on Tuesday morning, thinking naïvely I knew my way about, only to have my self-assurance deflated by my inability to find the way out of the tube station. Oh well.

I didn't just use last year's picture of Earls Court
I always start with a pint of something weak. I had toyed with the idea of just drinking dark mild all afternoon, preferably something called XX. I change my mind after tossing down the treacley, farty Holts Mild. Not great, but to me it's exotic. On to something else. Braustelle Helios Kölsch. This is a brewery I've heard about repeatedly and I'd put their IPA and Alt on my tick list. Sadly, only the Kölsch was on and it's yeasty, spicy, kölschy, malty; decent but not great either.

Bernard nefiltrovaný ležák was next on my list. Lots of butter, which isn't as nice as it sounds; I do like a slight butteriness in my lager, but not this much. Bitterness noticeable in the finish, very malty indeed. My fingers are stuck to the glass.

Jeff Pickthall knows how to make a good first impression. When I met him at the Bieres San Frontieres bar he reached into his bag and gave me a bottle of beer. More people should do this. If you haven't met me before, take note. The beer was Croglin Vampire, while I shall review once I've drunk it.

The reason I was at the bar was that I was staring at the signs above the German beer bar, deciding which to have next, when it caught my eye that Beck-Bräu Affumicator was on. Immediately I have to go and get some. This is one I've wanted to try for over a year. Smokey ham, fresh-baked bread aromas, beautifully sweet, the bittering just right, perfect. The only problem is it's 9.5% and you can't drink it by the litre. A stunning beer and the best I had all day.

Time for one of the American beers. Lagunitas IPA to be exact. It's just a little flat and warm. Then again, perhaps it was the low condition that got it safely to Earls Court, where some other US beers sadly blew their shives en route. It has plenty of hop aroma, but it seems too sweet for my liking and not bitter enough. I go for an old favourite from Yorkshire to balance it out, Elland Beyond The Pale, and it's so much better — satisfyingly bitter, still sweetish, slightly sulphury.

Beck-Bräu’s Zoigl was also splendid. Grainy, husky, sweet. When I wrote these words down it rather irritated me, because the night before I'd been in a pub and tried Cotswold Lager, which was also grainy and sweet, but not in a nice way.

Another treacley dark mild found its way down my throat while chatting. Can't remember which one, and I didn't write it down because it's rude to cram out your scoops book while talking to someone.

Revelation Cat's dry-hopped lambic with Pacific Gem was one that people either loved or hated. To me it was like stomach acid. The hops mask the sourness until the beer is in your mouth, so it's a sudden shock, like when you wake up in the middle of the night and vomit. Almost everyone else I offered a sip to thought it was foul too, so when The Beer Nut said he liked it, I made him finish it. I don't want to rip on Revelation Cat, the beer was what it was intended to be … I just understand better now why brewers don't generally dry-hop their lambic.

About the complete opposite, gooey and unctuous rather than dry and sour, was Saltaire Triple Chocoholic, which does what it says on the tin. The chocolate flavour seemed a little artificial but it's a nice drop, if rather reminiscent of drinking Hershey syrup. Marble Manchester Bitter made a good foil to a reasonably decent chana masala with rice from one of the food vendors.

Finally, another old favourite, Keesmann Herren-Pils, wasn't really itself; it tasted mostly of sweetcorn. Pity because it's generally spectacular.

I'd cunningly arranged an evening appointment elsewhere, so I chose the perfect time to stop: Drunk enough to go to the bookstall and buy books, yet sober enough to navigate the Tube. And most importantly, not yet drunk enough to start buying pork scratchings.


  1. Elland brewery's Beyond The Pale is a lovely beer, I agree. It was my forst of the day and hard to beat.

  2. When I say "forst" I mean "first".....I haven't had any beer today, promise

  3. It was good to meet you though I don't agree about the Herren Pils. The mint beer will be tasted on Sat 21st Aug, when I next return to London, where it sits in my London fridge.

  4. And you. Perhaps my palate wasn't at its best after 12 other beers either. Certainly won't stop me drinking it again.

  5. Where is the next beer festival in Germany? ;)

  6. I believe there is one in Munich at the end of September, but they only have eight beers on …

  7. You missed out on the pork scratchings, they were yum!!

  8. Got to say I agree with you about the Rev Cat beer. All of the US beers suffered through being casked if you ask me ... not cold enough and too flat. Might that be why the IPA came over as too sweet?

    No Pork Scratchings? They were awesome!