This week London hosts The Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) and I plan on attending this Friday. I have been attending the GBBF since 1991, sometimes a crowd of us go, sometimes just a handful. The jungle drums beat out which train we’ll be catching into London, and we take it from there.
The GBBF is now celebrating its 31st year, and from humble beginnings it is now a major event hosted at London’s Earls Court exhibition centre. Over 66,000 people attended the 2007 festival consuming some 350,000 pints of beer (that’s British pints too). This year’s festival boasts over 450 different British beers and over 200 foreign beers and lagers. I think that, for the duration of the festival it becomes the world’s largest pub.
The event is organised by Britain’s ‘Campaign for Real Ale’ (CAMRA) and while CAMRA was very parochial in its early days, almost exclusively promoting English Cask Ales, in recent years it has embraced other brewing heritages such as Lagers. There was some disquiet a few years ago when Budweiser Budvar first had a stand, but it’s now respected as a classic beer in its own right.
I always enjoy the ‘Bieres Sans Frontieres’ bar (Beers without Frontiers) which stocks a wide selection of beers from Europe, Asia and the USA, as such it provides an opportunity to sample a variety of brewing styles. My personal taste in beer is towards Lagers, but I love American speciality beers. I spent an really enjoyable couple of weeks working in Salt Lake City back in the mid nineties and enjoyed the beers there which were brewed for flavour rather than strength.
There are always surprises at the GBBF, last year it was ‘Lion Stout’ from Sri Lanka, a rich, dark stout with hints of liquorice in the flavour. But coming in at 8% ABV it needs to be treated with respect.
I will report back after Friday’s visit.
Bob the Brit
Read Part 2 of the Great British Beer Festival.