Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Great British Beer Festival 2008

The Great British Beer Festival. Always a fun evening, with several hundred – 450-800 depending on the year – beers to be tried from around the UK and from abroad. The key to it is going with a bunch of friends so you maximise the number of beers you can try. This year Will and I got into the trade show which is from 12-5pm on the first day, Tuesday. This is when the Champion Beer of Britain for the year is announced after the judging panel makes its decisions.

Will with Will’s Dad

Unfortunately, it became apparent that arriving at the venue (Earl’s Court) at 2:30pm was just way too early. In the past I’ve always gone after work, and this, I’d say, is the sort of time you want to arrive – say 6pm. This limits drinking time to 5 hours, more than enough!

Line the stomach

In addition to the beers there are stalls selling beer paraphernalia and good t-shirts. I resisted (being sober at this stage!).

Breakfast drink

T-shirt sizes, medium up to dart player

We roved around trying a few South Eastern beers first. Next up Adrian and Brendan arrived.

UnusuALE beers


The bars are organised by region, so for example all beers from the North East will be in one section. Food is spread about the place, the highlight being the pork scratching pile!

Mountain of pork scratching

I can’t believe it’s not..

Chris showed up soon after.

The gang

Disappointingly the Champion beers were all off whilst we were there. Plenty of other choice though. I went looking for Eccleshall’s Top Totty. It seemed to not be present this year, until I discovered the brewery was now called Slater’s (renamed according to their website). Top Totty still there, and as good as ever!

Barrels of goodness

Usually I don’t drink anything from the major breweries – the festival is about discovering local beers from other regions you wouldn’t normally have access to, but passing Greene King I noticed they had an Abbot Special Reserve tap. My goodness..!

Abbot Special Reserve. A pint of the stuff

Abbot Ale is what I call the “Stella of the Ale World” – it has an effect on you disproportionate to its alcohol content. And here was the Reserve! I announced to the group that I was having a pint of this, a cheese platter, then going home to sleep. I checked my watch.. 8pm!

Cheese platter

As I ordered it, the chap serving me remarked that he hadn’t had many requests for a whole pint of Reserve tonight! Surprisingly though, it picked me up, and so we ended up staying till closing time!

Will and Chris

International guests

Choices choices

Next, for some unknown reason, though I suspect Will had something to do with it, we found ourselves having a half each of two American strong beers, both 12% ABV. Mine was Dogfish Head’s Palo Santo Marron, and Will had Smuttynose’s Wheat Wine.

American beers, not all like making love in a canoe!

These tasted as you’d imagine. Mine was very dark, burnt tasting, and strong as hell. Will’s was lighter but still close to undrinkable.

It’s got to that stage of the evening

Of course, they had to be finished. Especially as last orders was called.

12%... here we go..

It’s not good. Not at all pleasant!

That finished, we grabbed a pint for the road, then polished that off before being booted out.

Home time

Of course, going via Edgware Road, we call in on my late night dive bar, where Will gets a Saudi chap coming on to him, blowing him kisses across the bar. On the bus home from there he asks a girl what % gay she thinks he is. 60:40! The end of a good night. Might want to buy some more heterosexual clothes tomorrow, Will!

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