Friday, 21 August 2015

The London Craft Beer Festival

A most agreeable beer festival in Hackney

Last Friday, we paid a visit to the London Craft Beer Festival which was held at the Oval Space, in Hackney. The walk there was a little dreary on account of the rain, but I suppose rain is the price of a green and pleasant land.

Unlike other beer festivals I've attended, where you have to pay each beer you drink (in measures of a third, a half or a full pint) this was essentially a drink-as-much-as-you wish buffet. For £38.50 you got entry to a 5 hour session (7 pm to midnight in our case), during which you could have unlimited 90 ml servings of any beer on offer. The usual measure at beer festivals is a third of a pint or more, and 90 ml is about a sixth of a pint. The smaller measures meant that I could sample more beers, and service was smoother because the staff didn't have to fiddle around with cash. 

Unlike the drinkables, the eatables had to be paid for separately. The beer was served indoors, but food was mostly sold from stands that were a little exposed to the rain, and we didn't explore the full range. Nevertheless, I had a superb portion of ribs and chips, my wife and had excellent burger, and a snack later on, we shared this, which was delicious:

All the beers that we sampled were excellent, a testament to the state of brewing these days. The well known craft breweries from London were strongly represented, of course, and I was interesting to note how many I recognised, whose products I knew and liked.

There were also brewers from other parts of Britain, and from abroad including Estonia, the US, Barcelona and Norway. Although the hall was packed, it was very easy to get served, much easier than in a crowded pub in fact. The atmosphere was friendly and relaxed, and rather good music was provided by a DJ in the middle of the room.

Everything we tried, we liked, without exception, so it would be a little unfair to single out highlights, but there were a some enjoyable oddities, as you might expect at a beer festival, and a couple stood out:

- Wild Beer's Cool as a Cucumber, a low-strength (2.9% ABV), refreshing beer, infused with cucumber and mint.

- Partizan's Negroni Saison, served over ice with a twist of orange peel, as shown in this video:

And for those inspired by the festival, who might want to have a go at making their own, there was this stand:

It's the Grainfather, and ingenious, elegantly designed, all-in-one home brewing system, with essentially all the components of a full scale brewery in the metal container, apart from the fermenting vessel, which in the photo is the plastic container on the left. Not cheap, but certainly something to consider if you were planning to do a bit of serious home brewing. Perhaps one of these days ...

We had a very agreeable evening, with good beer, good food, and good music. The all-you-can-drink system has a lot to commend it, and I wonder if it operates at other such events. It's the first time I've encountered it and I thought it worked very well. I think part of the reason is the 90 ml servings: people who want to go out and get bladdered are probably not going to be drinking sixths of a pint. I'm definitely going to come again next year if I can.

We left pleasantly refreshed. It had stopped raining, and we had an agreeable walk home, during which I took a few more pictures.

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