To Do in London: GBBF (Great British Beer Festival)

Being lovers of craft beer from all over the world, Joel and I saw fit to attend one of London’s biggest craft beer events, the Great British Beer Festival, brought to you by CAMRA. Held at Olympia (the site of London Comic Con 2012), it was touted as a festival containing “Over 800 cask and bottled real ales, ciders & foreign beers from around the world”. Honestly, I went into this festival thinking it would be like most festivals (especially ones that are specifically for booze) – a rowdy, crowded, hot space with lots of drunk British men. Turns out only some of that was true.

We arrived at 10:45 when opening was at 11:00 thinking there may be a line and we wanted a head start. Luckily, there was no line whatsoever and (!) they were letting everyone in to drink already. When you enter the festival, you’re prompted to grab a glass so you can begin your beer ‘tour’. The glasses were sold in 1/3 and pint sizes with the option for 1/2 pint fills as well. We thought that was a great idea – getting smaller sizes so you can try many more brews without getting inebriated immediately. Joel and I opted for the 1/3 pint glass and we were on our way.

Aside from our love of craft brews, it was a friends birthday so we took his cue on where to start. Side note – thank god for Untappd. I managed to keep track of all the beers I tried AND take notes! A very helpful app for the beer lover. With the help of Untapped, here was my day at the GBBF –

*Disclaimer: this was a long day of sipping many beers so I won’t go into detail about every beer tasted and tried 

  • First up, a trip to the British beers with Hebden’s Wheat by Little Valley. I like to start with a wheat beer but this was just too bland for me. It was also way to warm. A wheat beer is completely refreshing when it’s cold but terribly flat tasting when it’s warm.
  • On to the American bottles for a  Hop Head Red by Green Flash Brewing Co. While Green Flash makes one of my favorite IPA’s, I hadn’t tried their red version and it was fantastic. Very dry, hoppy and slightly bitter. Not like a typical red brew.
  •  Another American choice – Baba Organic Black Lager by Uinta Brewing Company. I mostly went with this because any beer with the word /black’ in it is bound to be great but also, this beer is from Salt Lake City. SLC is not really what I think of when I think ‘beer’. They have very strict rules when it comes to alcohol so I was curious. And I’m happy I was – this beer was really really good. Rich, dark, very drinkable but still a bit hoppy, even for a lager. The label was also well designed. I’ll be checking for this one back in the States.
  • Chocolate Orange Delight byDownton Brewery – Really tasty. Just as the title says, it tasting like dessert. Wish I would have had it last.
  • Hop Monster by Coastal Brewery – I really enjoyed this one. It wasn’t as hoppy as the name sounds. This one was very drinkable, golden, citrus and bitter notes but still fairlylight.
  • Vanilla Stout by Binghams – The vanilla was very prominent. Although I should have known by the name, It was just way to sweet for my own taste.
  • Orval by Brasserie d’Orval – I’m not one to pass up a Trappist beer; who doesn’t love the fact that your beer was brewed by monks?
  •  Infinity by Blue Monkey Brewery – Another stand out. This was a great pale ale made even better using Citra Hops. The aroma was fresh, sweet and hoppy. Went back for another round and they were already sold out.
  • Bramble Stout by Burton Bridge Brewery –  This wasn’t super thick, hints of chocolate but still a bit bitter. Just how I like my stout.
  • Glaslyn Ale by Purple Moose Brewery – Honestly, we were pulling at straws towards the end. Most casks were sold out but I am a bitters fan. This was really lite and drinkable. As most bitters are.
  • Chatoe Rogue OREgasmic Ale by Rogue Ales – This was my final beer of the day and what a way to end it. Aside from the fact that it’s 100% brewed from Oregon, USA ingredients, the flavor was outstanding. Deep, tannic, spicy… I enjoyed finishing off the day here.

We thought the festival was a success. It wasn’t too crowded, we tried some great British beers we wouldn’t have otherwise had the opportunity to, the atmosphere was lively and fun and finally, for those who arrived early, most beers were flowing well into the afternoon. I thought the set up, although simple, was well thought out. Beers were separated into regions and priced according to pint size. Most British ales were slightly over a £1 for a 1/3 pint while foreign bottles ranged from £3 -£8.

It was a great time had by all and I would say this is a beer festival worth attending/supporting next year.

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