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Brewing Topics => Upcoming Events => Topic started by: Roadrocket on March 31, 2014, 03:21:20 PM

Title: CAMRA - Great British Beer Festival 2014
Post by: Roadrocket on March 31, 2014, 03:21:20 PM
12th to 16th August, Olympia, London

Anybody going?

I've done a lot of the CAMRA Beer Festivals over the years but I've never done the biggest one so I'm giving it a go this year. They've got 900 real ales, ciders, perries and foreign beers with plenty of entertainment and food so it should be good.

The tickets don't go on sale until May but I've booked a cheap hotel in advance so I can make a weekend out of it. I'll do the Thursday and Saturday sessions.

I'll do the beers on Thursday and the ciders and perries on Saturday. It's not wise to mix them in my experience.

Tickets last year were ¬£10 a session in advance or ¬£12 if bought on the door. CAMRA members pay ¬£2 less. The sessions last from 12 noon until 10:30pm from Wednesday to Friday. and 11 AM until 7pm on Saturday.
Title: Re: CAMRA - Great British Beer Festival 2014
Post by: Roadrocket on August 17, 2014, 03:51:16 PM
I've returned home from the festival after spending two days there and here is some feedback in case anybody is thinking of going one year.

I arrived at the hotel on Thursday, 2 hours late due to the inevitable delays on the British railways system. I caught the tube to Olympia and walked in at 1 pm without queuing.

On arrival you pay a ¬£3 deposit on your glass. You can choose an imperial pint, half pint or 1/3 pint glass. At the end  you can either keep the glass or return it.  The larger sizes are marked so you can order smaller amounts if you wish. Most of the beers are served from casks which are tapped and poured by gravity. Each cask is labelled and priced in pints, halves and thirds. You are given a programme which lists the beers and a pullout map shows you where they are.

With over 900 beers, perrys and ciders to choose from I decided to drink 1/3 pints which would have been a wise decision had I stuck to it. There were beers from Britain, Belgium, USA, Holland, Czech Republic, Italy, Germany and many other countries. Some of the foreign beers were bottled.

I started off with a Kolsch. I'd never drunk a commercial example and I wanted to compare it with the one I made that I'm drinking at the moment. I found it suprisingly similar. I then tried several real ales including a very good smoked ale from Brains in Cardiff and a dark mild from a brewery in Cumbria. I went on to a Dutch IPA and a Czech unfiltered pilsner which was excellent. At 6 pm I attended a tutored tasting with an American brewer. We tasted about 10 different beers and he explained where they came from and how they were made. It was interesting to listen to his views and I learned more than I expected.l

The entertainment was excellent. Gordon Giltrap did two acoustic blues sets and Ade Edmonson and the Bad Shephards also did two sets. They play classic punk on folk instruments which sounds great. I've been wanting to see them for some time and I wasn't disapointed. Ade had been sampling the beers himself so he was pretty drunk for the second set. The well known songs from the Clash, XTC, Sex Pistols etc got everyone singing along.

I met up with a mate in the evening and we tried a load more beers. By then my resolve to stick to 1/3 pints had melted. At one point found myself with a pint of Stewarts 80/- in one hand and a large pork pie in the other whilst singing 'No More Heroes' by the Stranglers. I was well drunk and having fun. We left at 10:30 and finished the evening in a pub in Shepherds Bush.

On Friday I arrived at about 2pm and decided to try some of the 100 or so cask ciders and perrys without getting too drunk. They were marked by abv and sweetness. Most came from farms or small enterprises. I'm very partial to a good perry and sampled quite a few before turning to the ciders. My favorites were a medium sweet cider called Skylark and a perry called Blaenegawney.

There were plenty of food stalls selling traditional pub style food and snacks. To help absorb the alcohol throughout the day I ate, at various times, a big bag of spicy pork scratchings, a pork and stilton pie, a crab sandwich, a large pot of jellied eels, two pickled eggs, some picked onions, a small pot of whelks, a wild boar burger and a banana. Food of the gods. I met up with some people I used to work with and we stayed until it finished.

For some unacountable reason I found myself suffering from a strange bout of flatulence during the night so I'm glad I didn't take the girlfriend along. It was probably the large amount of fruit I ate at breakfast. I'll have to lay off that in future.

It's a very good experience but fairly expensive. The beer costs quite a lot more than you'd pay in a pub and you have to pay an entrance fee on top. The choice of food is fairly limited but as long as you can eat pork and seafood you'll find it's OK and fairly good value. I'll leave it at least a couple of years before going again.

I'll probably do one or two beer festivals in Belgium next year. I haven't done any this year. My favorite is the Kasterlee beer evening which takes place at Easter. It's a small, friendly event which I've been to a few times as I've got friends who live nearby. I'd like to do one called 'The night of the Great Thirst' which is a celebration of lambic beers.