Monday, 18 August 2014

London Craft Beer Festival 2014 Review

On Sunday some friends and I decided to travel down to Oval Space in Hackney for London Craft Beer Festival. As I mentioned in my preview blog, it’s a festival whereby all of the beer is included in admission price as well as the breweries serving their own beer (or at least someone who knows about beer. Probably).

We got to the venue and collected our glass, bottle caps (third pint tokens) and program before heading up to the room of doom.

The Venue:

It was a small but comfortable venue with a decked area where food was, as well as a balcony area overlooking the old gas terminals. There were breweries all around the room and a stage in the middle for the performers.

Across the road there was also another venue that they were using to promote holidays in Flanders. We sampled some delicious cheese and whitebait.

The Food:

I would have liked to see some more reasonably priced food. There was a stand selling hot dogs in burger baps for £6.50 which seemed like a rip off, and the other option was onglet steak with veggies for £8. They did also have chips for £2, which were nice enough but the portions weren’t nearly big enough.

The People:

Along with Alec, Jay & Lee whom I travelled with, I bumped into some of my awesome beery twitter fam, Some of whom I’d never met before.

As for the brewers themselves... I don’t know whether it was because they were tired from a long weekend but the vast majority of them didn’t seem interested in talking to us normal people, aside from serving their beers. Too many times I’d ordered a beer and want to talk to brewers about them but before I got the chance they’d already turned their back to talk to the brewer next to them. It kind of defeats the point of this kind of festival set up.

The Beers:

I had a lot of beers, well it would have been rude not to since it was included in the ticket price. I’m not going to tell you about all of them but stand outs included:

Redemption Pale Ale w/ Mangos & Pink Peppercorns (3.8%) – You got the hoppiness of the pale ale, the sweet and juicy mango with a shower of spicy peppercorns. It was absolutely outstanding!

Weird Beard Little Things That Kill (A low ABV. Each batch changes) – I drank more of this beer than anything else. It’s a beer I already love and I just stood at the Weird Beard stand (the most friendly stand manned by Bryan & Chris) talking to Chris and constantly getting my glass topped up. So much fruitiness and body for such a low ABV beer.

Buxton Ace Edge (6.8%) – It’s a beer I’ve wanted to try for ages as I love the original Axe Edge and I am one of the rare people who LOVE Sorachi Ace Hops. I am so glad this was on (I may have had multiple drinks of this too).

Magic Rock Bourbon Barrel Bearded Lady (11%) – BIG chocolate and coffee followed by the oaky bourbon booziness. So fucking good.

My beer of the festival, though, was Alpha State Vanilla Mocha Shake (10%) – Jesus fuck! This was absolutely incredible... a coffee and chocolate filled mocha with a sprinkling of vanilla at the end. It really was like a silky smooth milkshake and I could have actually drank multiple pints. WANT MORE NOW.

Overall:

It was a great festival, with a really cool concept. I like not having to worry about spending money once I go in, but they could have ditched the whole token system entirely since I don’t think I even saw the brewery stands take one. They didn’t take any from me, simply asked “Big pour or small pour?” I also think some of the brewers could have been more engaging and excited about talking about their beer. Maybe it was better during one of the previous sessions.

But it was a good experience and I reckon I will return next year!


Nate

19 comments:

  1. I had a really different experience when it came to talking to the brewers. I had lots of great conversations and they were happy to answer a load of questions, guess I caught them at the right time!

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    1. Or maybe that's because most of them know you already since they were largely London breweries and they see you around at various events?

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    2. Well, true, but I certainly didn't know everyone I spoke to and didn't experience the same thing as you did.

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    3. Maybe people have just heard that I'm a bit of a knob.

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    4. a bit? ;-) Didn't bother last year, didn't bother this year (too busy for the most part) and i'm kinda sick of beer festivals right now. Give a me a quiet beer in a good bar and i'll love it every time! Am currently sitting in Oaka enjoying a can of craft beer, won't say which one....but it's Beavertown Neck Oil.

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  2. I think by the Sunday a lot of people were probably shattered, the hours were really long for those of us on the stands (and I can imagine even worse for the small breweries that had brewers coming from a brewday to man the stands until midnight).
    I certainly found the Friday sessions (both when I was working and when I wasn't) really fun and chatty so maybe just a session by session thing?

    - Luke

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    1. Thanks Luke.

      See that was my first thought, but I saw them happily chatting away to fellow brewers and as Matt says, he didn't have a problem talking to people. Maybe it's just that by the Sunday they only wanted to talk to people they know.

      Either way, it's a bit shit. I'd rather not have the brewers on their stands and just have volunteers instead if they're all going to look miserable.

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  3. Hey Nate, do you know any other festivals that have brewery reps serving their beer instead of festival staff/volunteers?

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    1. Hey buddy,

      Craft Beer Rising did, back in February. I think that's about it, to be honest.

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    2. irish craft beer and cider fest in dublin does. Brewers often volunteer at CAMRA fests too, though obviously their stuff often mixed with others' beer.

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  4. Hey Nate, you like me were disappointed with the food options. On our way out we saw the Visit Flanders area over the road (Where the bottle shop was last year). Not only did they have a great selection of belgian beers but they had the best selection of food! Oh and they had four different types of scotch eggs!
    Wish they had done more to point that area out on the way in.

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    1. Oh yeah, we saw the Scotch eggs and they looked delicious but I'd already had eggs for breakfast!

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  5. I do get what you mean about the brewers/brewery staff serving the beer not seeming to be that engaging with people. Almost all of the talking I did to people serving beer was with people I already knew. I spent the most time at Magic Rock and Beavertown because they are my two favourite UK breweries and we've visited both breweries/met the staff many times. I always have nosy questions for them about their beers/brewing process. I do understand that by Sunday people might have been a bit jaded!

    I also agree about getting rid of the tokens. Just charge a flat rate for entry and make it 'as many tasters as you can drink in a session'. For most of us, it's just about trying as many beers as possible while avoiding the effects of alcohol. I don't think anyone I know is going to an event like that with the intent of drinking as much as humanly possible and getting incoherently drunk!

    Ems

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  6. I get the whole thing about being tired/jaded/whatever but 60 year old CAMRA members can still find the energy to chat at length on a Saturday night after working a whole week at a beer festival yet a 30-something brewer can't after 3 sessions.

    Aye, my aim was to try as much as I could, and I did but I was still relatively sober.

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  7. you didn't mention the music. I, for one, could have done without that competing with attempts at conversation.

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    1. Good point! We didn't find the music that loud and conversation stopping on Sunday though.

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    2. Actually, I thought the music was ok and I am usually anti-live music at beer events.

      Ems

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