Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Great British Beer Festival

The main reason I went to London last week, rather than any other time, was to visit the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia.
Getting there was interesting. We went to Earl's Court, where there's a little branch line that goes to Olympia, only to be told on the station that no trains were running along that branch line (despite the major event being held there) so all those thirsty people with beery slogans on their tshirts had to get back on the Wimbledon tube for one stop, and then take the overland train to Olympia - where we found a tube train was in the station after all.
After that, though, it was plain sailing.

I estimated that I would be able to sample only about 1% of the 800+ beers, ciders, perrys and foreign beers on offer, so it's always important to choose carefully - and ask for a third of a pint at a time! I always start with Woodforde's - I learned to love Wherry when I lived in Norwich, so if possible that's always my first choice. This time, Nelson's Revenge was a very pleasant alternative. After that - well, these beers are not in the order I drank them!
We first discovered Umbel Magna at the Beer on the Wye beer festival in Hereford a few years ago, and have been looking out for it at beer festivals ever since. It was just as good as we remembered - a smooth, creamy porter infused with coriander.
On the same stand, I was delighted to see Uley Bitter. I have happy memories of visiting the brewery years ago with a party from CAMRA, and sitting in the vaulted cellar while the brewer played his accordion and we all sang. I seem to remember he doesn't like his beer to travel far - the furthest being the magnificent Fleece in Bretforton, which is owned now by the National Trust. The taste didn't disappoint - hoppy without being over the top, and a bit of fruitiness too.
In the Lancashire area, Moorhouse's Black Cat is an old favourite - I'm quite fond of milds when I can find them.
I was keen to try something from Hook Norton again, too, and Old Hooky was there - again, I have happy memories of visiting their brewery tap (the Pear Tree?) and the Rollright Stones on the same sunny afternoon. We went back to the Rollright Stones to see Mark Rylance's company perform The Tempest, the year that the Globe opened in Southwark.
Back to East Anglia now, for Adnams, and Ghost Ship - along with Woodforde's, Adnam's was one of the first breweries I became fond of when I lived in Norwich.
And how could I ignore a beer called Triple Chocoholic? It's brewed by Saltaire in Yorkshire, and has three dark malts in it, with cocoa, chocolate syrups and essence!
It's always nice to step outside the comfort zone and try a foreign beer, so we shared a bottle of Stones, from the States - it wasn't the one listed in the booklet, but I think it was Levitation.
Finally, there was a beer that my Young Man had told me I really had to try. It was only available at certain times in the day, and they would only serve thirds until it was gone - 5X from Greene King. There was a long queue. It's a 12% beer, and a beautifully complex taste.
To mop up all that beer (even in thirds) we had to eat, and the wild boar burgers from Inyama were delicious.
And then there were the other stalls to tempt us, so I also came away with a Seal of Rassilon keyring and a tshirt with a picture of Winnie the Pooh peering out of the Tardis (Whovians are everywhere now!). We also treated outselves to some of Martin's Jerked meats - partly because they are delicious and partly because Martin himself posts comments on the Living History Forum which I visit regularly - historical re-enactors should stick together!

It was a very satisfactory day out (and neither of us had hangovers in the morning).

And here's one of the most flamboyantly dressed people I saw on the day - he had matching Welsh flag knickers, too!

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