Craft Beer Rising: is it a beer, is it a brand, is it about beards?
I’m not at CBR17. This is not some ideological boycott. I’m not in London for a few days and given that my professional and personal life is split between London and Cardiff I can’t be in London quite all the time (and anyway being elsewhere than the Metropolis broadens the mind, and the drinking possibilities).
That said I must admit to being increasingly puzzled about what CBR actually is about (my thoughts on my visit last year are below). I accept this is in part a feature of the modern world. Not a week of working life goes by without me having to nail someone down about what exactly it is they are proposing, why I should be involved and how this will in fact help.
I get that CBR is in part a trade event, and that seems to me fine. I also get that it is or at least was, an attempt to get those who’ve heard of craft beer but are not quite sure what it is (just like full time craft beer drinkers then…) and want to give it a try to see if they like it.
No issue with that and if you stand at the bar at any London ‘craft’ bar you’ll hear people not sure about what beer styles etc are all the time. Usually this is resolved by giving them a taste of a beer or two and they decide what they like and drink more.
Given that however what is CBR adding? Well interesting street food, music and so on. In short entertainment. Looked at in that way with decent beer as well, what’s not to like. As I note below however I might, had I been in London this weekend, simply have opted to spend an hour or two in the pub or a brewery taproom and tweak by beard thoughtfully..
I come from a tradition of non-commercial beer festivals (that doesn’t mean festivals that don’t charge to get in) and tend to view commercial events with some suspicion. How beer is selected at non-commercial fests may sometimes lead me to tug my beard vigorously but the thought is always that at a commercial occasion beer is selected because someone is marketing it, hopes to make a profit from it and so on. Nothing wrong with that of course except the market has long provided a mechanism for such an interchange- the pub.
However I did stop by Craft Beer Rising at the Old Truman’s brewery in Brick Lane fairly briefly on Friday afternoon. I wasn’t paying, it was the trade session. Some will know that my trade is union officer but there is a long and not always happy association with beer involved.
I have been sceptical about CBR and I’ve said so. No one can agree on what craft beer is but I’m fairly certain that the glass of Belhaven dry hopped lager I was offered would not meet most people’s criteria. I declined it. There were however a lot of beers (& ciders) on offer and a good few would meet the most stringent definition of craft.
Before touching further on beer however the most important thing about a beer event (as some have come to reflect quite recently). Can you get in and once in, is it possible to feel comfortable enough to remain?
The answer is both cases is yes (though I believe the event is more or less sold out). No space is ideal but CBR has several rooms and a good amount of space to wander with seating. Obviously some bits are busier than others. Getting served at bars was not an issue either.
There was ample provision of food stalls- an important issue at any beer festival and the range of talks overseen by Beard Friendly beer writer of the year Melissa Cole looked interesting- but time pressed unfortunately.
As for the beer, I was pleased to try a sample of Adnams new session ipa, which is indeed good and a Howling Hops small batch Aussie pale. There were of course many others to be tried but my stay was not a long one.
Would I turn up as a paying customer next year? I might well. But beyond that the idea of promoting decent beer to an audience that may not be quite sure what that means looks to be working well here.