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A day at the Great British Beer Festival: updated

In Uncategorized on August 9, 2017 by kmflett

A day at the Great British Beer Festival

On Tuesday, the opening day of the Great British Beer Festival 2017 at Olympia, I took the day off work (which amazingly almost worked until mid-afternoon) and headed down with my partner Megan.

We were there for the trade session from a bit before 1pm and left around 9pm I think. Some will wonder how I can remember anything having been drinking beer for 8 hours but of course that’s now how it works. Beer was sipped in third of a pint measures and plenty of beer related foods from crisps and pickled eggs to cheese and pork pies were consumed along the way.

There are always at least in recent times, issues and grumblings about the GBBF. I will manage a few myself down below. It’s worth saying then that it remains an impressive event, organising largely by volunteers and running smoothly. There are adequate toilets, lots of seating and certainly on Tuesday no problem in getting served at the bar.

In my day (let’s say Covent Garden 1975 to start) the GBBF was about promoting cask beer which was often hard to get hold of and faced the keg tide from Watneys, Trumans, Twitbread et al. Times have changed and they’ve changed in large measure due to the campaigning work of CAMRA.

That of course doesn’t mean that things will automatically go well now or in the future.

It remains the case that thanks to the way beers are selected for the GBBF it’s hard to suggest that what’s on offer really is the ‘best’ of UK beer. A festival that has no Beavertown, Buxton, Cloudwater, just to start at the front end of the Alpha range can hardly claim that.

Of course two of those three breweries don’t currently make cask ale and the GBBF is predominantly but not entirely a cask festival.

The cask I tried was in excellent condition and that included the CBOB Church End Goat’s Milk which was a light slightly sweet lower strength pale ale about as far away as you can get from the kind of beers enjoyed in the beard and beer bars of NE London that I frequent.

Over on the US bar, strategically as far from the entrance as you could get this year (and hence not so rammed I suspect) what is on offer is, if not the best, amongst the best of US beer. It’s in cask of course while it’d normally be seen in keg here. I’m not sure on that but I talked to the owner of a small chain of US cask focused bars who was very pleased to see the beers on cask.

And what news of keykeg? It was there. If you are interested social media has details. Many CAMRA festivals now have keykeg bars which are well frequented. Perhaps one day the GBBF will modernise enough to do this.

That is my overall point. It’s not 1975 anymore, the GBBF organisers clearly know that and are changing the festival to reflect how beer is consumed today and what beer is consumed. The problem is perhaps that the change is not fast enough and not extensive enough.

Around the GBBF now there is a whole series of beer events badged as London Beer City which offer lots of interest that you won’t find at Olympia. But perhaps you should be able to..

Update 19th August

Debate on social media about the GBBF this year has continued with interesting contributions from @johnwestjourno @totalcurtis @tandleman amongst others.

http://tandlemanbeerblog.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/how-was-gbbf-for-you.html?showComment=1503120069765&m=1#c5247943152495624395

I add here a perspective which I found interesting because it was unsolicited. During the week I happened to bump into a colleague, a union official from another union. Union officials are hardly known for their love of temperance, in the main, but he did know that I was a ‘real ale’ drinker and mentioned he had attended the GBBF on the Friday. He noted that it was his first ever attendance and that he had found far too many beers on to sample more than a few and that in particular he was surprised by the diversity of attendance in terms of youth and gender. That is to say not grumpy old gits such as both of us are often characterised. Perhaps the point is that if the festival is about campaigning for decent beer to be appreciated more widely then, at least here, it had made an impact

 

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