Well, it's now a week since the Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court, and I've finally got some time to write up some thoughts and post some photos.
Overall, I definitely enjoyed myself. I went to the Trade Session on the Tuesday afternoon and to a public session on the Wednesday evening. I sampled a fairly wide range of beers and all were in good condition. There was plenty of space to move around, although the bars were as congested as ever.
This is a photo taken during the Trade Session, which was not as busy as the public sessions, for obvious reasons. It shows the view across the hall to some of the "brewery bars" - these are bars sponsored and operated by staff from a particular brewery (e.g. Sharps
). There seemed to be more brewery bars this year than in previous years.
The photo below was taken at the Fuller's brewery bar which (rather controversially) featured beers from the Gale's brewery which Fuller's bought and closed earlier this year.
Most of the "normal" (i.e. non-brewery) bars are organised into Regions, like the one shown in the photo below:
On the Tuesday I spent a lot of my time around the South-East bar, as I was filling in tasting cards for the CAMRA
regional tasting panel. This is a group that builds up a tasting notes database on beers from a particular region (in my case, London). I found that the discipline of sniffing, swirling and tasting beers slowed down my consumption so that I didn't peak too soon!
While on the subject of regional bars, I have to point out the idiocy of splitting Yorkshire across (at least) 2 separate regions. A beer from the Ossett
brewery in West Yorkshire was to be found on the North-West bar, while a beer from York brewery was to be found on the North-East bar. As a fervent Yorkshireman, I found this outrageous!
Another bar I spent a lot of time at was the foreign beer bar, or Bieres Sans Frontieres
as it is known (see below).
The BSF bar features a wide range of bottled beers from across the world, plus some very unususal draught beers. I tried an absolutely gorgeous Japanese ale, a very smoky German Rauchbier
and a wonderfully sour Belgian lambic
beer, amongst others.
On the Wednesday evening I met some friends at the festival. It was much busier, as the photo below shows. I know it's a bit dark - flash doesn't work well in such a big hall!
One of the highlights of the GBBF for me is always the wide selection of excellent food. A small number of the food stalls are shown in the hoto below, but there is a huge range, and the food on all of them is excellent.
All in all, an excellent time. It certainly pays to go earlier in the week - by Friday night the beer selection weas getting a bit limited, and it was very limited on Saturday afternoon, so I'm told. With it being their first year at a new venue there were, of course, some teething troubles (such as an imbalance in the male/female toilet arrangements!) but I'm sure this will be worked out for next year.
If you've never been to the Great British Beer Festival, I do urge you all to go - it's a great evening/day/week out!