London Craft Beer Festival 2017

It’s another weekend, another beer festival for us. This time it was the London Craft Beer Festival, organized by the same folks as the brilliant Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival, held in the mecca of British hipsterdom, Shoreditch. In an old factory, no less. Yet, overall, it was a tremendously enjoyable festival with some stunning beers and a great ambiance.

 

 

The guys behind both Edinburgh and London craft beer festivals seem to have a winning formula. The London edition reaching its fifth year and Edinburgh being a premiere, they’ve nailed down the organisational aspects of running a craft beer festival. The bottomless glass -policy is something I’m a huge fan of, giving you a wide berth to trying different beers and discarding ones that don’t quite work out. A couple of tiny quips, though – the toilet situation in the new venue was horrendous, queues reaching up to 20 minutes and the toilets themselves being in horrible condition. No doubt something that comes with the venue, but certainly something that should be fixed for next year. I also hope that they can introduce proper glass cleaning facilities. Craft Beer Helsinki, which I attended earlier this summer had a great portable glass cleaning system, something LCBF and ECBF could both benefit from.

 

But enough of the bad, what about the good? First off, the list of breweries was impressive. A heavy focus was on the best of Britain, with Cloudwater, Wild Beer, Kernel and a slew of other top-tier British breweries making a showing. International breweries made an appearance too, of course, with the veritable whales of Other Half, MIkkeller and Lervig turning up with some incredible beer. This year they also included a ‘cask yard’, organised, by Fullers, a cider bar and a bar showcasing smaller London breweries. Beer Merchants was also present with a bottle shop, selling some extremely rare stuff, including some from Cantillon – unfortunately we didn’t have check-in baggage, so no take-away stuff for us. Overall, the offering was superb all around, with a couple of things really standing out.

 

 

First positive surprise was the cask yard from Fuller’s. Neither of us is a huge fan of cask beer, but I was positively surprised by the stuff Fuller’s had brought. Their 2017 Vintage ale was a superb display of controlled hopping and classic malts, bringing together a complex and yet drinkable beer that felt historic. The 1971 ESB, made with Moor, was excellent as well, displaying a controlled balance that gave credit to a style I think has a lot of potential.

 

The next positive surprise was the Italian brewery Del Ducato, that quickly became my favourite brewery of the festival with funky and extremely sour beers, rivalling its Belgian cousins. Chrysopolis, an almost still lambic-style ticked all the boxes for me. Brett Peat Daydream, a peated malt sour, was one of the strangest beers I have had in a long time, but worked beautifully, with a good lemony tartness playing off smoky peat notes. Didn’t hurt that the guys at the Del Ducato bar were some of the nicest at the festival.

 

Other highlights included hometown breweries Brew By Numbers, that brought a very solid display of brewing excellence, and Weird Beard, whose Heaven Hill barrel aged Sadako was one of the best in the style, in my opinion competing with the Founders’ legendary Kentucky Breakfast Stout. Stillwater Artisanal chose to bring a slew of collaborations, which certainly rose above the fray. Their collab with Dugges, a speyside whisky barrel aged Cocoa Cacao was our fifth or sixth beer, and both our favourite, with the whisky cask tempering the sweetness of the original and the whole being absolutely beautiful.

 

 

 

My favourite beers:

  1. Dugges/Stillwater – Cocoa Cacao Speyside BA
  2. Del Ducato – Chrysopolis
  3. Weird Beard – Sadako Heaven Hill BA
  4. Del Ducato – Oud Brunello
  5. Del Ducato – Brett Peat Daydreams

 

Ryoko’s favourite beers:

  1. Dugges/Stillwater – Cocoa Cacao Speyside BA
  2. Del Ducato – Chrysopolis
  3. Del Ducato – Oud Brunello
  4. Pohjala – Porridge Bullet (Cellar Series)
  5. Lervig – Toasted Maple Stout

 

There’s always a lot to say about the beers at a festival like this, but it’s worth noting that while we claimed a table early on and didn’t move much after that, we got to talk to quite a few people at the table, all of whom were extremely nice. That kind of thing is not something you easily find outside of beer festivals like this, and it makes the experience so much nicer. Even though I scarcely remember the names of any of them, at least I added them on Untappd and see their check-ins from time to time. It’s a good reminder of why we do these festivals. Next up we’ll have Beavertown Extravaganza in September, so we’ll see the capital and all the nice people again, soon.

 

-Rollo

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