It was big. It was beautiful. It was probably the best beer event this side of the Atlantic ever, and most certainly the best beer event in Britain. Ever. 60+ breweries, almost 400 beers on both sessions – and you can drink all you possibly can. It was almost too much.
Beavertown Extravaganza was the perfect ending for our summer of beer festivals.
Held in London, we flew down with excitement and armed with spreadsheets of beers, prepared to take on an onslaught of the best beer in the world. Or so we thought. First things first – there were essentially no queues to get in, because entrance opened two hours before the event. That system worked up to a point, but when near opening time several thousand people tried to cram into one space, it got a bit claustrophobic. When the rains started, the call was made to open the beer rooms some 20 minutes early so as to avoid huge overcrowding. Apart from that initial cramming, the space was large enough to freely walk around and always find a place to sit.
There’s been a lot of griping on the echo chamber of complaints about queues and breweries running out. Those complaints, to me, were almost completely unfounded. Yes, there were queues for a couple of breweries that consequently ran out of beer early in the evening, but those breweries were ones that it was going to happen, no matter how much beer they brought. Trillium, Omnipollo and Cloudwater having the worst queues that I saw. At the very end of the evening, many breweries certainly had run out of beers, but that too, was to be expected. Seven hours is a long time to be serving beer on an open glass approach, and craft beer fans are thirsty folk.
That’s not to say that everything was absolutely perfect. Water points were a major pain – I want to wash my glass between beers, and don’t want to drown in a puddle doing it. I would love to see beer festivals adopt proper glass-cleaning stations, which leave the glass completely clean and don’t create a sea around them. There could have been a bit better system to see when kegs are changed, but honestly, it did not matter hugely, and would probably have been near-impossible to execute.
But, beer. Beer, beer, beer. The amount of beer. An assault of beer, if you will, but a good one. I was getting very hyped up, following Beavertown’s trickle of beer lists through August, and nearly hyperventilated when the whole beer list came out. It was, in all honesty, the most stellar lineup of breweries and beers that I have ever seen in any context. Nearly every brewery had brought out their proudest and best beers, if only to show that they too, can stand proud next to such giants as Trillium. And they indeed did. We had 60 beers between the two of us, give or take a few sips from others, and there were very, very few mediocre beers, and even fewer bad beers. In fact, at one point, we started getting numb to how good all the beer was. Alvinne and 6°North’s Chain Reaction that had been tucked away in barrels for two years was all the goodness of the original with the greatness of a barrel, and still loses out at the top five. The De Molen red wine barrel aged oddness N’Lach & N’Traan was superbly interesting and would have warranted a long, ponderous tasting, but alas, the next beer was already drawing us in. That was the great tragedy, if you will; that there was so much great beer that any one of them would have needed a while to get to know, but there was always something more interesting, more fascinating to follow. In any case, here’s our top fives, compiled with some serious headache;
Rollo’s Top 5 Beers:
- Casita Cerveceria – Bébeme Trying to think which of Casita’s beers was my favourite was a pain. Bébeme came on top because it had a very evocative lavender florality that reminded me of lavender biscotti my mother used to bake. Superb stuff.
- Casita Cerveceria – Palafrenero Another Casita number, Palafrenero achieved an apex in a beer style I had been a doubter of for a long time, the sour IPA. It was like a Cloudwater DIPA made with ultimate funk and tartness, absolutely beautiful.
- Cellarmaker – Vastness of Space (Manhattan Barrel Aged) This beer is really the encapsulation of the craft drink phenomenon. Barrel aged beers spurring on experimentation in barrel aged cocktails, which are then used to age a beer? An Ouroboros moment indeed.
- Dugges / Cloudwater – Yummy Rummy
- J Wakefield – Voodoo Woman
Ryoko’s Top 5 Beers:
- Cellarmaker – Vastness of Space (Manhattan Barrel Aged) Every component in this beer works so well together. Cocoa notes from the stout, warm vanilla and oak from the bourbon along with some vinous and cherry notes from the Manhattan cocktail influence.
- Casita Cerveceria – Palafrenero I’m amazed how fruity it was considering there was no fruit added in the beer at all. It smelled like ripe pineapples and tasted pretty much the same with some added tartness. I guess pineapple yogurt would be the best description for it?
- Dugges / Cloudwater – Yummy Rummy Pretty much a superior Bounty/Mound in liquid form. Toasted coconuts, roasted coffee, cocoa and rum. How can that combination not taste heavenly?
- J Wakefield – Voodoo Woman
- Side Project – Saison Du Fermier (Batch #4)
All in all, Beavertown Extravaganza fulfilled its promises. I saw someone tweet that the weekend was the moment when the UK craft beer scene finally became of age, following the footsteps of US craft beer. It certainly felt far better than LCBF and ECBF, even though they both were absolutely stellar festivals. It felt bigger, truly ambitious, almost megalomaniac in its scale, an… extravagant jubilation of all things craft beer. It was the greatest craft beer event in the history of UK, and will likely go down in craft beer history.
On Sunday, when we were sitting in the brilliant King’s Arms, I spotted the bartender from Kill the Cat. Our conversation went something like this;
“How you doing?”
“I think all of London is hungover today”
That’s about as poetic an abbreviation of the feelings after Extravaganza as I can think of.
It has to be admitted that on Sunday our hungover wasn’t from Extravaganza anymore, but from a daredevil combination of Bermondsey Beer mile and a tour of London Cocktail bars. Keep an eye out for a post on that later this week.