It’s that time again where us beer lovers make our pilgrimage to Olympia to sample the best the brewing industry has to offer at CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival.
The Great British Beer Festival or GBBF for short is quite literally what the CAMRA advert says – a big pub!
I was lucky enough to get a pass for the trade session on the Tuesday so was able to wander around freely with my camera capturing the mood whilst supping beer.
Despite the name there are beers from all over the world as well as the best of British. Being a CAMRA event there are of course ciders and perries too. In total there are in excess on 900 tipples to try around Olympia on Circus themed stands echoing the GBBF theme this year .
There is an array of stands selling beer memorabilia and beer drinking accessories – last year we bought an ornate wall mounted bottle opener for the garden! I even saw beer soap this year amongst the tee shirts and novelty hat stalls.
There are traditional pub games such a skittles and shuffleboard, live music, book signings and so all the family can enjoy the day there’s a supervised children’s area.
The choice of food available like the beers should suit all tastes ranging from the usual but oh-so-good sausages, burgers, pies and pasties to the more exotic noodles, Spanish and Moroccan.
If you’ve sensibly done your prep by lining your stomach before arrival why not snack on the superb pork scratchings from The Crusty Pie Company? It took me a while to get into this particular delicacy but I am now a convert thanks to my husband. The Crusty Pie Company are a particular favourite of his, none of the puffy airy qualities of inferior brands that turn to dust in the mouth – oh no these are the real deal!
Said husband normally takes the opportunity at the GBBF to stock up and comes home with a couple of carrier bags of scratchings to keep him going till Christmas!
The official opening of the festival was scheduled for 3pm so the crowds gathered around the stage mainly to hear the Champion Beer results this year being read out by Iron Maiden front man turned part time brewer Bruce Dickinson.
I have to confess that whilst I pride myself on having diverse musical tastes Iron Maiden have pretty much avoided my vinyl and CD collection. I expected denim and leather, instead appeared a very respectable looking man wearing what looked like tweed..?
Prior to Bruce Dickinson’s appearance CAMRA’s National Chairman Colin Valentine had taken to the stage to outline the launch of CAMRA’s new campaign ’Pubs Matter- So why can’t we have our say’ another fantastic campaign demanding better planning protection for our great pubs so please go to the CAMRA website for details where you can also see a full list of the Champion beers.
The overall winner was Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker, a 4% ABV bitter. I didn’t get to try this as predictably the queues for it were very very long.
Faced with such a wide range of beers I exceeded the four halves I had vowed to limit myself to but it was worth it. Kicking off with Lytham Royal 4.4% ABV, followed by a Cornish beer Coastal’s Summer Blond-lovely and refreshing also 4.4% ABV, before heading stateside for an offering from the US Buckman Botanical Brewery, Ginger Ale a step up at 5% ABV – a tad too much ginger for me but I am glad I tried it.
Fourth on my list was a beer from Welsh Brewery Tiny Rebel also at 4.4% ABV American style Pale Ale which I enjoyed – I have heard many good things about this brewery so it was good to finally sample their beer.
Feeling that I really should try one of the Champion beers I then headed to Shropshire for a swift half of Salopian’s Darwin’s Origin, a golden ale before finishing with a gorgeous half of Lincoln Green Tuck, a sumptuous Porter with a 4.7% ABV.
Other than the beers the highlight for me was the marvelous Falmouth Marine Band and the Skinners Brewery posse. Headed by a gorgeous Betty Stogs, Saint Piran flags flying high and proud they matched around the festival stopping us all in our beery tracks to watch – Wonderful!
I am going to the GBBF again on Friday night with my shopping trolley to help my husband transport home a hundredweight of pork scratchings and no doubt some bundles of beer mats and the odd book or five won and/or purchased.
If you haven’t got a ticket yet the GBBF runs till Saturday – GO!
It’s a fantastic day out with something for everyone.