Last weekend saw the long-awaited, and sold out, London’s Brewing event held at the London Fields brewery in east London and organised by the London Brewers’ Alliance. The website for the event boasted that over 30 London brewers would be represented, and I was very excited about attending, especially after my disappointment of local brewers at Craft Beer Rising earlier this year. I got tasting tickets for the Saturday evening session which started at 6pm. The tickets were £20, which included entry to the festival, a branded 2/3 pint glass (pictured) and 3 pints of beer.
The first question mark came on Saturday when, checking twitter, I saw tweets from disgruntled festival goers complaining that the afternoon session was 40minutes late opening, leaving people waiting in the rain with no explanation of what was happening. Then, when everyone was finally let in, the queues for the bar were horrendous. But as the afternoon went on, people said it calmed down and got better. People who stayed, that is.
So, we headed off to the festival, but decided to have a couple of drinks in Craft in Islington beforehand. I was careful not to have anything from London as I thought I’d have plenty of opportunity for that later in the evening, despite how tempting a Kernel Table Beer was. I had a couple of halves of the Siren Sound Wave, a US style IPA, after I’d read about their launch event a few weeks ago. It was very tasty, a big hit of tropical citrus and grapefruit.
We arrived at the London Fields brewery just after 6pm and joined the back of a queue of around 50 people. Not bad. It was moving along, and at least it wasn’t raining. But it was a bit annoying that if you just had a festival entry ticket then you could head straight in, skipping the crowds. As we entered the brewery, I showed my ticket confirmations on my phone but no-one seemed to check very closely, and we were given cards with 9 beer mug logos on them (each representing a third of beer, to be stamped off as you drink, thus giving you your 3 pints included in your ticket), the glasses and a programme/beer list. And, for one reason or another, they gave me 4 cards when I’d only bought 3 tickets. Bonus!
The brewery is, like a lot of London breweries, set under railway arches. In the first arch was the Keg Bar, and in the second was the Cask Bar, although both bars actually had some of each. We bumped into Des De Moor outside the keg bar, who told us that the beer judging and all the presentations planned for the weekend had all been cancelled. Not great organisation. So, he decided to just stay and try lots of beers. Sounds like a tough job being a beer writer. We headed to the cask bar, as it wasn’t quite so horribly busy, crowded and hot as the keg bar, but we still waited for about 15 mins at the bar. And this was where I got the biggest disappointment of the evening: the realisation that I wouldn’t be able to try all the beers I wanted. A few beers had run out already, and the programme didn’t say what would be available at which bar. Very confusing, and it meant there was lots of umming and erring at the bar while people decided. I was very disappointed to to be able to have Weird Beard’s Mariana Trench, as I loved it when I tried it a the Earl of Essex, and also that there was no Rocky Head Pale Ale left, as I really wanted to try it from the keg.
I tried lots of beer. Lots. Too many to list (or, in fact, remember). The condition of the cask beer was generally good, expecially from the cask bar, but the keg stuff was on the whole not cold or fizzy enough for something which should be both.
We managed to find a table for the evening, which made the time spent drinking and talking very pleasant, punctuated by infuriating waits at the bar to get beer. And walking outside from one bar to the other felt like a salmon trying to swim upstream.
On the whole, I think it would have been a much better idea to stay at the Craft, or go to one of the many other craft pubs in London which would no doubt have a good stock of London beers. London is brewing, but this wasn’t the showcase for it that I’d hoped it would be.