Special Edition – Festival: London Craft Beer Festival

Last weekend I went to the ever-growing London Craft Beer Festival. Located in the Oval Space at Cambridge Heath, it’s very close to a lot of the up and coming Craft Breweries in London.

I decided to go to the afternoon session on the Saturday, as some of the festival is outside and it’s been a little unpredictable on the weather front lately, especially at night! We arrived just before the event started at 11:40am, lucky we did as I quickly found out that the Afternoon session was sold out and the queue quickly formed behind us.

Once we got into the festival and received our free branded tasting glass, 5 tokens for our 1/3rds of a pint and our festival programme (more on that in a second!) we made our way up to the terrace before going into the space and was greeted by a great view of industrial East London.

Even from the first initial glimpses, you can tell that this is no ordinary CAMRA Real Ale fest. This a proper, balls to the wall, anything goes Craft Beer and food festival. Instead of paying on the door, paying for your glass and then paying for every beer you try at this festival everything is included in the ticket price.

We walked through the terrace ignoring the hunger coming in slowly as our breakfast wore off, as the main thing we were here for was the amazing beer!

Once we got into the hall, all the breweries were lined up and ready to go, the music had started and the beer was already flowing. I’m not sure who the DJ’s were at this particular session, but the blend of music and remixes was spot on and so were the people. Such a diverse crowd enjoying the amazing craft beers on offer.

We headed straight to the Thornbridge Brewing Stand to try some of their Parma Porter, a Porter brewed normally and then Parma Violets are crushed up and added during fermentation.

As there were 24 breweries and I tried at least 1 of each breweries beer, I’m going to keep the reviews short but sweet and want to write a little more about the event. However, there was not a single bad beer tried! The Parma Porter had a big hit of Parma Violets on the nose along with some roasty notes on the nose and was black with a tan head. When you taste this beer, you get another big initial hit of sweet parma violets and malts, which then tapers off to some roasty notes with burnt sugar undertones. The beer surprisingly finishes quite dry, but it’s a smooth brew and something I’d definitely drink in the summer.

After this, I wanted to check out what one of my favourite brewers, Founders Brewing had to offer. We walked over and I recommended All Day IPA to the friend I was with. The only beer they had which I hadn’t tried was the Porter. There’s always a lot of hype about the porter, and as usual with Founders it lived up to it’s name. A very dark, black on appearance that has a tan coloured head which dissipates quite quickly. When you smell it, you can smell the nice roasty sweet malt notes and a touch of brown sugar. On the taste you get the initial roasty, burnt sugar notes but then it finishes so crisp and clean. For me, it’s often unheard of in a porter but this one was seriously a stand out for me even though it’s such a classic style.

Next up, I had to go over to Camden Town Brewery‘s stand to check out the Australian Stone & Wood beer that was on offer – Pacific Ale. I’ve tried some Australian Craft Beer before (Little Creatures Pale Ale) and this beer from S&W meets the standards I’ve come to expect. A pale orange colour with a thick head that fades slowly leaving rings around the glass. This really is a pretty looking brew. On the nose, some grapefruit and tropical fruits. Taste is very fruity indeed but unfortunately very carbonated. Something I would definitely try again to get a full opinion on. Finish is almost crisp like a lager.

After this beer, we were going to go over to Sierra Nevada to finally try some of their Hoptimum… before this (as it’s 10%) we decided it would be a good time to go across the road to the Flanders Festival (also included in the ticket price!) to grab some food there. Although there was some great food on offer at the main part of the festival, we wanted to pop across the road to see what it was about. It was a quaint little festival with a few Belgian beers on offer as well as cooking lessons and the Flemish Kitchen Rebels. I grabbed some Belgian Frites and a freshly made and cooked Chorizo scotch egg. This was much needed at this point and went down well. I also tried a few beers over this side whilst I was there, the Westmalle Tripel which is apparently the first Tripel ever brewed, I tried the coriander and cardomon Vedett by Duvel which was very interesting. I then tried “BIIR” which was meant to be “Barcelona Craft Beer.” It was a little confusing, as it’s brewed in Belgium and I didn’t see it anywhere in Barcelona when I was there. It wasn’t the best so I went onto one of the famous Belgian Fruit beers – Liefmans Fruitesse as I sipped on it the sun came out and it was one of the most refreshing brews of the Festival with tonnes of fruit flavours and some tartness. Great example of a Belgian Fruit Beer.

After the breif tasting of Belgian beers and applying to win a case of Craft Beer (Pick us!!) we went back into the Oval Space we went straight for the Sierra Nevada stand for some of their famous Hoptimum. The beer appeared golden with not much head, as it was served from a cask. On the nose, loads of sweet malts, tonnes of pine, citrus and some grass notes. Much the same on the taste, a thick brown sugar followed by huge hits of pine and citrus undertones. Truely a tasty brew and one of the best imperial IPA‘s I’ve had to date. It finishes sweet. We then walked over to Buxton and I had one of my old favorites – Far Skyline, whilst my friend sampled their Saison. Interestingly, they told me that they are currently fermenting a new batch of Far Skyline which is even more sour and has some Brett yeast added. I’m not sure how this will come out, as Far Skyline is one of my favourite craft beers, but I’m definitely going to give it a try! I sipped on a bit of their Saison whilst chatting away and it really was a great representation of the style with all the spices and funky yeast notes. It was almost like it was from Belgium!

Next, we went across the room to check out Pressure Drop and had some of their Strictly Roots Porter. Strictly Roots is a Porter with Dandelion and Burdock added to it that has been harvested from the nearby Hackney Marshes. This one looks like a normal porter, medium body, black with a tan head. The Aroma of this beer is where it really takes it into it’s own and was one of my favourites from the day. A big bit of roasty smells and chocolate on the nose with the signature Dandelion and Burdock smell but without the sugary notes. When you try this beer, it’s a bit like dropping a shot of fruity espresso into a can of D&B and getting it to ferment somehow. Quite subtle, but you can tell it’s there and adds a really interesting taste to the beer.

After this, we popped over to Magic Rock Brewing and I had my favourite beer of the entire festival. Bearded Lady aged in Bourbon Barrels. An Imperial Stout that has been in Bourbon Barrels for 180 days. It has the consistency of motor oil and arrives thick black with a slight hint of a tan head. The smell of this one is complex. Burnt caramel, dark chocolate, roasted coffee beans. When you taste this beer, the bourbon and oak flavours hit you straight away leaving behind some great roasty caramel and brown sugar notes. It’s such a smooth beer for 10.5% and goes down very well and it’s like drinking something that has the consitancy of cough syup. I really think this beer can rival Goose Island’s Bourbon County Brand Stout. Light carbonation and believe it or not, finishes sweet. A truely fantastic effort from Magic Rock and definitely my favourite of the day.

After a quick break and some socialising with some fellow beer lovers, we moved along to Beavertown Brewery. Beavertown now have a soft spot in my heart as they’ve recently moved to my hometown in Tottenham and are helping an area become regenerated that desperately needs it. I’ve moved away from the area but as with any hometown it has a place in my heart! Back to the beer: I picked up their Lemon Phantom, a Berlinner Weiss with Lemon Zest and juice added. This beer was great and a nice deflection from the darker beers I’d just had. It arrived almost see through, unfiltered but not overly fizzy. It still had great body for such a pale beer. It reminded me of cloudy lemonade on the nose, the taste was a big hit of lacto and sour lemon, ending on a slightly sweet and sour wheat note. A lot of the Berlinner Weissbiers are so concentrated on the lacto and sourness but you could tell that the complexity of this beer was not accidental. Definitely one I need to revisit and I’m hoping I can arrange a trip to the new Bevertown Brewery as soon as possible. Hopefully it’ll still be on the tap list and I’ll be able to enjoy a pint of it!

After this, time was running out and I started rating my beers, so I’m going to be a little more brief for the rest. Plus I don’t want to bore you with endless beer ratings! Ratings are out of 5…

Green Flash West Coast IPA – Imperial IPA – 4.35 – Pine, Citrus, Golden. Dry finish.

Sierra Nevada Equinox Harvest – Wet Hop IPA – 4.5 – Bubblebum, Subtle citrus, golden colour. Crisp.

Signature Brew Candela Gold – Passionfruit Golden Ale – 4 Loads of Passionfruit, Great Lacing, Citrus. Sweet.

Brewdog / Victory Brewing U-Boat – Imperial Stout – 3.75 Chocolate, Roasty flavours, Coffee. Very dark. Dry finish.

Burning Sky Plateau – Pale Ale – 3.25 – Not my favourite of the festival, Citrus and Grapefruit. Standard American Style Pale Ale.

The Kernel Table Beer (Simcoe, Mosaic) – Table Beer – 4.35 – Complex, Bubblegum well balenced with Citrus, finishes sweet.

Redchurch Brewery Broadway Black – Black IPA – 4 – Liquorice, Citrus, Pine. Black, dry finish.

Howling Hops Rye Gose – Gose – 3.5 – White Wine, Lacto, Very dry.

Weird Beard Sadako – Imperial Russian Stout – 4.5 – Coffee, Very roasty but very sweet finish. Fantastic.

Brew By Numbers 14 | 01 Tripel – Tripel – 4.25 – Belgian Tripel with London hoppy Edge, Bubblegum from the Mosaic hops and loads of sweet malt flavours woven in. Want to try again.

After this I chilled out with a few Sierra Nevada Pale Ales and had a chat to various brewers. The atmosphere at this festival really is second to none, Amazing food, amazing friendly diverse people and last but not least Amazing beer! I also managed to grab a small haul from The Bottle Shop.

I’ll be posting about these beers where I can fit them in! I’m particularly looking forward to Green Flash – Le Freak which is a Belgian IPA.

The festival really was a great day out and I’ll be attending in the future every year, roll on the next!

5 thoughts on “Special Edition – Festival: London Craft Beer Festival

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