Special Post – Winter Brew Fest, London

Last weekend I went to Winter Brew Fest. Located at BL-NK, which is just around the corner from Old Street Station in London. Although a little more central compared to the London Craft Beer Festival earlier in the year, the event was still just a stone’s throw away from most of the great breweries in London.

First of all I booked the Sunday session, but as a friend wanted to join me I asked the owner Nicholas I could change the ticket to the Saturday Daytime session. Luckily, Nick agreed (thanks again!) I woke up on Saturday Morning and me and the friend coming were feeling worse for wear (not beer related!) so I was on my own. I arrived a little later than the ticket stated at 12:30 but there was no queue. Winter Brew Fest seemed a little more relaxed than LCBF, and I’ll mention that again later.

I walked into the Festival, past the outside area (mentioned later!) collected my tokens, glass and had a look around inside. It was a little smaller than London Craft Beer festival, and in a way I was glad that it was. It didn’t remind me of a CAMRA Beer Festival, and it didn’t remind me of LCB Festival either. Winter Brew Fest had it’s own unique feel and you could tell that it was a nice, chilled out day session for Beer Lovers with some quality Alternative Rock, Some old school classics and some great remixes – great mix DJ Bolter!

Around was all of the brewers, Anspach & Hobday, The Five Points Brewing Co, Fourpure, Gipsy Hill, Hammerton, Hawkes (a Ginger Beer and Cocktail producer), The London Beer Factory, One Mile End, Redchurch, Thistly (Cider Producer), Truman’s and Weird Beard. It was quite quiet at this point, but there was still a buzz in the air and more people turned up later on during the day.

I headed straight for Five Points to try some of their collaboration beer with the Brewdog Bar in Shoreditch – Smoke and Mirrors Imperial Porter. I thought this was a very well balanced Porter, with hints of Roasty Coffee and then a touch of Smoke which was nice. It finished surprisingly sweet for a Porter, but I suppose that was the Imperial (Double) amount of Malt going into the brew.

As I want to review the event and day, I will make the Beer Reviews shorter than usual. Taking notes at a Beer Festival is indeed important, but taking in the atmosphere and speaking to people is also important and I want to try to get this across. What I liked about looking around the room was the fact there was a great representation of the Breweries that have been around in London for less time than some of the bigger ones. This gave me an opportunity to try some harder to acquire things and that added to the charm of the event.

Next, I headed over to the One Mile End stall. One Mile End are a Microbrewery/Brewpub called The White Heart and it was great to see them there. I noticed that they had 2 beers on – Farmhouse Pilsner and Snakes Alive Double IPA. I was intrigued by the Farmhouse Pilsner and asked about it. I was told that it’s made like a normal Pilsner and then White Wine grapes are added during fermentation. Unfortunately the Keg was running low, but I was given a small taster which was great. It had a very clean White Wine style nose and it was a shame it was the end of the Keg. I was told that it was yeaster than usual, but I think it added to the Farmhouse style and the White Wine Grapes still cut through in the flavour. Something I definitely need to try again! I went for the Snakes Alive DIPA and it was a great example of the style – lots of Pine in the nose and Sweet Pine and Citrus notes on the palette. 2 Great beers and a very friendly brewer – it looks like I’ll have to give the White Heart a visit!

After this I went over to Weird Beard hoping for a taste of a few as they had a good selection of taps on – I asked for a taste of the Coffee IPA but unfortunately they were right by the speaker and I got a full 3rd. I handed over my token and was interested if this beer would be similar to Siren’s Coffee IPA Americano. As I took a smell there was no roasty notes but some light Citrus and Fruit. I tasted the beer and found the beer was quite Citrus forward (which Coffee can also be sometimes) with hints of other fruits and a light Roasty Note at the end. This was definitely a different take and something I enjoyed.

After two >7% IPA’s I thought it would be a good time to explore the outside area and get myself some food. I opted for Ayam Happy – Indonesian Street Food. I’ve always been one to go for Authentic food from this region of the world and went for the Chicken Satays with Peanut Sauce, Chilli Sauce (The lady asked me if it would be mild or spicy – I went for spicy as always) and Warm Rice. I’m glad I went for the spicy Chilli Sauce. Apart from the fact I am a complete Chilli Head (as long as it has flavour!) it cut through the Peanut Sauce really well and was a welcome addition. It was definitely something to eat during a Beer Fest and hit the spot extremely well. It also went down really well with Weird Beard’s Coffee IPA – but Spicy things always do with an IPA!

The atmosphere outside again was a lot more chilled out than the Summer Festival, but there was music from OMD’s Stool and there were plenty of places to sit. A small tent (Far right), some Benches (on the left) and a small seating area next to Ayam Happy. I felt like the set up was to encourage people to speak to fellow beer lovers about what they were drinking and was something that worked well during the Festival.

I went back inside and worked my way over to Redchurch Brewery for their Shoreditch Blonde. On the nose there’s lots of Lemongrass and Citrus. Very Citrusy and Fruity in flavour with some Lager Yeast. I thought this was a good beer and something I could definitely drink a few of!

After this I went over to Hammerton for a definite Winter Beer, their Pentonville Oyster Stout. On the nose, lots of Sweet Chocolate, light Liquorice, and a tiny hint of Sea Salt. The Palette was quite dry with Medium/Low Carbonation with some Roasty notes, Sea Salt and light Cocoa. It had a surprisingly light mouthfeel for an Oyster Stout and had a good drinkability I was impressed with. Something for those cold Winter nights when you fancy a few beers!

Anspach & Hobday – Table Porter

After this I walked down and had a chat with the UBrew guys about their Kickstarter Campaign and how successful it was. It was nice to see them promoting what they’re doing and I’ll definitely be doing a brew with them at some point next year! I’m looking forward to the amount of Gypsy Breweries cropping up from their success!

Next up with Anspach & Hobday, I was amazed when I saw they had a 2.8% Porter and asked for a glass. It was very Roasty on the nose, and Roasty and Chocolately on the palette but with a light mouthfeel. I had to figure out how they did it and went back to the stool. A&H lowered the paler Maris Otter malts but kept the Speciality Roasted and Dark malts up. I thought this was a great idea and it’s something I’ll be seeking out very soon indeed!

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 reviews! Ratings are out of 5…

London Beer Factory – Session – Had quite a boozy smell, but the ABV lower than it smelt. Very clean and sessionable, yeast and light hop – 3.7

Gipsy Hill – Pale Ale – Very Piney and very sweet with Candi Sugar Notes – 4.2

Fourpure – IPA – Citra hops?! Lots of Citrus and Tropical Fruit. This has improved massively since the first time I tried it! Very friendly on the stall too – 4

Truman’s – Stout – Very roasty and wintery indeed, Chocolate and other dark malt flavours – 4.3

Truman’s – Export Pale – Very fruity and almost Wine fruit notes, almost Sherbert Sweet – 4

Redchurch – Hoxton Stout – Very roasty but sweet, reminded me of a Milk Stout – 4/2

Pressure Drop – Stokey Brown (Bottle from Bottle Shop at festival) – Almost like a Porter but with some light nutty notes – 3.7

After this I chilled out and talked to Nicholas the Organiser for a while, he has a real passion for beer and it was great to see someone so passionate throwing such a successful event. A nice chilled out atmosphere with room to speak about what you’re drinking with fellow beer lovers, some well picked great food and amazing beer. Although didn’t try them, there were options for non-beer drinkers too – a Cider stool and a Ginger Beer/Cocktail stool which I thought was a very nice touch indeed. Roll on next year!

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