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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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!