Category Archives: Beer festivals

Going wild (yeast) in Amsterdam

If there is a more international, more fascinating, more illuminating, more must-not-be-missed beer celebration on the planet right now than Carnivale Brettanomyces in Amsterdam, let me know immediately, because it must be marvellous.

Goats are part of the iconography of Carnivale Brettanomyces

Carnivale Brettanomyces, now on its sixth year, calls itself a beer festival, but it’s more a three-day massively parallel series of dozens of different events – lectures, tastings, panels, tap takeovers and food-and-beer matching – across eight different venues around Amsterdam, involving, for 2017, almost 60 breweries from not quite a dozen different countries, and several hundred visitors from at least 17 , from Canada to India.

What is particularly thrilling, besides the skin-tingling geekery of hearing people discuss, and discussing, deeply obscure aspects of beer making, is tasting deeply rare beers: Norwegian farmhouse ales, saisons from tiny Belgian 10th-generation family breweries, pale ales you would otherwise have to take a trip to far-off rural Vermont and queue for three hours in the cold to get hold of.

As the name implies, the purpose of the festival is to celebrate Brettanomyces, the funky (literally) cousin to standard brewer’s yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Most mainstream brewers, and all winemakers, shun Brett the way vampires flee from crosses, believing the aromas it brings to fermentations – sweaty socks, farmyards, damp leather – are definitely not those they wish to put in front of their drinkers. But Belgian brewers have been creatively using strains of Brett in everything from Lambics to pale ales (Orval, famously, has a touch of Brettanomyces) for centuries, and the yeast was actually first isolated from samples of English stock ales, and named, by the Danish brewing chemist Niels Hjelte Claussen, at Carlsberg in Copenhagen, in or shortly before 1903.

British brewers largely eliminated Brett from their beers before the First World War (though Guinness continued cultivating the yeast in its strong Foreign Extra Stout) and American brewers, if they had ever much used it, certainly forgot how to over the lost years of Prohibition, But in the past decade, inspired by a lust for Belgian-style beers, craft brewers in the US have been getting back into Brett, and the fashion has now been picked up in Britain.

Carnivale Brettanomyces was founded by Elaine Olsthoorn of the Amsterdam craft beer bar In de Wildeman and Jan “Beekaa” Lemmens of de Bierkoning, the Amsterdam craft beer shop in 2011. The pair were picking up on a growing interest in wild yeasts and sour beers, and by 2015 their event was attracting brewers from half a dozen countries outside the Netherlands, including five from the UK. This year the countries with breweries represented  included the Netherlands, Canada, Germany, Russia, the Czech Republic, the UK, the United States, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Belgium, and the other visitors came from all those places and another six, at least, countries as well (Denmark, France, Norway, India, Iceland and Italy).

‘Canal-view room” they said about my hotel in Amsterdam, and if you stood on a chair and twisted your head out of the window like a giraffe, it was …

The speakers at the different events were, too, a varied crew: a swath of American craft brewers, including David Logsdon of Logsdon Farmhouse Ales in Oregon, Shaun Hill, brewer at Hill Farmstead in Vermont, RateBeer’s “best brewery in the world” for 2012, 2014 and 2015, and Jeffrey Stuffings of the Jester King brewery in Texas; several experts on yeast, including Troels Prahl, head of research and development at Whitelabs Copenhagen and Richard Preiss, founder of Escarpment Laboratories in Ontario, Canada; local brewers including Steven Vandenber, brewmaster at the Gulpener Brouwerij in Limberg, Chris Vandewalle of Seizoensbrouwerij Vandewalle in Lo-Reninge, West Flanders, reckoned to be the smallest brewery in Belgium, and Pierre Alex Carlier, brewer at Brasserie de Blaugies in the far west of Hainaut, Belgium; and three English beer writers – Ron Pattinson, who was lecturing on Scottish beers, Pete Brown, who was speaking about his new book, Miracle Brew, and, er me, delivering a talk for the second year running in Amsterdam, this time on “The Seven Ages of Porter”, with the intention of trying to cover as much of the little that is known about the role of Brett in porter as I could.

The two problems with Carnivale Brettanomyces are that with almost 70 scheduled events over three days, it means three, four or even five things you want to go to might be taking place at the same time, which inevitably, absent a handy space/time wormhole, results in having to miss some exciting happenings; and the events themselves cost upwards of €11 each to get into, with the three beer-and-food dinners €60 a plate. That quickly makes a probably already expensive trip to Hamster Jam even more wallet-bending. But hey, you’re getting to try beers that will sometimes be once-in-a-lifetime experiences, and you’re hearing from one of the best line-ups of brewing expertise ever gathered in one place.

Certainly, for me, the punch in the overdraft was utterly worth it: I’ve not enjoyed a beery gathering so much for a long time, lots of great conversations with eager, enthusiastic, experienced, knowledgeable, people, like Tom Norton of the Little Earth Project brewery in Edwardstone, near Sudbury, Suffolk. Tom has promised to send me some of his farmhouse sour beers, and since Jeff “Stonch” Bell described the brewery’s Brett Organic Stock Ale earlier this year as ” definitely the best sour beer I’ve had from the UK”, I’m keen to see them.

Inside In de Wildeman

I arrived in Amsterdam last week late (thanks, easyJet) and in a thunderstorm (thanks, dodgy Dutch weather), but I had been wise enough to book into a hotel in the Canal Belt near where the Keizersgracht (“emperor’s canal”) meets the Amstel, within non-arduous walking distance of Centraal station, which also meant within non-arduous walking distance of In de Wildeman, one of the bars serving as a main centre for the festival. I never got to In de Wildeman the last time I was in the city, and if my legs were bendy enough I’d be kicking myself, because it’s a tremendous little two-room dark wood bar with an excellently chosen range of draught and bottled beers and highly knowledgeable staff. (In how many other bars anywhere, if you asked the barman had he tried Stinking Bishop cheese, would he reply: “No, but it’s on my wish list!” and add that he wanted to try the same cheesemaker’s Hereford Hop cheese as well.)

“Men’s Love”, aparently

Ironically, because the bar was stocked up for the Brett fest, more than half the draught beers at In de Wildeman were from British breweries: Buxton, Chorlton, Burning Sky, Thornbridge, Cloudwater, Siren, Hawkshead. That’s a fair line-up for any bar anywhere, though, and after a nod to Amsterdam with a bottle of a saison called Mannenliefde (Dutch for “men’s love”, if Google Translate can be trusted) from the local Oedipus brewery, I moved on to an evening of sour ales from Blighty. All were very good, and the Generation V Brett DIPA from Buxton was outstanding: the first time I had an all-Brett IPA, from Evil Twin, I compared it to a “how hot can you stand” over-curried vindaloo, and said it was a style that wouldn’t catch on. I was wrong. This was a perfectly balanced brew, the all-Brett beer to give your mate who has never had one and is nervous as a bride.

That was I think, my first ever all-sour-ales evening: to be truthful I wouldn’t rush to stay off the non-sour ales all night again, but there’s a deservedly growing market for the category, and unlike mango juice IPAs it’s not a momentary fad. (“Category”, not style: discuss.)

Copper vessels in the former Heineken brewery

The next day, as I had time before my talk, I walked down to the former Heineken brewery for the “Heineken Experience”. It’s a slick multi-media production, the huge real-copper coppers, mash tuns and lauter tuns are still there, and I spotted only one substantive error in all the information on the walls – no, Heineken, you were not the first brewery to employ a chemist. It would have been good to have seen more about Amsterdam’s other breweries, and its pre-Heineken brewing traditions. Enjoyed my pint of H41, made with weird South American yeast, though.

My hour burbling about porter at the Waalse Kerk seemed to satisfy the audience, and post-talk I walked out to the De Prael bar to catch Chris Vandewalle of Seizoensbrouwerij Vandewalle. His talk on Saison brewing meant sampling some of his brewery’s beers, which include a strong 7 per cent blonde ale, a red cherry beer and an “Oud Bruin” brown beer. No messing about: just good, honest beer. Then it was a dash back to the Waalse Kerk to catch Derek Dellinger, “The Fermented Man“, talking about a year spent consuming only fermented foods, from yogurt to rotten shark buried in the ground in Iceland.

“I’m not eating that, it’s been in someone else’s mouth!”

Alas, the timetable meant I had to dash away to be at a goat dinner featuring beers from Jester King in a restaurant over the other side of the IJ, so I missed the end of the talk. Multiple parts of goat were then consumed: tongue, liver, shoulder. Let’s be fair and say I now understand why goat is not regularly on menus. The beers were fine, though: all in attractive 75cl bottles, mostly if not totally Belgian-influenced, and including a bière de miel made with Texan wild flower honey; Figlet, a 6.6 per cent farmhouse ale fermented with smoked Texas figs; Simple Means, a “farmhouse Altbier” with smoked malt; and Sing-Along Death Match, a collaboration with the German brewery Freigeist Bierkultur that included Texan honey again, this time cold-smoked with rosemary sprigs at a local barbecue before the beer was refermented on wild Mexican plums, Didn’t notice the plums myself, but I appreciated the effort …

Sing-Along Death Match

The next day I was back down the Waalse Kerk at 10am to catch Shaun Hill, Pierre-Alex Carlier, Phil Markowski, author of the now rather dated Farmhouse Ales: Culture and Craftsmanship in the European Tradition (its datedness a sign of how far we have come in the sour beer sector since the book was published in 2004) and brewer at Two Roads Brewing Company in Connecticut, and Chad Yakobson, author of The Brettanomyces Project and brewer at Crooked Stave Artisan Ales in Denver, talk about Saisons. Hurrah for Google Maps. Load up the app, tell it your destination, plug your earphones in and it takes you by the hand and leads you through the streets of a strange city like a native Amsterdammer. Its pronunciation of Dutch streetnames is that of a native of New York, unfortunately, but that’s amusing rather than a serious flaw. On my way, having not had breakfast, I went into a cafe to try to get some essential caffeine and carbohydrates, ordered a coffee to take away, looked at the menu and only then realised what sort of “coffee shop” I was in. Me: “Er – do you have any normal muffins, or only wacky ones?” Woman with partly shaved head and nose-ring behind counter: “Only wacky ones!”

Lars Marius Garshol

The last talk I was able to hear before I had to fly back was Norway’s very own Lars Marius Garsjol, talking about northern European farmhouse ales and kveik, that latter being Norwegian farmhouse yeast. I knew it was going to be fascinating – and it was. Even better, Lars had brought with him four examples of farm-made Norwegian ales for us to try, a unique and thrilling experience. His research is some of the most important currently taking place in the beeryverse, exploring a tradition of farm brewing in countries including Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland and Russia that is centuries old and literally dying out, as its practitioners, who have inherited the farmhouse brewing tradition from their ancestors, all gradually pass away with nobody, today, willing to pick up the baton (or mash fork) and carry on. Among the many amazing practices Lars has uncovered is “raw ale”, brewing without boiling the wort, which was almost certainly the norm in pre-hop times (when there was no need to boil the wort) but which disappeared from mainstream brewing four centuries ago.

A reproduction of a carved wooden Norwegian farm brewer’s yeast catcher, for preserving yeast from one brew to the next

The practices of these inheritors of an ancient methodology are based, again, on centuries of tradition, and while often the brewers have no idea why they are doing what they do – “My grandfather always did it that way,” they tell Lars – it generally turns out that what they are doing is just what they should be doing to get the result they want, best practice probably worked out six or seven or more generations ago and continued in the family since. Lars described watching one Norwegian farm brewer measure the grain and heat the water for mashing, before mixing the two in the mashtun, all without weighing, or judging the heat of the water except by how much steam was coming off. When Lars measured the temperature of the mash: 74ºC. Six months later Lars returned, when the weather was now icy, and watched the same man measure the grain and heat the water for mashing under winter conditions. Lars took the mash temperature again: 73.8ºC. It was an excellent example of how the “pre-industrial” brewer was able, through skill and above all experience, to equal the industrial brewer in hitting the correct targets during the process of brewing. The greatest benefit thermometers and the rest brought industrial brewers at the end of the 18th century was that it enabled the unskilled to match the skilled. If you’re not already a regular reader of Lars’s blog, sign up, you’ll learn an enormous amount. Oh, and those farmhouse beers were tremendous, each one very different, from colour to flavour, but very drinkable.

That, then, was my Carnivale Brettanomyces 2017: everybody else’s would have been different, because nobody would have gone to the same set of events. If you’re a fan of sour, aged beers, it’s one of the best experiences on the planet, and Elaine, Jan (who invited me over to speak) and their colleagues must be thanked profusely for their efforts.

Carlsberg celebrates the ordinary

So, what was it like, the ancient lager Carlsberg spent two years and hundreds of thousands of kroner recreating, resurrecting yeast out of a bottle dating back to 1883, pulling out 130-year-old brewing records, growing an ancient barley variety, hiring a floor maltings, working out the most likely hop varieties to use, reproducing the original brewing water, having oak casks made in a Lithuanian cooperage, making moulds of vintage bottles so that new versions could be hand-blown, and then flying in dozens of journalists and beer writers to Copenhagen from as far away as Malaysia and California to drink the result. Continue reading Carlsberg celebrates the ordinary

Simon Williams hits the bull’s eye about what’s wrong with GBBF and why the London Craft Beer Festival is so much better

I don’t think I’ve ever read a blogpost I agreed with more than Simon Wiliams of CAMRGB’s take on the Great British Beer Festival at Olympia last week versus the London Craft Beer Festival, also last week, in Hackney. Read it here. Basically, the problem with the GBBF, 40 years on from the very first one in Covent Garden, is that it’s utterly unimaginative, dull, unengaging and uninspiring. Too much of the beer is too samey (mind, that’s a reflection of the state of the British small brewing scene), and while there are interesting and challenging beers to find, it’s a pain in the butt trying to track therm down. What’s more, reports suggest that if you go at the end of the week, all the most interesting beers will be long sold out. It really needs a serious rethink in terms of presentation, approach, purpose: in particular, there should be far more involvement from the breweries supplying the beer than just turning up with casks and pumpclips and then buggering off. At the LCBF, in contrast, the beers are almost without exception challenging and exciting, the stalls are staffed by people from the breweries involved who are delighted to chat. Despite the room the LCBF was held in being far too hot, I enjoyed myself, and enjoyed the beers, far more than I did at the GBBF. I could say much more, but Simon has said it all, and very well.

Why Welsh beer blogger Simon Martin is a superstar in Poland

Two of the more than 300 bronze dwarfs to be found on the streets of Wrocław. They commemorate the surrealist anti-Communist Orange Alternative protest movement of the 1980s, whose symbol was a dwarf, and which started in Wrocław. 'Opiłek' means 'metal chip'
Two of the more than 300 bronze dwarfs to be found on the streets of Wrocław. They commemorate the surrealist anti-Communist Orange Alternative protest movement of the 1980s, whose symbol was a dwarf, and which started in Wrocław. ‘Opiłek’ means ‘metal chip’

Wandering around the Festival of Good Beer outside the football stadium in Wrocław, southern Poland last weekend with the Welsh beer blogger Simon Martin, it was quickly clear I was in the presence of a genuine superstar. A stream of young Poles – mostly male, but including the occasional female – were rushing up to Simon, greeting him by name, shaking his hand warmly and asking if they could have their picture taken with him. During a break in the flood of fandom, Simon wryly told me that he wished he was half as famous back in the UK as he is in Poland. His YouTube video blog, Real Ale Craft Beer, has just under 10,000 subscribers and gets around a thousand views a day – respectable numbers. But while, clearly, many of those viewers come from the UK – after all, Simon is based in this country, and speaking in English – a surprising number come from Poland. The reason seems to be that in the past four years, Poles have developed a growing thirst for craft beer, and an equal thirst for information about the subject, and access to easily digested, enthusiastically delivered knowledge about new craft beers. That is what Simon’s beer-reviewing video website brings them, and they love it – and him.

Poland, you may be surprised to learn, is the third largest brewing nation in the EU, and looking to soon overtake the UK and move into second place. It produced around 40 million hectolitres in 2013, from 155 breweries, 96 litres per head per year, up 10.4% in four years, against 42 million hectolitres a year in the UK from 1,490 breweries, 66 litres per head per year, down 7.1% since 2009, and 94.3 million hectolitres a year in Germany, 107 litres per head per year, down 3.8% in four years, from 1,350 or so breweries.

From those figures you would be guessing that the Polish brewing scene is dominated by big concerns, and it is. SAB Miller has around 38% of the market through Kompania Piwowarska, including the Tyskie and Lech brands. Heineken has another 35% through Grupa Żywiec, and Carlsberg has 14% through its Polish subsidiary, which includes Okocim, leaving just 13% for the independent sector. But that independent sector is thriving: Tomasz Kopyra, the Polish beer blogger who invited me to the Wrocław festival (and who is even more of a superstar among Polish craft beer fans than Simon Martin – Tomasz has 50,000 followers on his own video beer blog and could not walk two yards across the festival grounds without being mobbed by people wanting selfies with him) told me that there were 500 new beers launched on the Polish market last year, a number that will certainly be exceeded by a considerable margin in 2015, when 100 new beers were launched in April this year alone.

Poland now has some 30 newly built craft breweries, and around 30 or 40 other craft brewer concerns contract-brewing their beers on the plant of older-established businesses. The beers they are brewing, just like the beers made by craft brewers elsewhere, largely reflect what is happening in the United States, with big, hugely hoppy IPAs and thumping stouts (though Poland has had a long tradition of very strong porters dating from the 18th and early 19th centuries, when London brewers such as Barclay Perkins exported porter and stout to the Baltic region and local brewers were forced to compete with their own versions). Continue reading Why Welsh beer blogger Simon Martin is a superstar in Poland

A tale of two beer festivals: GBBF versus LCBF

If I had wanted confirmation that the “non-macro” British beer scene is now split into two separate camps, serving different constituencies, with remarkably little cross-over between them, considering that both sides are dedicated to the pursuit of terrific beer, two events a couple of weeks back could not have made it clearer.

In West London, the Campaign for Real Ale’s annual Great British Beer Festival at Olympia delivered the products of around 350 different cask ale brewers to some 50,000 people over five days. Meanwhile, over (almost symbolically) on the other side of the city in East London, at the Oval Space in Bethnal Green, the first London Craft Beer Festival, on for three days in a considerably smaller venue, served beers from just 20 brewers, (only four of whom were also at GBBF*), most or all of it dispensed from pressurised containers that would have kegophobe Camra members fobbing with fury.

The most remarkable contrast between the two events was not the rather different attitudes to the idea of how “good beer” could be dispensed, however, but the very different sets of people attending each festival. The GBBF crowds were a wide selection of the sort of drinkers you might find in any pub in a middle-class area, minus the families though mostly male and skewed, it appeared to me, towards the over-40s – indeed, I’d say the number able to get to Olympia using their Boris bus pass (ahem – like me) was considerably greater than in the pub population at large.

The GBBF crowd
The GBBF crowd: older, mostly male. Your dad’s beer festival

The LCBF crowd, in contrast, was in parts almost a parody of hipsterdom: man buns and “ironic” short-back-and-sides with beards, plenty of checked shirts and Converse All-Stars, and with the hipster “ironic band T-shirt” (where you display on your chest the image of a beat combo popular with teenyboppers in the late 1980s) replaced with the “ironic beer T-shirt” (Tusker lager – I must dig out my Foster’s Special Bitter T-shirt from 1994 …). There were far more women as a proportion of the audience at the LCBF, and the age range was considerably narrower (and younger) than Olympia: I was older than 95 per cent or so of everybody else at the Bethnal Green event by a good 20 years, and (unlike Olympia), while there were plenty of beards, I was wearing one of the very, very few showing any signs of grey.

your little brother's beer festival
The LCBF crowd: younger, hipper. Your little brother’s beer festival

Continue reading A tale of two beer festivals: GBBF versus LCBF

Beerfest Asia Singapore: the sublime and the ridiculous

Brewerkz IPA 2Young Singaporeans love to PARTAAAY. Which means that while Beerfest Asia, held in the city every June since 2009, now places a hefty emphasis on craft beers from small producers, for very many of the more than 25,000 people who pour in over four days to the festival site, the 400-plus different beers available, from Sweden to New Zealand, and Japan to Belgium, are less important than the opportunities to get pissed with friends, wear very silly hats, listen to very loud music and dance on the tables.

This probably explains why no one seems to think it incongruous that alongside all the craft beers (such as the highly regarded and multi-awarded Feral Brewing from Western Australia, Mikkeller from Denmark via various other places, Hitochino from Japan, De Molen from De Nederlands, Stone from California, Moa from New Zealand and our own dear BrewDog) there was not only a large stand for Jagermeister, but big bars run by AB InBev (featuring Stella Artois, Becks and Budweiser) and by Asia Pacific Breweries, the Far Eastern arm of Heineken, selling the Dutch brewer’s eponymous eurofizz, plus Strongbow cider, Desperado tequila beer, and Sol. Truly the sublime being served alongside the ridiculous. Continue reading Beerfest Asia Singapore: the sublime and the ridiculous

Hong Kong’s first ever beer festival

Beertopia at the Western Market
The Beertopia crowd around 3pm: already pretty full …

Until last weekend, Hong Kong had never seen a beer festival: not a proper one, with a choice of beers from a range of different brewers. Odd, perhaps, for the home of Asia’s oldest microbrewer, the Hong Kong brewery, still running after 16 years in Aberdeen, on the south side of Hong Kong island. But most Hongkongers don’t seen enthusiastic about beer except as a thirst quencher or a relaxer. And yet … since 2009, Singapore has been running a hugely successful beer festival, Beerfest Asia, which attracted 30,000 people over four days last year, to try 300 beers on 40 stands. So Asian cities CAN run successful big beer festivals.

Mind, Singapore, despite having a smaller population than Hong Kong, manages to support far more micro-brewers too: seven, Beer Avocado suggests. Hong Kong still only has two, albeit one is probably the only brewery dedicated to reproducing hand-pumped British cask-style ales in the whole of Asia, the tiny Typhoon brewery, founded by an airline pilot from Devon, Pierre Cadoret, in 2009.

But among the attenders at the 2010 Beerfest Asia in Singapore was a 28-year-old Canadian called Jonathan So, whose parents had emigrated to Toronto from Hong Kong in the 1970s. Jonathan had moved to Hong Kong to work for a software company, bringing with him an appreciation for craft beer picked up while a student at Columbia University in New York. The Singapore festival impressed him deeply: “I thought, ‘How come Hong Kong doesn’t have anything like this, even a fraction of its size?”

Continue reading Hong Kong’s first ever beer festival

London’s brewing, London’s brewing …

The London Brewers Alliance beer festival at Vinopolis, by Borough Market, a couple of Saturdays ago was a terrific event, thoroughly enjoyable. In one room were gathered a dozen or more (I forgot to count) stalls representing breweries from in and around London, with the brewers themselves serving their beers and happy to talk to the punters about them.

It was the kind of “meet the brewer” show common in the US but almost unheard of in the UK that we really should be seeing repeated across this country. And it’s good to see London’s brewers working together in the 21st century to support each other in exactly the same way their ancestors did almost eight centuries ago, when the Brewers’ Guild was founded at All Hallows’ Church, London Wall.

It was also good, for me, to see that the Brewery History Society had a stall there: the LBA clearly has an interest in London’s history as a world-class brewing city, and everybody needs to be reminded of this almost forgotten heritage. I’d argue that, historically, London has an excellent claim to be regarded as the greatest brewing city in the world. Yes, I AM a Londoner, so of course I’m biased, but I dare you to deny that over the centuries London has given the world more new beer styles than any other brewing centre on the planet:
Continue reading London’s brewing, London’s brewing …

Going for a Californian Burton

After I had met Matt Brynildson brewmaster at the Firestone Walker brewery in Paso Robles, California, on his way to make a Californian-style pale ale at Marston’s brewery in Burton upon Trent, for this year’s Wetherspoon’s International Beer Festival, I was eager to try Matt’s brew.

The problem with the Wetherspoon’s festival, though, is that with 50 beers on offer and no one pub able to do more than eight or so at a time, finding the one you want in any random ‘spoons outlet is, at best, five to one against: indeed, some pubs, I found last year, weren’t carrying any festival specials at all.

But since I was on the eastern side of the City on Friday night I decided the Masque Haunt in Old Street was worth a punt: despite the poor reviews you’ll find at that link, this is, as pubs underneath office blocks go, not bad, I’ve been drinking there for a dozen years and the condition of the beer is generally good, the customers are no more wacky than anywhere else in the City after 8pm when anyone normal has caught the train home*, and, most importantly, it offered a very good selection of beers during last year’s festival.

Result! Not only was the Haunt stocking Matt’s California Pale Ale, it also had two of the other three “international guest brewer” beers on tap, Baron’s Black Wattle Original Ale, with the Sydney-based brewers coming to Banks’s in Wolverhampton to recreate their beer (two more different places than “Sinny” and “Walverampton” it would be tough to think up) and Yona Yona from the Yo-Ho brewery in Kitasaku, Japan, being brewed at Banks’s.

Continue reading Going for a Californian Burton

GBBF: not all about the beer

The Great British Beer Festival isn’t about the beer. Well, OK, a large part of it is about the beer, there are hundreds of different brews on sale. How could it not be about the beer. But for me the beer isn’t the main pleasure: instead it’s the chance to meet a large number of pals without having to ring them up beforehand, because I know they’ll be going. I can predict who many of those I’ll share a beer with at Earls Court after an unplanned encounter around the bars will be. But there are always surprise stumble-upons, old pals recognised with a start. Plus beer!

Continue reading GBBF: not all about the beer