This Saturday just gone, the London Brewers Alliance had jolly good knees up above a wine shop in London Bridge. More accurately, they held a showcase of London breweries, a beer festival really, above Vinopolis and Brew Wharf. It was a cracking night out, with a good time apparently had by all. Last year’s inaugural event was eclipsed comfortably, both in terms of the number of breweries in attendance and the turnout, with the large room packed out by mid-evening.
Once again I was struck by the knowledge, passion and friendliness on show from the breweries, turning the seemingly very steep £20 entrance fee into a relative bargain once all the free samples and generous over-pours were in full swing. The crowd was pretty young, and the beers were strong – I did manage to get home several hours after leaving, though which route or mode or transport I took is anyone’s guess. I apologise to anyone who experienced my drunkenness first hand.
Owing to my intoxication I cannot recall every beer that passed my lips, but there were some standouts, both good and not quite so good. Plenty of new breweries were on show as well - it was my first experience of Moncada from West London – the beers were solid and their modern approach to the branding was really impressive. I also had some beer from Kew Green that made me want to visit their brewpub and have some more. Less impressive were the beers from Redchurch, but as they are brand new I’m sure they will improve. I was warned off trying some of the other new breweries in attendance by friends, again perhaps just teething problems. Worst of the bunch for my money was the festival beer – I thought it smelled like melted strawberry ice cream, was overly sweet and had no backbone or bitterness. Too many cooks perhaps.
On the plus side we definitely have some real high quality brewers in London these days. The best beers I drank all evening were from the London Amateur Brewers who were pouring generously all night. I had a very decent oatmeal stout, a peachy pale ale, and an outstanding Belgian Dubbel that I was longing for ages after it had gone. Kernel brought their usual array of top notch beers, most of which were gone pretty early. I thought their export stout on cask was a particularly good, soft and sweet with loads of chocolate.
Another winner was Camden Town, who put the most effort out of anyone into their stand and it paid off, as they seemed to be surrounded by drinkers all night. Their beers were excellent as usual, and if left to my own devices I would have drunk the Red all night long. Slightly less high-tech were Brodies, distributing their beers from a freezer which gave them a welcoming temperature, if a somewhat slushy texture. I still thought the Red and the Black IPA were delicious though.
On several counts the event was a huge success I thought – it was a great fun night with lots of quality beer on show, and also I discovered a bunch of breweries that I previously knew nothing about. The crowd was diverse and friendly, but more importantly was much bigger than last year, proof if it were needed that craft beer is encroaching on the mainstream. Two small gripes also – it shut way too early, the beer glasses were almost snatched out of our hands at 10pm on the dot – I don’t know about anyone else but that was not past my bedtime. And the major concern is that despite the popularity of craft beer and the resurgence of London breweries, we are likely to have to wait another year for the next one.