It’s taken us a couple of weeks to think through our reaction to CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival. We don’t go every year because we haven’t always enjoyed it enough, frankly, to push us into making the effort, but then sometimes we do. This year, we got tickets for the trade session (gratis, free, and for nothing) and, as we were in London for the Olympics decided to give it another go.
The venue, Olympia, was a vast improvement on the vast hangar-like Earl’s Court of previous years; there were some very exciting beers on offer (Greene King 5X); all the volunteers we dealt with were lovely, especially the rebel who’d ditched his mandatory Hobgoblin T-shirt; and it was nice to bump into beery people we’d only previously met online.
But… on the whole, what did it offer that we couldn’t get on a pub crawl in London? Or even in East London? Yes, there were some specific rare beers, but we’re not much into ‘ticking’, and, anyway, every pub we went into in the course of a fortnight had wonderful beers we’d never tried before.
These days, and long may it last, London is a year-round, permanent beer festival, so why endure queues, grubby festival glasses, deposit schemes, hours spent leaning against pillars for want of a seat, and the constant clattering of Betty Stogs’ marching band?