Beer Exposed

You may remem­ber we were a bit wary about Beer Exposed. A beer fes­ti­val with a dress­code? £20 entry? Tsing­tao exhibit­ing?

Well, we went on Fri­day and had a pret­ty good time.

The entrance area was a Shep­herd Neame-spon­sored edu­ca­tion zone where you could learn about the basic ingre­di­ents of beer. The main part of the hall was most­ly stands for brew­ers, with the occa­sion­al shop and also a CAMRA stall.

There was an inter­est­ing range of British brew­eries, from the big boys (GK, Fullers, Shep­herd Neame), to the trendy guys (Mean­time, Brew­Dog), and a whole host of stuff inbe­tween. Bai­ley, Som­er­set boy that he is, was delight­ed to chat to the Exmoor peo­ple. The Amer­i­cans were rep­re­sent­ed by the Brook­lyn Brew­ery (includ­ing Gar­rett Oliv­er in per­son on Fri­day), Blue Moon (didn’t try it) and a stall offer­ing prod­ucts from Anchor, Goose Island, Great Divide and oth­er US big­gies. And there was an assort­ment of inter­est­ing and not so inter­est­ing brew­eries from oth­er parts of the world.

We were delight­ed to find that Zywiec had brought some of their leg­endary porter. Hav­ing wait­ing for more than sev­en years to try this again, we were not dis­ap­point­ed. At 9.5% it has a pleas­ing sticky trea­cly feel to it, with great cof­fee and liquorice flavours. We were going to buy loads of it, but were thwart­ed by job­sworth secu­ri­ty guards (more on that lat­er).

How the beer bit worked: you got giv­en a glass, and you got taster sam­ples, which var­ied in size depend­ing on who was pour­ing. While the por­tions them­selves were small, there was huge vari­ety on offer, and lots of brew­ers had bought their best stuff along (eg Para­dox from Brew Dog, Vin­tage Ale from Coop­ers) – and you could always go back for more. If you want­ed to buy, some stalls accept­ed cash, where­as oth­ers only took vouch­ers, which you had to buy on the front desk. There was also free water for drink­ing and rins­ing your glass.

Zak Avery took us on an “Extreme Beer” walk, start­ing with Schlenker­la Rauch­bier and cov­er­ing offer­ings from Great Divide, Mean­time, and Brew Dog, among oth­ers. Inci­den­tal­ly, Zak was sur­prised to find him­self on the first page of the Speak­er Pro­files, but he shouldn’t be so mod­est. He was extreme­ly engag­ing, had plen­ty of inter­est­ing nuggets of infor­ma­tion for novice and expert alike, and real­ly knew about the beers he was offer­ing.

Gar­rett Oliv­er lived up to his rep­u­ta­tion – we went to his ses­sion on beer and cheese, although inter­est­ing­ly he hadn’t done the pair­ings him­self. We liked his man­ner, and the way he described what he was drink­ing, and we’re inspired to set up a beer and cheese tast­ing our­selves.

We had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet sev­er­al mem­bers of the Young Cam­ra Col­lec­tiv – they’re jol­ly nice chaps. We also got to meet Phil Lowry from Beer Mer­chants / Cave Direct who got us the tick­ets (thanks!), and Steve Williams, Greater Lon­don Region­al CAMRA direc­tor and writer of The Beer Jus­tice blog (anoth­er jol­ly nice chap).

Now the whinge about the organ­i­sa­tion. The event was sched­uled to stop at 9. This meant that they cut the mic on Gar­rett Oliv­er when he was still speak­ing, and pret­ty much chased us all out of the build­ing.

9pm is way too ear­ly to fin­ish on a Fri­day night. We couldn’t get there until 6:30 because of work, and we’re sure plen­ty of the tar­get mar­ket would be in the same boat. There were quite a few stands that we want­ed to vis­it and couldn’t because we were out of time.

We were also left with vouch­ers to spend. We were pre­vent­ed from exchang­ing them with the nice guy from Zywiec, because it had gone 9, and there was no sys­tem for exchang­ing them back for cash, leav­ing us a few quid down. We argued in the organ­is­ers’ office. They did offer us free tick­ets for the next day, which I sup­pose would have been a good deal, but we had oth­er plans for the Sat­ur­day.

So a pity that we left an oth­er­wise good event on such a sour note.

All in all, it was a great idea, and we think that a beer novice would have learnt a lot and hope­ful­ly come away with a real enthu­si­asm for beer. We still think the entry fee would have been a bit pro­hib­i­tive for some­one who wasn’t that inter­est­ed in beer in the first place, but we’d be delight­ed if the organ­is­ers proved us wrong.

There was def­i­nite­ly a dif­fer­ent crowd to the usu­al beer fes­ti­val bunch. A lot more women, a lot less beards, and peo­ple from a whole range of eth­nic and nation­al back­grounds. The trendy Isling­ton loca­tion also seemed to have lured in some pass­ing trade, includ­ing a fair few tourists and a lot of peo­ple at a loose end after work.

Over­all, a suc­cess, we think. I hope there’s anoth­er one next year with the wrin­kles ironed out. If there is, we might well get a bunch of our “not that fussed about beer” friends and take them along.

Dec­la­ra­tion of pecu­niary inter­est: we got free tick­ets. And Phil gave us some Beer Geek Break­fast to take away!

Wedmore beer festival

An arguably slightly stereotypical Somerset view
An arguably slight­ly stereo­typ­i­cal Som­er­set view

I had a great time at Wed­more beer fes­ti­val last year.

Wed­more is in the wilds of Som­er­set, beyond the impos­si­bly ancient, witch-haunt­ed hills beyond Arkham near Ched­dar. The beer fes­ti­val takes place in the church hall and is more of a com­mu­ni­ty knees-up than a CAM­RA-spon­sored beard-stroking ses­sion. The tick­ers are giv­en a qui­et room out the back, in fact, so they won’t get in the way of the peo­ple danc­ing. Tonight, there’s blues music on the menu.

There’s also tons of real ale and some fan­tas­tic scrumpy on offer.

Sad­ly, I can’t make it this year (much to my Dad’s annoy­ance) but if you’re in the area and at a loose end, I can’t rec­om­mend it enough.


Beer Exposed – what’s that all about?

Anchor Porter
Anchor Porter

We’ve been invit­ed to this Beer Exposed event in Lon­don at the end of Sep­tem­ber. I can’t quite work out what to make of it.

The good side – lots of brew­ers from around the world will be there. That said, the choice is a lit­tle weird – as well as excel­lent brew­eries from Britain (Fullers, Exmoor, Harvieston), Bel­gium (Lief­mans, West­malle*) and Amer­i­ca (Great Divide, Goose Island, Anchor etc), there’s also a lot of dull “world lager” – eg Tsing­tao, Quilmes, Cristal from Cuba and no less than four bland Pol­ish brew­eries. Although, if Zywiec bring along some Porter, I’ll be first in the queue.

The mis­sion of the event is to “explore, edu­cate, enlight­en”, and to this end there are var­i­ous talks and walks run by var­i­ous beer celebs. Star turn for beer geeks must be Gar­rett Oliv­er, doing var­i­ous ses­sions on beer with food, includ­ing beer & cheese and beer & choco­late pair­ings. Many mem­bers of the British beer-writ­ing gliterati are also there, and some of the ses­sions look very inter­est­ing indeed.

But… the whole thing smacks a bit of “beer is the new wine” to me. There’s quite a hefty entrance fee – £14 in advance, £17 on the door, which doesn’t include any of the beer walks or talks. Lots of the talks are focused on beer and food. There’s no-one over the age of 30 on the pro­mo­tion­al mate­r­i­al. There’s even a bloody dress code. Although if this is most­ly to stop the sex­ist t-shirts, I don’t mind so much…

There’s also no men­tion of real ale, which is per­haps why I’ve not seen much men­tion of this in offi­cial CAMRA press or on their web­site. They do have a stand there, though, so hope­ful­ly real ale is not going to be entire­ly neglect­ed in this sen­so­ry explo­ration. While I firm­ly believe that there are some great non-real beers in the world, real ale is an impor­tant and unique­ly British part of the beer sto­ry.

So – an inter­est­ing rad­i­cal approach to extend­ing the appeal of beer, or a pre­ten­tious mar­ket­ing exer­cise? Are tutored tast­ings and food pair­ings the way to enlight­en­ment? If this kind of exer­cise helps peo­ple learn about wine, why not apply it to beer?

We’ll go along with an open mind and report back…


*are they bring­ing monks??

Beer Exposed is on at the Busi­ness Design Cen­tre in Isling­ton from 25th-27th Sep­tem­ber. You have to pick a four hour slot to attend. You can find a full sched­ule of events, plus details about the speak­ers, ses­sions and who’s exhibit­ing on the Beer Exposed web­site.

Why we’re not going to GBBF

Don’t wor­ry – this isn’t a rant about CAMRA or beer fes­ti­vals – more of a sheep­ish expla­na­tion.

We’re prob­a­bly not going to make it to the Great British Beer Fes­ti­val this year because we’re doing oth­er stuff. Boak is in Wales on a wee break (more on that soon). I’m work­ing a lot and have a few long-stand­ing social engage­ments which can’t be dodged, or relo­cat­ed to an air­craft hangar in West Lon­don where there’s loads of beer.

Noth­ing dra­mat­ic or excit­ing going on; no big stand being made. Just crap­ness on our part.

Hav­ing said that, there’s sure­ly some­thing sig­nif­i­cant in the fact we haven’t man­aged to find the time to go to the most impor­tant event in the British beer drinkers’ cal­en­dar. Maybe we don’t real­ly like beer very much?

If you’re des­per­ate for cov­er­age of GBBF, we’d rec­om­mend Stonch and Pete for a more scep­ti­cal angle; Tan­dle­man for the insider’s per­spec­tive; Maieb if you want to know what the beer’s like; and Beer Nut for… well, he’s unpre­dictable, isn’t he? What­ev­er he comes up with will be good, at any rate.