This year, the massive festival featured over 800 different real ales, ciders and beers from abroad. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, real ale is a term used for cask ale, which is ale served from traditional casks without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure, but rather through hand pumps. Cask ale is remarkable, as it is much-beloved British tradition in which the beer is matured through a secondary fermentation in the cask, as the yeast in the beer remains still active. If you ever walk into a pub in the UK and had ale from a handpump (or straight from a cask on its side), you are generally imbibing a living beer that the pub has helped mature.
Normally held at Londonʼs Earlʼs Court, the venue was relocated to Kensington Olympia due to a little thing called the London 2012 Olympics ousting the yearly beer fest to a different location. However, I attended GBBF in 2010 and remembered how dark Earlʼs Court was. In comparison, Kensington Olympia featured loads of natural light, allowing attendees to better see their beery selections.
And what a fantastical array of beery selections to be had! After getting my glass, I tried a few different ales available at the different bars–which were available in pints, half-pints and small tasters of third-pints, which is how I was able to sample such a range of beer. Here are a few notable ones for you to keep an eye out for should you ever travel to Britain:
Theakston Old Peculier – With a peculiar way of spelling “Peculiar,” the Old Peculier was the first English ale I had when I first moved to London, so it was fun to see an old ale friend. Malty and dark, this is a rich drink that makes an enjoyable companion in any pub, especially if youʼre a fan of darker ales.
Ilkley Siberia – This is an excellent ale that was brewed with beer writer Melissa Cole. Iʼve previously had it before in a pub near Londonʼs Smithfield Market, The Old Red Cow, and it was great to taste it again. The Siberia is brewed with rhubarb, giving it a reddish color and tart taste thatʼs sweetened with a bit of vanilla and spice.
Redwillow Wreckless Pale Ale – Redwillow is one of my favourite British breweries, so I was excited to see an offering from them at the festival. Wreckless is a delicious pale ale with some gorgeous citrus and fruity notes on the palette–perfectly refreshing for a summer quaff. I recommend any of their beers should you come across them in the UK.
OʼHanlonʼs Port Stout – A fine stout from Devon-based OʼHanlonʼs, this is a good, malty brew that features flavors of port mixed with chocolate for an intriguing pint of ale.
Thornbridge Jaipur India Pale Ale – From Derbyshire, Thornbridge has been brewing a remarkable array of ales, including the Jaipur, which is a tasty IPA that conjures up notes of tropical fruit, pine and green grass.
Dark Star Breweryʼs American Pale Ale – This is a lovely, bright real ale take on American pale ales, showing how much inspiration the British brewing scene is taking from their cousins across the pond (and vice versa). Undoubtedly popular with those who like their bitter, fruity hopped beers.
Titanic Stout – For fans of darker ales, this stout from Stoke-on-Trentʼs Titanic Brewery is a wonderful one. Malty and well-flavored with notes of roasted coffee beans and dark chocolate, this is a great stout to enjoy that also manages not to be too heavy.
Marble Brewery Lagonda IPA – This was by far one of my favourites of the day. The Lagonda IPA from Manchesterʼs Marble Brewery is a richly flavored beer without being too bitter. Not only was it absolutely delicious, but this ale, like all of Marbleʼs brews, was organic as well.
All in all, for £8 entry, my day spent at the Great British Beer Festival was lots of good fun. I had a filling Cornish pasty from a stall, one of many showcasing a variety of food, many of which that did renditions of British fare. I also had a sneaky taste from the Foreign Beer stand of some American beer to remind me of home.
What British ales have you had that youʼve enjoyed?