I went to the London Drinker Beer Festival Trade Session in Camden Town Hall last week. I haven't been to it in many years (over 20)and nothing much seemed to have changed. The hall is a typical square to oblong, local authority affair and it reminded me instantly of itself from memory, and the hall we used for years in Bury for the Bury Beer Festival, from bitter experience.
Now speaking as a beer festival organiser of many years standing, there is little you can do with such a place other than stillage the beer around the sides and try and tart the place up a little to make it more appealing. Price, location, availability and paucity of venues tend to dictate where beer festivals are held, not as some contest, a lack of imagination of behalf of the organisers, CAMRA or otherwise.
My main aim in attending here was to catch up on the new London brewers and this was the stated theme of the trade session, where a number of sponsored London beers were offered. I had my first tastes of quite a few breweries and as you might imagine, they were a bit of a mixed bag. So, a quick rundown: Portobello American Pale had decent hopping, little nose, but didn't hit any high spots. Crate IPA was underwhelming in body and hadn't conditioned properly. London Fields Brewing High Rise was good, with a nice mix of malt and hops. Clarence and Frederick's Golden Ale was a very drinkable beer, with decent bitterness and excellent condition. Sadly their IPA was a dumper, though my very brief notes don't say why. Windsor and Eton Tree Top impressed with its dark bitterness and coal dust finish, while Botanist Queen Charlotte was clean, herbal, slightly sweet, but likeable. Pretty much as you'd expect really. Some good, some not so good, but no stunners unfortunately.
Yes a typical CAMRA Beer Festival, but none the worse for that. The staff were cheerful and willing, the beers were as good as can be expected in this less than perfect venue and the trade session worked for me as a beer writer, in that I have started to catch up on some new London breweries. More research required though, as you can't really have more than an impression on a one off tasting.
I left as the public were starting to be admitted. There was a large queue outside.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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