London Brewers Alliance Beer Festival

The London Brewers Alliance (LBA) held a festival at Fuller’s brewery on Saturday 14 September (the second at this venue). 52 of their around 100 members exhibited. Each was limited to two beers, which were spread over four serving areas. 15 cask beers were available (which sensibly were in the same area) with most beers therefore being keg or KeyKeg. There was a wonderful range of beers styles including traditional English styles such as bitters, pale ales, IPAs, porters and stouts to more continental styles such as Pilsners, helles, dopplebocks, wheat beers, saisons and even a Berliner Weisse.

The all-inclusive ticket cost £35 (plus the inevitable booking fee) which included entry, beer and a glass. London CAMRA members who had signed up for the use of their email for appropriate marketing shots received a discount which meant I paid £30.77 (including the booking fee).

The festival was scheduled to be open for six hours, so the price was not unreasonable. Over 500 people attended, which seemed to be about the right number for the venue, and there was a good mix of customers. Some might suggest that having a price which included all the beer you wanted would encourage irresponsible drinking. On the contrary; people were taking the sample sizes they wished and were not constrained by having to have a third (or a half) as at festivals where you pay for each drink. Before opening, festival staff came down the queue and scanned tickets and issued wrist bands which meant all we had to do on entry was pick up a glass and programme, which was just as well as the festival opened a few minutes late.

The beer was served by staff from the appropriate brewery and I understand that each had at least one brewer on duty. These staff were certainly knowledgeable and were happy to talk about their beers. Many breweries however missed out on providing a leaflet showing their full beer range and tasting notes, etc. The festival programme gave a list of the breweries and beers with their strengths. It would have been helpful to have some tasting notes to help in choosing beers, although I can appreciate this may have been difficult given the breweries themselves were choosing which two beers to exhibit.

Many of the beers were unfined. While I understand many people do not wish to drink beers that use traditional finings for ethical reasons, it would have been appreciated by those of us who like a clear beer if there had been indications at the point of dispense if the beer was hazy or cloudy. It was good to have several water points available for rinsing glasses and palates as well as just to drink.

Although closing time was advertised as 7pm the bars had stopped serving by 6.50pm which was irritating as I, and others, did not hear a call of last orders and so missed our last planned drink. I was later told there had been such a call; maybe the last time of service could be made clear in the programme for any future event.

As readers will be aware the brewery is now owned by Asahi. It was good to be able to talk to staff members who had transferred from Fuller’s and were happy with their new employers, optimistic about the future of the brewery and talking about the ongoing investment.

This was an excellent exhibition of the diversity of brewing in London. Thanks are due to the LBA and Asahi staff for organising it and to all the brewery staff for their service and informative chats. The LBA are planning to have another festival in June next year, date and venue to be decided, so check on their website nearer the time. This will be a separate event from Love Beer London.

Martin Butler