The Great British Beer Festival 2011

The Great British Beer Festival 2011 (GBBF 2011) was held last week, from 2-6 August, at Earls Court. It certainly seems to have been a success, with impressive attendances on the days I was present.

This year may turn out to be the last time the Festival is held at Earls Court. There is a welcome return to Olympia next year, as Earls Court is an Olympic venue, and I have heard rumours that Earls Court is to be subsequently demolished, so the return to Olympia may be a permanent one. As you will know if you read my post on last year’s Festival, I prefer Olympia, so I view a return there positively. The only minor gripe is that it is slightly less easy to get to!

Anyway, back to this year’s festival, and the beers! As is the tradition, the Champion Beer of Britain results were announced during the trade session on Tuesday afternoon, and with 8 categories, the announcements took some time. The full results can be viewed on the CAMRA website, so I will only comment on a few of the results. The overall winner was Oscar Wilde Mild (3.7%), from the Mighty Oak Brewing Company in Malden, Essex. According to my records, I tried this beer at the GBBF in 2004, and although I am not a mild fan, it was certainly a worthy winner. Currently my favourite beer type is the ‘Golden Ale’ category, and the winner in that class was Loweswater Gold (4.3%), from the Cumbrian Legendary Ales brewery, in Hawkshead in the Lake District. I tried it shortly after the announcements, and found it to live up to its description in the programme: ‘hoppy, citrus zesty, sweet, lemon, fruity’ (yes, all of those!) I should also mention the second overall winning beer, Chocolate Marble (5.5%) from the Marble brewery, which I was able to try, and enjoyed (and I recommend it to all chocoholics!)

I had an incredible trip down memory lane when I visited the Worthington stand (Worthington beers are now brewed in Burton- Upon-Trent by the Molson Coors at the National Brewing Centre; see an informative account by David Lozman for more details). They have revived Worthington ‘E’, which was the first beer I drank at the UCL Students’ Union in the mid 1970s! Unfortunately, in those days it was in keg form, but the revived cask version is very good indeed, and was just about recognisable. (I should add that I was later converted to real ales by some better informed friends, and switched to Charrington’s IPA!)

As I mentioned above, I am particularly fond of ‘Golden Ales’, and they are particularly appropriate to the kind of hot, sticky weather that we had for the first two days of the Festival. Also, my Brussels trip immediately beforehand influenced my palate, and led me to try more fruity/floral beers than I would normally. Hence, rather than give a list of favourites, here are three of the more unusual beers that I particularly enjoyed:

Elderflower Ale (3.7%) (Rooster’s Brewery) – refreshing, slightly bitter, with the elderflowers making a distinct impression.

Raspberry Wheat Beer (5.2%) (Whitstable Brewery) – a wonderful wheat beer with raspberry notes – heaven if you like fruity beers and wheat beer!

Southsea Spice (3.8%) (Bowman Ales) – a refreshing beer with light ginger notes.

As usual the Festival was excellently organised, and the volunteers are to be commended for their hard work. Looking forward to Olympia in 2012!

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