29 August 2008

Decent Exposure

Earlier this week, London’s Metro newspaper reported on a new interactive, independent event called Beer Exposed, which will run from Thursday 25th through to Saturday 27th September at the Business Design Centre in Islington.

The website promises that the event will bring together beers and brewers from all over the world to create a unique experience designed to expose you and your friends to the incredible diversity of tastes and flavours that beer can offer.”

Seemingly far more structured than GBBF’s mass piss-up in a warehouse, the half-day sessions include various Beer Walks and Talks with industry experts such as Roger Protz and Garrett Oliver. We’re looking forward to Zak Avery’s “Extreme Beer” Walk during the Friday evening session.

A wide array of British ale breweries will be represented, including the likes of Otley, Thornbridge, Harviestoun, BrewDog (who will be launching a new beer) and, of course, Greene King. Craft brewers from around the world, such as Blue Moon, Moosehead, Flying Dog and Asahi are also in attendance. However, the exhibition is not just limited to ale, with various quasi-national lager producers making up the numbers and organisations like CAMRA, Cask Marque and the Drink Aware Trust occupying stalls too.

As far as we’re concerned, London can’t have too many well-publicised beer events and the notion of allowing non-enthusiasts to distinguish intricate craft beers directly alongside more mainstream lagers is a clever one. We wish the organisers every success.


  • The sessions run from 5pm to 9pm Thursday, Friday and Saturday and midday to 4pm on Friday and Saturday. Admission is £14 in advance and £17 on the door but a discount of two tickets for £20 can be obtained by quoting METRO when booking online. The Beer Walks and Talks are extra; full details can be found on the website.

17 August 2008

Bank Holiday Festivities

August Bank Holiday weekend is always a busy time for beer festivals; the extra day's midsummer trade is an irresistable excuse for landlords and ladies up and down the country to have a good old fashioned knees-up. In case you are yet to decide where you'll be spending the weekend drinking, here are a few events that have hit the YCC radar:

If the GBBF is Britain's #1 beer festival (in terms of sheer number of beers) then the Peterborough Beer Festival is not far behind at #2. Not strictly a bank holiday festival, the event kicks off on Tuesday and runs through until Saturday 23rd. The beer list has been announced and looks very impressive indeed. I counted 22 festival specials, plus of particular note, no fewer than five from the excellent BrewDog range - including what is possibly a festival premier of cask Speedball and another as yet unnamed beer of unknown strength.

Pan-C and the Beer Monster will be scooping the place out on the opening day and will report back here with their impressions. If you are planning on heading down, do note that the festival has irregular opening hours (Tuesday trade session 3:30-5:30pm, open to public from 5:30 and shut between 2:30 and 5:30 on Wednesday and Friday afternoon).

A little further west down the A47, tooth-rot fans will be flocking to the Swan & Rushes in Leicester for their Cider & Cheese Festival. 16 ciders and perries and 16 cheeses sourced from a wide range of suppliers from the west of England, plus 9 ales, including what is tipped to be the last surviving cask of Oakham Warthog in existance. A pokey 13% when it was first unleashed a year ago at Peterborough, it has been maturing away quietly in the cellar and it's anyone's guess how potent it is now. A warm atmosphere and like-minded beer (and cider) lovers are assured and on Saturday 23rd, Two Gentlemen Play the Pops will entertain the punters in their flatcaps and tweed - an act that must be seen to be appreciated!

Closer to the capital and The Bull in Horton Kirby (nr. Brands Hatch), Kent is also marking the occasion with live music in the garden (weather permitting) from rock and blues guitarist Roger Betts on Saturday 23rd and Matt Brooks on Monday 25th. Throughout the weekend, the landord promises to treat us to a selection of his own personal favourite ales, with the likes of Dark Star Hophead, Champion Beer of Britain 2008 Triple fff Alton's Pride, RCH Pitchfork and Red Squirrel Springfield IPA all featuring. There will even be a semi-gynormous hogroast on the Monday.

The Bull is a mile's stroll from Farningham Road station (trains direct from Victoria every 30 mins) along the river through the picturesque Darenth Valley and is well worth a look.


12 August 2008

Cherry Bomb for GBG Stalwart

The front page of this month’s What’s Brewing glumly reports that the Cherry Tree Inn in Tintern, Gwent, South Wales has closed. It is especially heart-wrenching that this particular one of 57 community pubs throughout Britain currently closing month on month has ceased trading. The Cherry Tree is one of a select club of ten in Britain (and unique to Wales) to have made it into every edition of CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide since its inception in 1974.

The pub is situated in idyllic surroundings, oddly sat atop the local Post Office / convenience store but is about half a mile behind the A466 main road and the iconic 12th Century Tintern Abbey and as such suffers from a lack of passing trade. Sadly, the owners have seen fit to call it a day and move on to another hostelry in a far more prominent location in the shadow of the Abbey.

The final straw, according to former landlord Steve Pocock, was down to what can only be described as complete idiocy on the part of the local council in forcing him to remove a modest A-frame sign from the main road, which informed tourists of the pub’s existence. Clearly the trickle of GBG-carrying conscientious drinkers was not enough to supplement the local trade and, having been shut since May, yet another national gem is in danger of being lost permanently.

What a disgrace! At a time when Britain’s best and most revered public houses need more support than ever, the local authorities have hammered a nail into the coffin of this splendid 300-year-old alehouse.

Pan-C and I were fortunate enough to pay a visit last summer, thanks to our friends choosing to hold their wedding reception at the nearby Anchor Hotel (ironically the new home of the Cherry’s former tenants). Stone steps led us up to an attractive roof terrace and the entrance to the inn where we were confronted with a small, pointed hardwood bar, a choice of several ales and cider dispensed by gravity direct from the cask and a warm smile from the chatty barmaid. Sat outside in the tranquil Welsh countryside, for me it was a real epiphany moment – probably as close as I have come to pub utopia.

Although now it seems I may never be able to return. Word has it the Post Office and village shop are also under threat of closure and that a planning application for change of use is in the pipeline. One can only hope that some fervent campaigning by the local Gwent Branch backed heavily by CAMRA HQ will entice a saviour to step in; or else a part of Tintern’s history will be lost forever.


9 August 2008

Trading Places at GBBF‘08

Tuesday was our first return to the Great British Beer Festival since its maiden year at Earls Court in 2006. We opted to attend the Peterborough bash as an alternative last year, primarily put off GBBF by the unpleasant overcrowding we were made to endure.

We might well have shunned it again this year had we not been able to procure tickets* for the opening trade session. We recall bouncing around trade day ‘06 virtually with the place to ourselves, with the venue filling steadily over the course of Wednesday, culminating in the horror of an impenetrable wall of bodies blocking the bars and 20-minute queues for the gents on the Thursday evening. So, following a tactical Builder’s Breakfast at Benjy’s on Earls Court Road, we were a little alarmed to roll up at 11:55am to find the entry queue snaking around the outside of the building.

Twenty minutes later though, we were inside, glass in hand, seated nice and close to the BSF bar and mapping out our first moves. I shoehorned in a couple of milds from the Bar Nouveaux (including the delicious Brampton Mild, which must have been terribly unlucky not to have made it into a medal position in its category) before surrendering to the lure of the US casks.

We stayed on the American beers for the majority of the afternoon and were lucky enough to have the opportunity to sample all three of the beers subsequently announced as the Top American Cask Beers at the festival. I particularly enjoyed both the overall winner, Lost Abbey Angel’s Share, a sweet, phenolic, oak-aged superweight at a daunting 12.5% and third place Cambridge House IPA, a big and bashy, fruity yet raspingly dry yankee IPA – a comparative session ale at merely 6.5%. The surprise Champion Beer of Britain winner, Triple fff Alton’s Pride was not available for sale at the time the announcement was made but we had already secured a sample of both the second and third place ales before the hype began. Protzy has the full list of winners.

We didn’t get on with the entire line-up from the USA, as Pan-C’s face will tell you here after a sip of a particularly pokey, heftily-hopped bottled brew! Some creamy stilton and chilli-infused cheddar from the Truckle Cheese Co. refreshed the palate nicely and the tasty springbok burgers provided some much needed sustenance later on.

After a few hours in the YCC wilderness, I eventually spotted fellow blogger and mentor maieb at a nearby table surrounded by fellow ratebeerians. As pleasant a chap as you could hope to meet, he kindly tolerated me interrupting his circle of experts at varying degrees of inebriation with my nuggets of probably useless information throughout the day. He introduced me to an equally friendly and chirpy Irish fellow, who turned out to be the Beer Nut. Pan-C and I also barged in on a conversation they were having with Tandleman, the Godfather of the beer blogosphere, who seemed more than happy perched behind the German section of the BSF bar. Low and behold, even Stonch appeared briefly and we exchanged pleasantries to complete the love-in. (I believe it may be Tandleman who holds the photographic evidence)

We have these occasional social interactions to thank for not slipping into total beer oblivion, as I surely would have done had I continued to drink such lethal beers during the time casually spent nattering. With the evening upon us, I eventually turned away from the foreign stuff and found myself seeking out some of the stronger British ales available. The Wickwar Station Porter (6.1%) and the manificent Durham Brewery’s Bede’s Chalice (9%) were well worth navigating the room for and I was still able to try samples of Pan-C and Jnr’s Belgian and German third pint nips.

We eventually headed home at about 10pm after a final raid on the world bottled beer fridge. I have some Brooklyn Black Chocolate Stout and Sri Lankan Lion Stout set aside for another day. All in all we had a grand day out at the GBBF. The venue was bustling but not packed and there were only ever short wait times at each of the bars. Best of all I awoke the following day without a deathly hangover!

I wouldn’t have wanted to do battle with the masses on a Thursday or Friday evening again – perhaps the festival is something of a victim of its own success – but we are certainly keen to repeat our trade day exploits next year.


*Many thanks to Garrett & Lynne of The Bull in Horton Kirby, who were sadly unable to make it to Earls Court but kindly passed on their tickets to us. We were proud to represent their award-winning pub on the day. Thanks also to Grant at the Swan & Rushes for securing Pan-C's ticket and to all of the organisers and volunteers who make GBBF possible.

YCC's Lament

First and foremost, apologies for the lack of action on the site over the past few weeks. It's been a busy time for all of us for various reasons and it's all too easy to allow the blogging to go by the wayside.

We were given a well-deserved, stern ticking off by some of our contemporaries at the GBBF this week and have been prodded by other readers to get our act together. This in itself is encouraging; proof that people have been keeping an eye on the site and that our statcounter isn't lying to us.

So here is a pledge (I hesitate to 'promise') to be more forthcoming and regular in our ale-fuelled musings. We owe you reports on at least three beer festivals and numerous pub outings, which should keep us plenty busy for the time being. For your part, please do leave us your thoughts and comments. We love to hear whether our collective perspectives are shared or even if they're well off the mark!

Yours sheepishly,


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