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.


  1. Tandleman the Godfather-I like it!

  2. "even Stonch appeared briefly"

    I was at the GBBF for no less than seven hours, and scarcely left the vicinity of the BSF bar! That isn't brief, surely? What must I do to restore faith in my credentials? Become fat and bearded again?

    Seriously, it was nice to meet one of you chaps. I wish you all the best in your neverending pub crawl.

  3. Stonch,

    I meant briefly while I was at the bar with the other bloggers - certainly not questioning your commitment on the day. I think it was clear to all that you had put the hours in!

    Was good to meet you too, although I was a bit taken aback by the clean(er)-shaven slimline look!


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