On Saturday I had the pleasure of attending the inaugural London Brewers Alliance Beer Festival, hosted at the iconic Fuller’s Griffin Brewery in West London. The festival featured forty breweries from inside the M25, each pouring two beers throughout the day, food from local traders (including Fuller’s own chefs) and a healthy dollop of British sunshine.
The event was, in my eyes, an unqualified success. Reported slow ticket sales did not translate to a lack of atmosphere, while there was little queuing and more than enough beer to last the duration of the day. The chance to take a sneak peak at the revamped Fuller’s shop and new pilot brew kit was made for a welcome break from the beer drinking, and the fact that each brewery had a brewer in attendance made for a nice, personal touch.
While it would have been impossible, or at the very least ill-advised to sample beers from all of the brewers in attendance, there were a few brews that caught my eye (and my tastebuds).
Boxcar Brew Co Table Beer
One of the most exciting new breweries around at the moment is Homerton’s Boxcar Brew Co. These young upstarts are quickly developing a reputation for brewing some of the most forward thinking and exciting beers in London, and the brewery’s super sessionable Table Beer was no exception. Soft, palatable and juicy, and at just 2.3%, this is exactly the kind of beer I want to be drinking at a long festival session. File under: on trend.
Bohem Brewery Amos Czech Pilsner
I must confess that Tottenham-based Bohem Brewery had completely passed me until recently. The concept of brewing Czech style lagers in North London was an intriguing one, but not one that I felt particularly compelled to try – why not just drink the practically perfect Pilsner Urquell? Nonetheless, I am very glad I forced myself to go and try Amos, the brewery’s 4.9% Czech Pilsner. Brewed using Czech ingredients, and an authentic decoction mash, Amos has a light bitterness, soft bready-malt backbone and wonderful wholesome mouthfeel.
Fuller’s Past Masters 1981 ESB
One of the best things about Fuller’s as a brewery is its ability to not to purely be defined by heritage and tradition. The brewery has shown in recent years that it remains very much in tune with the modern beer scene, producing an unfiltered version of its flagship London Pride, and collaborating with some of the UK’s most exciting new breweries. However, occasionally it pays to draw on tradition and look back to the past, and for this year’s Past Masters project, the brewery has revived a 1981 version of its Extra Special Bitter. The result is a sweet and warming traditional ale than goes down like liquid bread.
Beavertown Brewery Heavy Lord Imperial Stout
It’s been a pretty busy week for Beavertown Brewery. Regardless of your own personal views on its decision to sell a minority stake to Heineken (you can read my opinion on the matter here), it is hard to deny the North London brewery makes some pretty spectacular beers. Heavy Lord is a collaboration between Beavertown and Indiana-based Three Floyds Brewing aged in fresh Bourbon Barrels for 6 weeks and then infused with Cacao and Vanilla. Despite a wine-like strength of 14.5%, the beer is deceptively smooth and dangerously drinkable. Most likely responsible for the snooze I had on the train on the way home.
Mondo Brewing Company Boom Volume 2 IPA
Quietly building a reputation for itself in Battersea, Mondo Brewing Company has recently celebrated its third birthday party and is really starting to hit its stride with a solid and consistent core range and some outstanding specials. For The LBA festival the brewery treated drinkers to the first ever pour of Volume 2 of its fastest-selling beer of 2018. Boom is a 7.6% IPA brewed with Extra pale malt and Cascade, Citra, Amarillo & Eukanot. On the nose and in the finish it is pineapple juice all over, and in the glass it doesn’t last two minutes.
Full disclosure: I didn't pay for my ticket to The London Brewers Alliance Beer Festival. The folks at Fuller's invited me, because they're nice people like that.