Friday 15th 2014, 12-5pm.
A Sussex lass in the Big City, excitedly I make my way to the trade session of the second London Craft Beer Festival. This is my first time at LCB Fest, not knowing what to expect brings some minor anxieties, but sitting on the bus and passing pop-up shops, street food markets and familiar graffiti from the likes of Stik, Corp and Skeleton Cardboard eases me back into excited anticipation. The sun is out, hubby is sat next to me and beer awaits. It’s gonna be a mighty fine day.
We make our way beyond the main road and head for an unassuming, white building at the back of an industrial estate, next to the river. Smiles from security greet us and let us know we’re in the right place, the staff are friendly and we’re handed our programmes. As far as first impressions go, this is very good indeed. The programmes are thick, matt pages containing plenty of photos and accompanying introductions to the brewers that are waiting at the bars upstairs. Tokens and stemmed glasses in hand we make our way out of the lobby, up the stairs and into the main room which is lined with brewers. A quick tour around to get our bearings and then over to the Beavertown set-up for our first sample of the day, Neck Oil.
We head outside to the balcony and perch on an old school gym bench. The venue has only been open for half an hour at this point, and whilst indoors is gradually filling with folk, the outside areas remain fairly empty for now. The sun still shines, the air is cool and the beer tastes great, it’s a relaxing moment after the hustle and bustle of trains and stations. Gazing across to the gas works that loom over we agree that it makes for quite a decent view, not an opinion that many would share perhaps, but the site is peaceful. The towers stand tall, proud, strong and the engineering of which seems to tie-in to poetically echo the scene of craftsmanship on show indoors. With that we neck our remaining oil and go in search for something new.
Ambling between the main room, the balcony, the decked terrace and the Flanders exhibit, the afternoon becomes a mix of beer drinking, note making, photo taking, laugh having and Charcuterie board eating (tip: Saucisson Sec makes Halcyon positively sing). Part-way through all this I take stock of the vibe. The atmosphere is a happy one, there’s a healthy balance between the brewers and drinkers of both chilled and excited, the place is buzzing with a feeling of accomplishment and there’s something here for everyone- be it the networkers, the analytical drinkers, the day-trippers or the brewers themselves- this is a very inclusive festival, and one that the organisers and London itself can be proud of.
We stock-up on Beavercans, hubby purchases a Tee, I manage to smash a glass (oops!) and there are smiles all round. We head home where I try to make sense of my tasting notes and they go a little something like this:
Beavertown, Neck Oil – Fresh ‘n fruity aroma, big juicy citrus fruit palate with pine bitterness, nutty hits and a developing peppery finish. Easy drinker.
Red Squirrel, Black Jack– Black IPA, very lively pour, soon settles. Punchy tropical fruit and faint chocolate in aroma. Smooth and bitter, fruit punch quickly followed by smoke with hazelnut finish.
Weird Beard, Little Things That Kill Batch 8– Sorachi Ace hops producing incredible sweet and savoury hits- ALL THE DILL! try with fish dish.
Thornbridge, Halcyon– Super juicy and fresh, pine, orange, grapefruit, grass sweetness all boosted by charcuterie meats!
Evil Twin, Bikini Beer– only 2.7%, very lively pour. Crisp and refreshing but not much more than citrus juice.
Camden Town, Unfiltered Helles– with added lemon zest and dry hopped with citra, super light and refreshing, very quaffable. An uplifted, summertime Helles with clean citrus on palate playing off the malts. Cleanses palate.
Biir, White IPA– Wheat beer with American hops. Hops possibly overwhelming the wheat beer characteristics.
Magic Rock, Slapstick Tequila Barrel Aged- Fizzy sherbet-like aromas. Distinct tequila, spice and candy fruit citrus on palate, oaky warmth beams through to keep it rounded. Special stuff.
Brewdog, U-Boat- thick and syrupy yet somehow very crisp. Complex malts of chocolate, smoke, licorice . Sweet dates, raisins and fig also. Lingering smoke.
Howling Hops, Rye Wit IPA– cloudy, slight spice on nose and palate, good fruity hits, dry finish
Thornbridge, Peanut Butter Brown Ale- Be still my beating heart!! closer to plain roasted peanuts in flavour than to peanut butter- not a thick mouthfeel, rather clean and crisp with very distinctive peanut hit upfront and lingering. Very nice drop.
Beavertown, Lemon Phantom– perfectly tart but refreshing lemon hit and tonic water-like flavours and mouthfeel. Cleanses palate.
Magic Rock, Bearded Lady Barrel Aged Bourbon- Dessert! Rich, complex and decadent chocolate, espresso, bourbon, vanilla. Perfect.