08 August 2012

Great British Beer Festival - London Olympia 2012

A ticket to the Trade Session at the Great British Beer Festival gives the holder admittance to the festival for up to five hours before it opens to the public at 5pm on the opening Tuesday - 7 August 2012.
Twitter came to my rescue in the shape of Rob Derbyshire (@BGRTRob) who kindly posted a spare ticket to me so that I could attend.
I travelled from Newbury to Olympia via Paddington with Rick Wyatt, cider maker, and Roy Bailey, writer and former cider / perry maker. Rick was carrying two bottles of cider with him (Berkshire Gold - 500ml and Abbey Gold - 750ml) to give to Paul Scrivens, chairman and cider contact of the Reading CAMRA branch.
Rick Wyatt, Paul Scrivens & Roy Bailey
Adrian Bean, chairman of West Berkshire CAMRA branch was working at the Hutton Bar and suggested a visit to the upper floor of Olympia from the staircase nearby. From the upper floor you get a good view of the ground floor including a huge poster encouraging people to sign the e-petition protesting at the beer duty escalator.

At the Dunlop bar, where I had just ordered a Mallinson's Citra, I met Dickie Bird, the Elland Brewery company secretary. Beyond the Pale was the beer from Elland brewery at this bar. I pointed out Arkell's Wiltshire Gold to him and mentioned that it was brewed in a tower brewery. Dickie explained that Elland Brewery is all on one level and relies on pumps for transfer. He also pointed out that Empire Brewery, next on the alphabetical brewery list on this bar was also situated near to Elland Brewery and that West Yorkshire has more breweries than any other county. 
Pete Brown, the author of several books about beer, was placing flyers for his new book 'Shakespeare's Local' on tables. This will cover five centuries of history seen through one extraordinary pub. I interrupted him to take a photo with the current issue of 'Ullage' (West Berkshire CAMRA newsletter).

Now it was time to find Andy Parker, another Twitter contact (@tabamatu) who had texted me his whereabouts from a table near the bar with American cask and bottled beers. Arriving early at the festival is always a good idea as you can find a seat at a table and have a base to leave any books, bottles etc.. This was also an opportunity to meet Jane (@i96jms) who kindly took some of the photos in this post.
We ordered Dark Drake a stout from Dancing Duck brewery at the Davis bar and Andy introduced me to Mike from Buxton brewery. Mike and Andy discussed the merits of Axe Edge, the brewery's double IPA hopped with Amarillo, Citra and Nelson Sauvin. Matt from Hawkshead brewery joined us and the group expanded further with Zak Avery the beer writer and specialist beer retailer and Yan from Pivovar the beer bar company. This mix shows how useful it can be to be able to visit the trade session and meet people from the brewing and blogging spheres. However, you need good hearing to keep up with the conversation especially when the Skinners Brewery drummers march past at regular intervals, led by Betty Stoggs!
When our beers had gone we headed for the Brains brewery bar which included two beers from the new craft brewery which can handle smaller quantities. Weiss Weiss Baby is their first weissbeer, exclusively launched at the festival. Barry Island IPA was created by Simon Martin (@RealAleToday) the real ale and craft beer reviewer on YouTube. 
We ordered Barry Island IPA and when I got my camera out to take a photo of the pump clips, Jane organised a photo of us at the bar.
Tim Thomas & Andy Parker (drinking Brains Barry Island IPA)
Andy spotted Marverine Cole (@BeerBeauty) nearby and I was honoured by a lovely greeting from her when she recognised me as someone who had contacted her about meeting up at the festival. Jane kindly took a photo of us and I was able to give Marverine a copy of 'Ullage' newsletter.
It had been a good choice to order Barry Island IPA earlier as Simon Martin was near us and Simon told us how he had spent a day at the Cardiff brewery when the beer was brewed according to his specification. Rob Derbyshire, who had supplied my trade session ticket, was keen to do a joint beer review with Simon so I was enlisted as the camera operator and we set off for the Ruth bar to get another beer. We chose American cask beers with Geary's Pale Ale for me, Lagunitas Undercover Shutdown Ale for Andy and Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous for Rob and Simon to do their joint review. Rob and Simon gave an entertaining review and awarded top marks to the beer while I tried to keep the camera steady. Afterwards I took my own photo of them.
Rob Derbyshire & Simon Martin (after reviewing Stone - Sublimely  Self-Righteous)
I spent the rest of the day with CAMRA friends including beer writer Jeff Evans (@insidebeer), Oxford Drinker editor (Steven Green) and Delia Allott from Binghams Brewery. I had two good beers from the Champion  Beer of Britain bar - Little Valley Hebden's Wheat (Silver in Speciality Beer category) and Dark Star American Pale Ale (Gold in Golden Ales category and Bronze overall). 
Skinner's Cornish Knocker Ale, Dark Star American Pale Ale & Dunham Massey Chocolate Cherry Mild at CBOB bar
I was also given a taste of the Champion Beer of Britain 2012 - Coniston brewery's No. 9 Barley Wine. The final beer was one of my favourites of the day - Infinity by Blue Monkey from Richards bar.
Tim Thomas visited the Great British Beer Festival 2012 organised by the Campaign for Real Ale on Tuesday 7 August as a guest of Rob Derbyshire. Thanks also to Andy Parker for a bottle to take home (Kopikat - Imperial Vanilla Coffee Stout from Summer Wine Brewery) and for introductions and to Jane for photos.

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