Say whaaaaaaaaaat?! My boyfriend Sam wrote up the trip to the CAMRA Beer Festival back in August. I loved this event and will definitely be heading back next year. But enough of me talking. Here’s my one and only Sammy pants giving the lowdown on CAMRA London 2016!
CAMRA are the Campaign for Real Ale, and are hands down the reason why we still have that beautiful pint of real ale still in our pubs (their fight to keep real ale in pubs is a huge story in itself!). Natalie was lucky enough to get a Press Pass for CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival at Olympia, I couldn’t let her go alone now could I?
Our adventures began when I left work in Leicester Square at 6pm and stumbled across one Matthew Duckett running past the Hippodrome Casino – the perfect companion on our quest to taste and review as many Ale’s as possible for this blog. He had other plans but did he take much convincing? of course not! Mr Duckett and I decided to become members of CAMRA, something which we had been planning on doing since starting University in 2010, they offered an amazing deal of annual membership (for Under 25’s) for £16, a large discount on the ticket for the Beer Festival, two free pints in the Beer Festival plus £20 of Ale and Cider vouchers for Wetherspoons – did we take much convincing to finally get membership? OF COURSE NOT!
We walk into Olympia and it is a drinker’s heaven, 19 bars and over 400 real ales and ciders! We quickly established that we were not going to be able to even scratch the surface of a single style or ale, so we decided to try and visit as many different bars and try our favourite styles of ale as possible before we became too sozzled. We walked a quick lap of the main hall in an attempt to take the sheer scale of it all in. The easiest way to describe our quest from here on is to list the bars we visited and the drinks we tasted and give our very simple notes that we took on the night…I apologise in advance for the poor descriptions of the ale and cider, we are most definitely not professionally trained tasters. As we wanted to take in as much as possible in a very short space of time, half pints were the vessels of choice for the evening and ‘sharing is caring‘ was definitely the motto for the evening as we all slurped at each other’s beverages all night.
First stop – our local brewery, Fullers! This is the most descriptive ale review of this entire blog and solely because we were sober at the point of taking our, at first thoughts, serious tasting notes…
Matt dived straight in with an Olivers Island, one of Fullers summer ales and an easy 3.8% alc. volume to kick off the proceedings. Light notes of citrus, floral aroma and a golden malt. Slightly bitter, but all round a refreshing pint. I went for the Summer Ale, a lovingly simple 3.9% ale which was light, bright in colour and with a mildly refreshing taste.
Natalie is not a native ale drinker, although I’m proud to say she does put a pint or two away once she is warmed up. She started out with their Perry, an award winning organic cider brewed in Hertfordshire. Perry was on the sweet end of a medium perry, a crisp finish and easily drinkable. Now, I must revert to the first of our quotes from the evening, which went something a little like this.
Natalie: It’s pale in colour
Matt: Of course it is, it’s a perry!
I don’t know why we felt the need to include that quote in our notes – we must have thought it was worth noting at the time…
Swiftly, we moved onto our second stop on the bar crawl and tried Pictish, a 4.5% ale. As a citra ale, we were expecting great things from Pictish as citra is one of our favourite types of ale. As hinted in the name, a pint of citra will be bitter, refreshing and will be packed full of blooming citrus flavours. Pictish was very light and hoppy (a single hop brew as Matthew smugly pointed out), and was refreshingly full of citrus notes – can’t tell you what the fruit was, we decided not to note that one down. If you can must together a Rugby/West Birmingham accent please do, a think of Matthew declaring ‘It’s bloody lovely‘ – it was indeed a great pint!
Belgium and Netherlands
This bar was dedicated to the beautiful beers of Belgium and Holland – and what a delightful offering they had. At this point Natalie had decided that one half of Perry was enough, and boldly joined the light side, Matt and I, on the ales for the rest of our adventure.
Natalie and I ventured to Dochter vd Korenaar, one of the breweries represent Belgium. The ale of choice was Crime Passionnel, a whopping 7.5% IPA (Indian Pale Ale). It looked heavy but had an overpoweringly carbonated/larger like taste. Matt visited 3 Horne, a Dutch brewery that delivered Bananatana, a 7% fruity pint (or half in our case). Unfortunately for our European friends, their offerings were too overpowering for our simple British taste-buds. As Matt put it, this ale tasted like banana pick ‘n’ mix sweets with soda water – our verdict was to never go near a drink that has a banana in it’s name as boy did this one taste, and feel, like you were swallowing a banana.
Low and behold, the next bar was our local CAMRA award-winning pub. For those who don’t know, The Harp is in the historical centre of London in Charing Cross, just around the corner from Trafalgar Square. As we all love The Harp, we confidently chose to support our local pub by upgrading our measures from halves to pints as we were beyond tipsy and wanted to celebrate this fact. I went for Sam Brooks’ Junction. A malty, medium ale of 4.5% alcoholic volume – this was much kinder on my taste buds compared to the European strength ales of the previous bar. Matt had Red Squirrel’s Hopfest, a 3.8% (pussy) pale ale which was ‘Alive on the tongue‘. Really hoppy and a bitter pint.
Natalie went for the most adventurous choice of our ale adventure, London Brewings’ pHuschia – 4.9% and a glorious pink-like shade. A bitterly refreshing trip down memory lane, it tasted like raindrops sweets that we had as kids. After trying this inspiring pint, Matt dropped rhymes like 50 Cent:
‘This is a beer that cleanses the palate.‘
‘A before dinner beer‘
‘The sorbet of the ale world‘
Five halves in, I really think he felt like he was Lin Manuel-Miranda writing Hamilton!
End of notes…
I then had to break the seal after five halves, it was time for the loo. I found Natalie and Matt by the stage where an energetic band were playing 90’s and 00’s tunes to a rather sozzled audience. We all knew we only had one bar left to visit – the Bombardier double decker bus! I went for the classic ‘Glorious English‘ Bombardier (4.7%) whilst Natalie and Matt went for Burning Gold which is also 4.7% so we called it an overall draw on the competitive drinking side of things. The bar staff were so friendly, especially my main man Jim from Halesowen (just up the road-ish from my home town). I cannot comment on how many pints we had, at a guess I’d say four pints were consumed by each of us. We made friends with the fellow CAMRA supporters at the bar and that was where we did not move from until time was called at the bar and we were sent stumbling home.
Speaking for all of us, we had an absolutely FANTASTIC time at the festival drinking and making merriment. We’re booking the day off in advance for next year inviting all our friends and family. There is fun to be had by everyone from larger lovers to ale aficionados. The atmosphere was incredible, never have I been to a place full of more loving drunkards – highlights were twenty strong group in a large circle doing the Icelandic football chant, and the odd glass smashing followed by an epic deafening cheer from the entire festival.
So, to end, a massive thank you to all at CAMRA for presenting such a fine festival and for their continuous love and support for the fine creation called ale.
Thanks lover boy for such a hilariously written review on the CAMRA event in London. We had an epic time and came away with specially embossed pint glasses and BOMBARDIER T-SHIRTS! What a keepsake. Let us know in the comments below, your favourite cider, larger or ale.
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