Today marks the end of the first edition of London Beer Week which, in the similar vein of London Cocktail Week, featured £3 beers (most, it must be said, from craft breweries across the globe), pop ups and hoptails. It was, in my mind, a fantastic and resounding success and hopefully it will return next year for even more delicious beers. Perhaps the biggest part of it, by far, was Craft Beer Rising, which ran between the 18th and the 22nd February at the Old Truman Brewery and which featured a veritable cornucopia of beers and delicious street food.
Thanks to the chaps at Jägermeister, I got a couple of tickets so on Thursday evening, the better half (already partaking in the delights of London Beer Week) and myself headed to East London to see what there was on offer. And boy, were we in for a treat. Our first stop was Meantime Brewing Company, a stand where we got to try their Black Russian and where I got to elaborate on my love affair with their Yakima Red. Much to our shame, neither myself nor the better half have yet had a chance to visit their brewery for one of their tours, but I do have it on good authority that the food is exceptional and that the brewery itself is well worth visiting (who can say no to a tour and beer tasting?).
The next stand that caught our eye was Bad Seed Brewery, all the way from Yorkshire. Their barrel-aged saison was immediately on my radar, but they also do a fantastic IPA that doesn’t taste at all as strong as the 7% ABV would indicate it should. The chaps are also incredibly knowledgeable about beer and it was a delight to compare tasting notes (for me, an exercise in futility as I was recovering from a cold). We even ended up buying a bottle of their espresso stout, although that remains to be opened for now.
A visit to Yorkshire on the cards for me
From there, we wandered among the stalls, chatting to people (most exhausted by the earlier trade only part of the day, which I definitely sympathised with) and getting to try a lot of delicious beers. From Bear Hug‘s Bruno Pilsner (one of the best pilsners I’ve had in years) to Beavertown, there truly was something there for everyone, including cider lovers. For me, by far the highlight of the whole festival was Beerd Brewery, based in Bristol and bringing some absolutely delicious examples of the craft to London.
Initially, we tried their Baron Samedi (a Bounty bar in a glass, with a superb coconut finish) and then moved on to their Colossus, a beer so good I declared it the best of the festival (with the Untappd check in to prove it). By far, however, the highlight was Crowbar, an Ardbeg-aged (!!!) beer that completely took me by surprise. It was thick, rich and carried the classic Ardbeg flavour; in my mind, it really shows what carefully picked casks can do to beer (much in the same way the wine casks of the Bad Seed barrel-aged saison added a different dimension to the flavour). I was stunned and ended up going for a second third of a pint because of how much I couldn’t stop talking about it.
Keep it up, chaps!
One other brewery worth mentioning are Yeastie Boys, hailing from New Zealand and whose Spoonbender series is off to a great start for me. Having tried tried Sly Persuader before attending Craft Beer Rising, I was pleasantly surprised to see them there and they are definitely a group worth keeping an eye on (and their beers are available to buy in the UK, so good news all around I feel!).
The street food was absolutely top notch (according to the better half here, who truly indulged in the bratwurst) and everyone was as excited about beer as we were. For me, all of those are hallmarks of a great festival and I can really see myself attending next year’s event. It’s definitely made me want to go back to Bristol and I’ve added Yorkshire as a destination to watch for craft beer in future.