London’s Grandest Drinking Establishment

This is a sponsored article on behalf of Olympia London.

Beer lovers around the capital will need little reminding that CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festival, an annual institution returning for its 37th year, is less than two weeks away. GBBF (as it is informally known) is traditionally a massive affair, presenting an immense variety of beer from hundreds of different brewers, and this year promises to continue the tradition with more than 900 different real ales, ciders and perries available, and over 55,000 happy drinkers expected to attend.

A beer festival of this scale requires a suitably substantial venue, so GBBF will once again return to Olympia London in Kensington, taking over the entirety of its two largest halls (Olympia Grand and Olympia National) for five days from Tuesday 12 August.

As you might expect from a CAMRA event, the vast majority of the beers will be cask-conditioned ales. More than 350 British brewers will be showcasing some of their flagship or lesser-known beers, dispensed from more than a dozen huge bars erected beneath the striking (and aptly) barrel-vaulted roof. However drinkers won’t be restricted to sampling British real ales — a huge number of beers from Europe, the USA and elsewhere will also be available, as well as an impressive array of ciders and perries.

With so many different drinks available, it can be hard to know where to start. To help with this, CAMRA have created an online ‘beer selector’ tool that allows you to target beverages by strength, style, colour and origin. Our advice: either do some homework beforehand and arrive at the festival with an idea of what you might like to try, or just turn up and take a more ‘organic’ approach to selection. From our experience, either strategy works reasonably well.

Of course, all that lovely beer deserves to be soaked up by some suitably satisfying food. Fortunately the festival has that covered too — a lip-smacking selection of foodstuffs will be available, including pies, pasties, burgers, sausages, curries, noodles, chips, steaks, seafood, cheese, olives and pasta. For us however, the highlight of the food offer is usually the great big bags of magnificent pork scratchings.

Aside from the festival’s primary attractions (namely beer and food), the main stage will host a variety of music acts, ranging from a string quartet to a folk band playing punk covers (featuring Adrian Edmondson on mandolin, no less). And for those interested in learning more about what they’re drinking, tickets are available for several tutored tastings taking place during the festival, covering various types of beer (or cider) and conducted by experts.

The Great British Beer Festival is at Olympia London (Hammersmith Road, Kensington W14 8UX), 12-16 August. Open 5pm-10:30pm Tuesday, 12pm-10:30pm Wednesday-Friday, 11am-7pm Saturday. Tickets for each day cost £10 in advance (or £12 on the door), with a £2 discount for CAMRA members.

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