First up, the annual beery institution that is the CAMRA Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) returns next week for its epic celebration of British real ale. Turning Earls Court into what is essentially a massive pub (albeit with rather non-pubby décor and dimensions), the festival will run from Tuesday 2nd to Saturday 6th August, featuring more than 1,000 real ales from independent brewers around the UK, as well as a reasonable nod towards ciders, perries and imported beers.
As usual, second fiddle to the great beverages will be played by the magnificent array of drink-soaking food options, with pies, pasties, curries, fish and chips, sausages, burgers, steaks, cheesy and nibbly things and, of course, some of the best pork scratchings to be had. Those with a craving for sushi might be disappointed.
Our top tips for the festival are to plan ahead (with the help of the festival website) and consider ordering the beers in modest measures (they serve most beers in pint, half-pint, or third-pint measures) in order to stand a chance of sampling the widest variety. Alternatively, you could just rock up and do what comes naturally. Either way, don't get caught out by the nightly 10:30pm bar closing time – prices might be in-line with those of most London pubs, but the opening hours are not. Newbies to the GBBF can get a flavour of what's in store by checking out the pictures from our previous visits.
Disappointingly, despite previous hopes, innovative and often headline-grabbing Scottish brewers BrewDog will not be in attendance at the GBBF, following what would seem to be a rather unedifyingly petty disagreement between the brewers and the festival organisers. There will, of course, be plenty of other beery options, but it's a shame that one of Britain's more interesting brewers will be conspicuous by their absence.
However, for those looking for the often hoppier and bolder flavours often favoured by BrewDog, an alternative (or supplement) to the GBBF is available in the form of the American Beer Festival at the White Horse by Parson's Green. Obviously concentrating on transatlantic beer, but not the pissy mass-imported stuff that you see in so many pub fridges, this is probably an event for those with a robust palate, thanks to the tendency of US craft brewers to ram huge amounts of strong hop-heavy flavour into their beers.
It may also be an event for the more fat-of-wallet, as the business of importing (and paying duty on) strong American craft beers is not a cheap undertaking. But with beers from brewers such as Goose Island, Odell, Sierra Nevada, Flying Dog, Stone, Brooklyn, Rogue and Anchor promised, it may be worth splashing out – we certainly enjoyed it last year.
The American Beer Festival kicks off on Thursday 4th and carries on throughout the weekend. The opening night also features a tutored beer and cheese tasting session with Matt Brophy, head brewer at Flying Dog, for which £10 tickets are available in advance.
Great British Beer Festival, Earls Court, 2nd-6th August. Open 5pm-10:30pm Tuesday, 12pm-10:30pm Wednesday-Friday, 11am-7pm Saturday. Tickets £8 advance, £10 on the door– £2 discount for CAMRA members, £1 discount for group bookings (10+). More information and tickets available from the festival website.
American Beer Festival, The White Horse, 1-3 Parson's Green, SW6 4UL, 4th-7th August. Contact the pub for more details and opening times.