As many London beer lovers will already know, the capital's brewing scene has gone from strength to strength in the last couple of years; the best part of a dozen new local independent breweries have sprung up in London since late 2009, while more well established brewers have continued to improve and expand their range. And nowhere was this more apparent than last Saturday's London Brewers Alliance Showcase – a beer festival featuring ales from almost every brewery within (or near to) the M25.
The venue for the showcase was Vinopolis's Mezzanine room – a moderately large, but nonetheless packed hall in the sprawling Bankside complex. We found the space to be somewhat soulless, even by the stark no-nonsense standard of beer festivals, but this was of little consequence – this event was all about the beer, and the people who make it.
By far the oldest brewer in attendance was the ubiquitous Fullers, based in Chiswick since 1845. All of the other brewers in attendance were established in the 21st century, from the widely-recognisable Meantime Brewing Company (Greenwich) who were founded in 2000, to Ladbroke Grove's nascent Moncada Brewery who were using this event to exhibit their ales in public for the first time. Kernel (Bermondsey), Redemption (Tottenham) and Windsor & Eton were as popular as ever, and the cool kids from Camden Town (Kentish Town) and By The Horns (Summerstown) certainly seemed to be enjoying themselves.
A couple of small, pub-specific microbreweries also brought some of their beers along. In particular, the brewery from Kew's Botanist pub showcased a couple of pink casks, one of which, in our subjective view, was the best beer of the evening: 391, a surprisingly complex brown ale, somehow fruity and light yet nutty and malty. Fascinatingly moreish.
The tried-and-tested Trinity from Redemption reaffirmed its position as our favourite session ale of the year, very light (and only 3% ABV) but with a great hop aroma and subtle biscuityness. Brodies (Leyton) seemed to be continuing their new-found hop obsession with a handful of incongruous monsters, while Ha'penny (Ilford) were presenting London Stone, a slightly oppressive best bitter. East London Brewing (also Leyton) brought along their signature Foundation Bitter, well-balanced with a hint of roasted malt and a nice hoppy finish.
To emphasise the collaborative nature of the London Brewers Alliance, all of the LBA breweries had collaborated to produce a special London IPA (following in the footsteps of the London Porter that they produced last year). While not a 'classic' IPA to our tastes, we found it to be pretty good – strong, with vanilla and other woody flavours, but without the brusque hopping that many IPAs experience. Interesting.
So London-made beer is evidently in the ascendency, and long may that continue. We forecast that at this rate, the London Brewers Alliance will need a considerably larger venue if they're planning on holding a 2012 showcase.
Disclaimer: We attended the showcase with complimentary tickets from Siren PR.