If last month's beer festival scene was as dry as a raisin doing dry January in the Savanna, then... sod this metaphor: there are a lot more beer festivals in February.
But two major slurp-fests in particular have got our attention: London Beer Week (22-28 February) and Craft Beer Rising (26-27 February). Why these? They involve paying more cash upfront than your average beer festival, and are a bit different from your usual CAMRA affair.
It's worth noting that LBW and CBR promote each other so aren't exactly scrapping it out, but presuming you only have the cash/liver capacity to do one of these, which should it be?
The elevator pitch
London Beer Week: You've heard of London Cocktail Week and London Wine Week... well this is that with beer (and cider). Buy a special wristband and visit the slew of participating pubs across London. There are also a number of special tastings, food pairings and masterclasses.
Craft Beer Rising: The clue's in the name. This is a celebration of craft beers and cider, with over 600 beverages on offer. It's also probably the hippest beer festival you'll ever go to, with a drum and bass soundtrack and a stuffed fox for a mascot (currently missing, presumed kidnapped).
LBW: Over 100 bars and pubs across the city: from the Rose and Crown in Kentish Town to the Rake in Borough Market. If you feel like roaming far and wide, and finding one or two new favourite drinking holes, this one's for you. That said, the hub of this year's festival is at the Old Truman Brewery, where it mingles with Craft Beer Rising.
CBR: The Old Truman Brewery. Packed into the space is live music, street food and something called the 'Lost in Cider Space'. For a party vibe, come here.
LBW: The pubs will decide which beers are on tap, but the organisers have already given us a tantalising starter for 10, including an Oatmeal Cookie Stout from Brew By Numbers, a Chilli Oyster Stout from Anspach & Hobday, and — for those who plan on drinking for a while — an Island Records Session IPA.
As for the events: we've got nothing against names like Fuller's, Sharp's and Meantime (all of whom are doing special LBW stuff) but none are going to blow beer aficionados away. As for a Peroni supper club? Wash your mouth out with hoppy water.
CBR: This claims to be the UK’s biggest craft beer festival, and to be fair the selection of beers is mouth watering. Already on the cards are...
40ft Brewery, Bad Seed, Beavertown, Black Isle, Blue Point, Brew By Numbers, BrewDog, By The Horns, Camden Town, Crate, Drygate, Five Points, Founders, Fourpure, Gipsy Hill, Goose Island, Hammerton, Harbour, Ilkley, Lagunitas, Lervig, Little Creatures, London Beer Factory, London Brewing Co, London Fields, Meantime, Oakham Ales, Rogue, Stiegl, Roosters, Mondo, Schremser, Sierra Nevada, Tempest, The Celt Experience, Thornbridge, Tiny Rebel, Two Fingers, Wild Beer Co, Williams Brothers, Windswept, and Stewart.
Phew. And there'll be mead, rum and whisky too. Enough already!
Value for money
LBW: A LBW wristband sets you back £10, and gets you a guidebook and tasters at the pub. Why bother with the wristband? One beer at every participating bar will be at the discounted rate of £3 a pint. LBW have admitted to us that last year, some bars' £3 beer would have usually cost ANYWAY. Some were only dishing out half pints too (although the LBW organisers didn't know this at the time, and sorted it when they found out). These problems, we're assured, won't exist at all this year. So as long as you drink more than a couple, you should make your money back on the wristband.
Also: selected venues are also doing a boilermaker deal for £5, which actually sounds very decent value.
CBR: One of London's priciest beer festivals, tickets start from £10, but for a Saturday evening session you'll pay £20 — a fair whack. You get a programme and glass for that, there will be ample tasters, and reduced prices. Also bear in mind the extras, such as music from the likes and Rob da Bank and James Lavelle, plus the chance to speak to brewers. Still, it's not going to be a cheap afternoon/evening out so prepare to splash some cash.