Some of London’s biggest beer events seem to take place in August each year, and this year is no exception. Amongst this month’s beer-drinking opportunities are two mammoth festivals, and the mother of all ‘beer weeks’. Enjoy!
3-13 August: London Beer City
For those in the know, London Beer City has always (or at least for all of the four years that it’s been running) been the ‘beer week’ organised by some of the capital’s most dedicated beer obsessives. This reputation certainly holds true this year, with the organising committee orchestrating a huge array of beery events around town.
Fancy finding out more about the history of beer? Maybe try tasting your way through a talk on the beer styles that have emerged over the last couple of hundred years, or taking a guided walk around some of London’s brewing heritage. Feel like getting involved with a specific style or origin of beer? There are events that specialise in IPAs, farmhouse beers, or those from the USA, the Czech Republic, Bavaria, or Scandinavia. Or perhaps you just want to sample lots of great or exclusive beers? There are dozens of beery parties, tap takeovers, and brewery events taking place during the (11 day) ‘week’. Check the London Beer City schedule for full details.
4-6 August: London Craft Beer Festival
Following four years at Bethnal Green’s Oval Space, the London Craft Beer Festival will be moving to Shoreditch Electric Light Station — a converted 19th century power station close to Hoxton Square. More than 300 beers from a fairly diverse range of more than 45 brewers are promised, as well as ciders from six UK producers. Food is provided courtesy of ‘pop-ups’ (of course) from some popular London restaurants.
As with previous years, it’s clear that this festival wants to attract the ‘cooler’ end of the beer-drinking market, with the drinking festivities accompanied by DJ sets from a handful of fairly recognisable names. However the festival doesn’t seem to have fully descended into unfettered hipsterism yet; inclusion of the ‘Fuller’s Cask Yard’, presenting special releases of cask-conditioned ales from a variety of well-established brewers (including some from the USA), is encouraging to see.
Tickets are of the ‘pay a lot to get in, but get all your beer for free’ variety, and cost £42.50 for a five-hour session (or £150 for all three days). Beer is served in “small pours” (100ml), so whether or not you feel you’re getting good beer value for your ticket will largely depend on how many times you want to get your tasting glass refilled.
8-12 August: CAMRA Great British Beer Festival
The annual institution that is the Great British Beer Festival (a.k.a. GBBF) returns to Olympia for its customary Tuesday-to-Saturday run. Those who have been before will know the score by now: a massive exhibition hall, packed with long bars serving huge numbers (900+) of cask-conditioned ales from the majority of brewers in the UK, as well as a huge selection of international beers, ciders, perries, and a selection of English wines.
To help soak up some of the booze, dozens of food stalls will be on hand to sell satisfying grub (usually in the form of pies, sausages, burgers, steak, chips, curry, and some truly excellent pork scratchings). Those interested in finding out a bit more about what they’re drinking can pre-book a tutored tasting, although we suggest booking quickly as these tend to sell out. As usual the festivities will be accompanied by a variety of musical acts on a big stage, which almost no-one will pay any attention to.
The GBBF is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, so anyone whose 40th birthday falls on one of the festival dates (and can prove it with photo ID) is eligible for free entry and a free pint for them and a friend. Check the website for full T&Cs. If you’re not celebrating a 40th birthday, a day’s entry will cost you £11 in advance or £14 on the door.
13 August: Mindful Drinking Festival
A couple of years ago we attended a tasting of no-alcohol and low-alcohol beers organised by Club Soda, an organisation challenging the assumption that social drinking is dependent on alcohol, and we were pleasantly surprised to find that some beers containing only minimal levels of alcohol tasted quite good.
Now, as a potential wind-down from the hectic alcohol-fuelled schedule of London Beer City, Club Soda is organising a Sunday afternoon Mindful Drinking Festival, showcasing an array of alcohol free beers and wines, as well as some locally-produced soft drinks. We were particularly intrigued to see some dedicated low-alcohol breweries (including Bermondsey-based Big Drop Brewing Co., and Leyton’s Nirvana Brewery) featuring in the line-up, as well as an alcohol free beer from Suffolk’s excellent St Peter’s Brewery.
Aside from the drinks, the festival offers food, music, a tea tasting masterclass, and a handful of other fun activities. Festivities kick off at midday in Bermondsey Square and the Bermondsey Square Hotel, and last until 6pm. Entrance is free.
If you’re a lover of beer or pubs, check out our ever-expanding database of the best pubs in London.