Every August, London's beer festival calendar is dominated by two behemoths, aimed at distinct but overlapping sections of the beer-drinking market. 2019 is no exception, so take your pick of one or both of these monstrous beer-drinking opportunities.
6-10 August: CAMRA Great British Beer Festival
The Great British Beer Festival, a.k.a. GBBF, loves big numbers. Numbers like: 50,000 (people who are expected to attend over the course of five days), 1,000 (beers, ciders and perries), 32 (brewery-specific bars), 23 (bars serving beers, ciders, perries, and gins from various producers), 24 (food stalls), 7 (live music acts that nobody will listen to), 12 (beery book-signing sessions), and 17 (tutored tastings, at an extra cost).
The range of beers at the GBBF is so vast that the festival organisers have created a meticulously detailed 'Beer Finder' web interface to help you narrow down what you might want to drink, and where you might find it. Our advice here is to prepare in advance if you feel inclined to do so, but to be flexible and ready to go off piste on the day — part of the joy of the GGBF is accidentally discovering a worthy alternative to the beer that you were looking for.
Whilst ostensibly a cask-oriented festival (as befits an event organised by a real-ale advocacy organisation), this year’s festival features a 'Pioneer Pavilion' highlighting beers from a handful of successful UK craft brewers, dispensed from recyclable KeyKeg containers. And, as usual, the draft beer will be supplemented by a few bars serving an impressive variety of international beers from bottle or can.
Tickets to each day's session cost between £9 and £11 in advance (or £14 on the door), with discounts for CAMRA members — check the exact opening times for each day as the public Tuesday and Saturday sessions are shorter than those on the other days.
9-11 August: London Craft Beer Festival
Somewhat concurrent with the GBBF, the London Craft Beer Festival (which, inevitably, has acquired its own four-letter acronym, LCBF) returns to Wapping's Tobacco dock over the second weekend of the month. As with previous years, tickets follow a (mostly) 'all-inclusive' model, where you pay £49.50 for entry to a five-hour session on Friday or Saturday (or £40 for Sunday's session), then get stuck into any of the beers being served, as well as cider, wine, gin, whisky, and soft drinks. A branded tasting glass is also included in the entry price. The super-keen (and flexible of wallet) have the opportunity to pay an extra £25 for VIP tickets, which allow access to the sessions 15 minutes earlier than the standard punters, alongside a handful of other benefits. Or for £175 (plus a mere £15 booking fee), a 'Beer Geek Weekender' ticket gives you pretty much all of the above, for all sessions.
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As you'd expect from a large craft beer festival, an impressive list of brewers from the UK, Europe, USA, and elsewhere will be showing off their beery offerings, and food (not included in the ticket price) is provided by a well-curated selection of 'street food' stalls.
As the London Craft Beer Festival is evidently marketed towards the 'cooler' end of the beer-drinking market, a musical accompaniment forms a large part of the festival, with DJ sets from a handful of fairly recognisable names, such as Hot Chip's Alexis Taylor.
Not every beer festival needs to be a giant event pulling in tens of thousands of drinkers, as evidenced by the annual celebration at Woodies Freehouse in New Malden, this year running from 16 to 19 August. Enjoy more than 30 cask ales, 10 ciders, and an unspecified amount of lager, alongside barbecued food, face painting, a dog show, and a variety of live music. Entry is free.
If you're a lover of beer or pubs, check out our ever-expanding database of the best pubs in London.