There’s a heavy CAMRA presence amongst this month’s beer festivals, which is good news for those who like their ale cask-conditioned and their entry fees modest. Most of the action takes place south of the river, with a notable exception of Courtyard in King's Cross, which should provide a big beer fix for any north Londoners who don’t want to venture too far.
4-6 May: Bexley Beer Festival
The annual Bexley Beer Festival returns for its 12th year with a new organiser and “a bigger marquee”. As with last year, the provisional drinks list (Excel), detailing 85 beers and 24 ciders, indicates a wide variety of beers from some less commonly seen UK brewers. Entrance to one of the six-hour sessions (or all day Saturday) costs a mere £2.50, with a discount for CAMRA members, and completely free entry for those who can prove that they’re less than 26 years old.
11-13 May: Kingston Beer & Cider Festival
The organisers of Kingston Beer & Cider Festival seem to like their anniversaries. Last year’s festival celebrated “the 100th anniversary of the first electric trains to Kingston”; this year it’s the turn of a First World War biplane to be commemorated, for some reason. Moving past the centenary celebrations, the beer list (Excel) contains more than 60 real ales, many from London or Home Counties brewers. Again, entrance fees are modest: £2 or £3 for sessions on the Thursday or Friday (and CAMRA discounts), and free entry on the Saturday.
13 May: Marvellous May Cider Festival
Yes, once again we’ve sneaked a cider festival into an article about beer festivals. However we like to think that our ale-aficionado readers are an open-minded bunch with varied tastes in fermented beverages, and Bromley CAMRA’s Marvellous May Cider Festival does promise a real ale bar to supplement the 20 real ciders and perries promised. As before, the festival takes place in the H. G. Wells Centre (named after the author who was born in, but retained little love for, Bromley), and takes place from 11.30am until 11pm on one day only. Entrance costs just £2 (or £1 for CAMRA members).
25-27 May: Kidbrooke Beer & Cider Festival
Charlton Park Rugby Club plays host to the 4th annual instalment of the Kidbrooke Beer & Cider Festival. In addition to 50 real ales and more than 20 ciders and perries, attractions include some promising food options (wood-fired pizza, hog roast, pies), live music from a couple of bands, and tutored tastings from Brockley’s waterintobeer shop. The festival runs from 12pm-10.30pm each day, and entry costs just £2 (£1 for CAMRA members).
25-29 May: Green Man Presents Courtyard
As a contrast to the aforementioned CAMRA-organised festivals, Welsh music festival organisers Green Man present the Courtyard Festival in Lewis Cubitt Square near King’s Cross, taking place over the spring bank holiday weekend. More than 100 beers and ciders from 30+ Welsh brewers is promised, providing the opportunity to try numerous brews that are not easily found in London. Food offerings, predictably enough, are styled as ‘street food’, and include burgers, tortillas, and stone-baked pizza.
When we last saw a Courtyard festival in London, in November 2015, entry was more-or-less free (although we thought that the beer prices were a bit steep). The formula has changed significantly for this latest instalment, with tickets for entry costing between £15 and £20 (probably in part reflecting the variety of live music performances throughout the festival).
- London Brewers’ Market will be setting up for an evening session at Greenwich Market on Friday 5 May, from 6.30pm until 10.30pm. As usual entrance is free, and beer from 10 London brewers will be on sale, accompanied by music from Independent Label Market.
- The annual Surbiton Food Festival includes a dry-hopped beer festival, as part of the Village Fete over the weekend of 13-14 May. Festivities run from 12pm to 6pm in St. Andrew’s Square.
- Those at the Hope pub in Carshalton seem obsessed with obscure wordplay when it comes to naming their beer festivals. This month’s Drinker, Drayman, Cellarman, Spile festival, taking place 25-27 May, demonstrates a real dedication to shoehorning cask ale terminology into a title that only slightly resembles the name of a John le Carré novel. Groan if you must.
- Between 12pm and 7pm on 27 May, Selhurst Park Stadium will host the annual Crystal Palace F.C. Beer Festival. It could be big: 3000 tickets are on sale for £10 in advance (or £15 on the day), and more than 200 beers and ciders are promised.
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