Monday, 4 August 2008
The Great British Beer Festival
Well, it's here again: the Great British Beer Festival has returned to Earl's Court.
After last year's highly successful début, following many years at Olympia, the festival begins tomorrow (Tuesday 5 August) with the press day, and opens to the public at 17:00 in the evening, running from noon to 22:30 each day until Saturday.
Organised by CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale), the event is huge: over the week, the festival gets over 65,000 visitors, drawn by the prospect of over 450 real ales, and a growing selection of the very best ciders, and specialist lagers from Germany, Belgium and the Czech Republic, to name a few. New from last year are stands featuring ales for vegetarians, coeliacs and others with specialist dietary needs. Glasses are available in pint, half-pint and third-pint sizes, so you can sample several different beers without having to drink to excess. (In fact, it's an incredibly well behaved event overall).
There's plenty of food available, (with the emphasis on good-value pub-type grub, rather than gastronomy), and a selection of bands (mostly jazz, but including classical, too) for entertainment over the week. There are also stalls selling ale-related memorabilia - beer glasses, beer towels, books, t-shirts and the like.
The event draws a huge range of people, from all walks of life and all ages. It's not just a male, middle-aged event by any means - about a third of attendees are women, and there are also meetings for CAMRA's different groups, including LAGRAD (lesbians & gay men) and Apple (for real cider enthusiasts).
The whole thing is very good humoured and enjoyable, and the wide range of punters attending defies the stereotype of real ale fans as being male, middle-aged, with excess facial hair and sandals. (More typical are groups of office workers having an evening out).
Why not come and sample some beers for yourself?
For full details, see the CAMRA website.