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Spoilt for choice

Sarah pic for webWell, the Great British Beer Festival was – great!  Actually, it was a bit overwhelming – with over 400 beers to choose from, it was difficult to know where to start.  We thought we would concentrate on beers that we weren’t familiar with, as this might be the only opportunity for a while to sample some of them.  I tend to aim for the lighter bitters, lower in alcoholic strength (so I can sample more different beers – at least that’s the theory).

We bought our souvenir glasses and started to explore – drinking half pints goes against the grain a little bit, but it does offer more opportunity to taste more beers.  Even by the time we arrived at about 1pm it was pretty much standing room only – there were tables and chairs around the place, but they had mainly been nabbed by people who intended to stay there for the duration and take it in turns to go for drinks – defeats the object of the exercise if you ask me, but then it takes all sorts…  Luckily, being CAMRA members, we were able to take advantage of the CAMRA Lounge up the escalator – a very welcome sit down later in the afternoon – and a very interesting chat with a chap who recommended the Derby Hop Till You Drop, which turned out to be an excellent recommendation.

Anyway, there were so many beers that we’d never tried before – many of them we’d never even heard of before – so we just wandered around until we spotted something that took our fancy, and tried that.  Between us we sampled: Greene King St. Edmunds (4.2%) and Bonkers Conkers (4.1%), Kelham Island Bitter (3.8%), Copper Dragon Golden Pippin (3.9%), Timothy Taylor Golden Best (3.5%), Clarks Classic Blonde (3.9%), Shepherd Neame Canterbury Jack (3.5%) and Whitstable Bay (cask version) (4.1%), St. Austell Proper Job (4.5%) – I know it’s a favourite, but I couldn’t resist – Cain’s Liver Bird (4.3%), Derby Hop Till You Drop (3.9%), and Jersey Liberation Ale (4.0%) – plenty of variety there.  I might write a few words about some of them in future posts.

We left the event at about 6pm – just as it was starting to get a bit boisterous as people were leaving work on a Friday evening and heading to the festival for a few beers.  Old hands had told us that it gets very busy in the evenings, and that it could take 20 minutes or more to get served at the bars – certainly wouldn’t be drinking halves in that case!

A couple of added bonuses during the day.  Firstly, we won a couple of prizes on the CAMRA tombola – a nice pint glass and tokens for two free halves of beer.  Secondly, when we got back to Paddington we realised that our day return tickets wouldn’t let us use a fast train to Reading until 7.30pm – so we decamped to The Mad Bishop and Bear – the Fuller’s pub in the station – and had a couple of pints of excellent Fuller’s Chiswick Bitter.

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