London Craft Beer Festival – The Low-down
London Craft Beer Festival is the latest in a range of new beer festivals out to celebrate all the new and exciting things happening in brewing nowadays. Over the last year we’ve seen a good few new events with the word “craft” in the title, but for some reason they seem to be much better at putting on festivals outside the boundaries of London. Both Indy Man Beer Con in Manchester and the Liverpool Craft Beer Expo managed to satisfy some of the most critical beer geeks, while in London we’ve been left disappointed time and time again. The question now is if LCBF will be the London based craft beer festival we’ve all been waiting for? I sat down with one of the brains behind the festival, Mr Greg Wells, to talk about how it came about and what the hell is going to happen.
Greg is a big fan of the new wave of brewers – the makers of hoptastic and exciting styles of beer and purveyors of deliciousness. The idea for making a festival celebrating these crafty beers came to him about a year ago. After a visit to the Great British Beer Festival he went to Camden Town Brewery. While sipping away, filled with festival atmosphere, he thought it would be good to make a nice craft beer event. Something that had a bit of the CAMRA spirit, but also celebrated the creativity of the new brewers. Together with friends at Oval Space they fermented this idea in their minds for a good few months before taking the steps to actually make it happen. Oval Space would use their expertise in hosting big events and Greg would find the brewers. The first step was to email 20 of his favourite breweries, just to test the water. Within a day he’d got enough positive replies to believe that this could actually happen.
He knew that he wanted a festival where people would interact with the brewers and a system that allowed people to taste a wide variety of brews. After a few catch-ups with the brewers the format was decided. Greg told me it was important for him to work with the brewers to make something they would be happy with. Most of the breweries are at maximum capacity and don’t really need to go to a lot of events. Doing something the brewers think will be a good use of their time seems like a good idea to me. Evin O’Riordain at Kernel also urged him to look outside the borders of the UK. If you’re aiming high then why not invite some of the best out there, which is how he came to get heavy hitters such as Mikkeller and De Molen on board. Bless that man. I’ve been waiting to see brewers like this at a London beer festival.
The format is pretty straight forward. For £35 you get a bunch of tokens, which can be traded in for beer at the different stalls. You get enough tokens to drink over 5 pints, and if some of the brews are at 10% mark, then that should be plenty. The breweries are responsible for pouring their own beer and they’ll have at least three taps each, which will rotate daily. The question that remains is how many of the breweries will bring something from their special reserve, or something made specifically to blow minds at the festival? I think if you know you’ll be pouring your beer next to someone like Mikkeller you’d want to bring the big guns, as well as the best of your standard range, of course. There will also be food, because stomachs needs to be lined, and music. Greg assures me that the music will stay in the background and not take centre stage at any point, but he says he likes music with his beer. Fair enough.
The idea with LCBF is to make something to build on. Greg is adamant that this is not about making money but to make a festival that can carry on for years to come, or as he puts it “make it good and make it ours”. He sees it as his way of contributing with something to the craft beer scene. Personally I think he’s onto something good here. The stakes are high, and Greg knows it. The horrors of London’s Brewing Festival are still fresh on people’s minds and some might find it difficult to part with a cool 35 quid for the entrance fee. However, you do get quite a lot for the money. The festival is on the same weekend as GBBF, which Greg says was deliberate. The idea isn’t to go head to head with them, but rather offer something a little bit different. I think he hopes that people will go to GBBF one day, and then to LCBF the other, for a full experience of the brewing scene at the moment. The festival kicks off on the 16th of August and lasts for three days, seeing the likes of The Kernel, Thornbridge, Brodie’s, Magic Rock, To Øl and many many more amazing breweries bringing their delicious liquids to East London.
For more information check out their website. We wish London Craft Beer Festival all the best. Don’t be sucky.