I’ve been up since 5am compiling my list for the Great British Beer Festival. (Did I say yesterday I wasn’t going for the beer? I was lying.) I know this list making is an exercise in futility but I can’t help myself.
Have I gone mad or is the GBBF “region” list a complete rewriting of British geography? If you didn’t know the names of the breweries you liked, it would be impossible to find anything. Though organizing 700+ beers can’t be easy, and I won’t pretend I could do it better.
I’m keeping my expectations low and realistic, even if I stick to thirds there’s only so much I can drink.
There is the dilemma of starting with what is most palate-friendly, but ironically I’ve found at beer festivals there is always a rush on the higher-alcohol brews. Perhaps because they are “rarer”– especially if you do most of your drinking in pubs where most beer available is around 4%. But most of these beers will thrash your palate straight out.
But then there is the labyrinth of the GBBF layout to negotiate. Sure, you want to start with that light summer ale with elderflower infusion, but where the hell is it? You get lost and end up drinking some hop bomb which coats your mouth in resins for a good hour.
Here is my list for those who really like that kind of thing. You know who you are.
- Adnams Gunhill (a dark mild)
- American Flatbread Solstice Gruit (a medieval brew, I’ll be drinking it in honor of my new friend and fab writer, Jesse Bullington.)
- Beartown Ginger Bear– (the gay man in me giggles.) I like ginger, I like Beartown and I like ginger bears.
- Buffy’s Norwich Terrier– I’m a fan of Buffy’s– their Old English Rose was one of those palate-defining brews for me. Though the name isn’t too promising. I keep thinking wet dog.
- Islay Nerabus–I’m increasingly curious about Scottish brewers, particularly Hebridean ones. This beer also has Amarillo hops, my favourite.
- Mighty Oak Oscar Wild Mild or Sand Bar– I’ve heard great things about this brewery and it’s local if we’re counting food miles.
- Orkney Raven Ale– I sampled several beers from this brewery while I was in Orkney. I’ll drink almost anything with “hedgerow” in the tasting notes.
- St. Austell Prince– I’m a fan of this brewery’s hoppy bitters and am eager to see what they do with a mild. So often breweries will brew a mild for the GBBF but you never see them in pub rotations. It’s a shame– this could be a post in itself.
- Stone Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean–I feel obligated to list this as it seems the quintessential beer-chaser type beer: rare, distant and complicated, though I’ve yet to have a Stone beer that has blown me away. Maybe this is the one?
- Stone This Beer Tastes Better on Tap– this is an in-joke about cask ale, right? Right? If I try it will I be in on the joke?
- Thornbridge Craven Silk– OK, this is the beer I’m most excited about. Brewed with fresh-picked Elderflower (see, this is why Cyclops style ratings, where beers are broken down into hue, bitterness and sweetness and nothing else, will never really sell beer.) I am hoping to start with this one.
This year I’m going to pick up some bottles to drink at home, specifically:
- Great Divide 16th Anniversary Wood Aged Double IPA (increasingly becoming a favourite style of mine)
- Thornbridge Halcyon– after sneaking a sip of Pete Brown‘s at the Jolly Butcher on my Birthday, I need more of this sunny beer.
- Thornbridge St. Petersburg– there is a pattern forming here! This is my favourite beer style and I can’t wait to see what Thornbridge do with it.
I fully expect most of these to be gone or MIA once I get there, but one can hope.