We set off from our South London base just after 9:30am, voyaging forth to our meeting place at Victoria Station’s Wetherspoons. As tradition dictates we had to fuel the second leg of our journey with the finest ales this establishment has to offer.
Upon arrival I darted to the bar, perusing the taps, and to my delight Adnam’s Ghost Ship was, once again, ready to be deposited into my belly. Ghost Ship is the beer that started MFBR this time last year. It is a fond favourite and a source of much nostalgia for the team.
Having ordered 4 halves, we wanted to be sensible, we searched for Steve and @CricketGeoff of The Beer O’Clock Show fame – or should that be notoriety. We found them, sporting a magnificent hat each, in the corner of the pub and quickly sat ourselves down to become acquainted.
I don’t want to go into it too much early on for fear of utter repetition. But these guys are fantastic, and if you haven’t yet checked out The Beer O’Clock Show I strongly urge you to. It was a shame that I didn’t get to meet Mark but this will be happening very soon. I digress.
Sinking that Ghost Ship an iota too enthusiastically, we all resolved to get another half – Jaipur was on the bar. It would be rude not to. A solid, lovely pint. The chatter continued, there’s some exciting stuff going on and in the pipeline and then it was time to descend the staircase and begin the final leg of our pilgrimage.
For those who haven’t been to a beer festival, it is an experience like no other and I am far too in-eloquent to put it succinctly. From exiting the station at Olympia to re-entering it that evening there is an indescribable buzz. Stalking up to the entrance, fidgeting with whose ticket is whose, watching the CAMRA Volunteers handle their barcode guns as though they are rocket launchers are all comical, necessary and vital parts to the build-up. Everyone is friendly, everyone smiles, you get pointed in this direction and that, age verification bands here, programmes there, glasses that way, beer beyond.
Beer, glorious beer. It’s Aladdin’s cave for the beer lover. The scent of a thousand hops envelopes you as you get your glass, the chatter of a thousand beer lovers is incomprehensible but undeniably excitable. There are bars, there is food, there are photobooths (unfortunately). You have a list (well, I had a list) that you hope to vanquish. This task seems achievable with naivety and soberness of having just arrived. It quickly dissipates into a pipe-dream, but one you don’t regret ever letting go.
There is so much to try, so many people to talk to and so much to learn in the walls and this year the GBBF was even bigger. A whole new hall with several bars, more food and, thankfully, more seating areas.
Tactics go out the window, and with no champion bar this time I was advised that Elland’s CBOB – the 1872 Porter – would be on at 6:30pm and would be finished by 6:50. Now, I like to think of myself as an ambitious person, but I wouldn’t be standing, let alone able to fight my way through a crowd to try the Supreme Winner that late in the day. I resolved to look into the other options and stick to my list.
That didn’t really work out so well either. After the first few drinks impulse takes over. This bar is close and that tap sounds funny. I’ll have some. Saying that, the two beers I did hunt down were either off completely (one got delivered but was in such bad condition they didn’t even tap it) and one was being put on later that evening. I figured the universe was conspiring against me and I should just go with the flow.
As well as the beer, there’s always plenty to see and do at the GBBF. Traditional festival games (I threw many bottle caps at kegs and missed them all), food, pork scratchings, CAMRA stalls, sessions with industry professionals, photo opportunities, pork scratchings… Did I already say that?
There’s a top tips list at the bottom of this post. If you’re planning on heading next year, drink them in (excuse the pun), it may save you some embarrassment.
All in all, GBBF 2013 was a great day. Slightly embarrassing, extremely entertaining. We recommend it to anyone even remotely curious and there’s only 51 weeks until next year’s session!
A full beer list is unavailable thanks to my sodden memory – but a good 75% of what we were drinking is below:
- St Austell’s Tribute Cornish Pale Ale. 4.2% abv
- St Austell’s Trelawny Bitter. 3.8% abv
- Outstanding Beer’s Selling Out Golden Ale. 3.9% abv
- J.W Lees & Co’s Moonraker Strong Ale 7.5% abv
- Hog’s Back’s A Over T Barley Wine 9% abv
- Buntingford’s Twitchell – Silver of CBOB – Glowing Golden Ale 3.8% abv
- Country Life’s Pot Wallop Golden. 4.4% abv
- Fyne Ales’ Jarl 3.8% abv Golden
- St Austell’s Big Job 7.2% Double IPA
- Henry Weston’s Family Reserve Cider 5% abv
- Weston’s Old Rosie Strong cider 7.3% abv
- Weston’s Wyld Wood 6.5% abv
We were extremely lucky to be invited to offer our thoughts on St Austell’s Big Job with Steve and Number 1 fan @CricketGeoff for The Beer O’Clock Show‘s summer special. Now, it’s my first time being recorded – especially on the fly with a beer I’ve never tried before – but they made it very easy for us and you should definitely check out their Summer Special which will be linked to from here as soon as it’s released.
I couldn’t even give you a good overview of what we said. I went into chat rubbish mode, but Steve assures me it sounds natural. Saying that Spitfire assured me my picture was from their photobooth was nice. I think they’re both trying to protect me…
We’re also planning a collaboration in mid-September that I don’t want to say too much about now but we’re very excited to be working with them and it should result in some great stuff so keep your eyes peeled for a few announcements over the coming few weeks.
GBBF Top Tips
If you want to get involved in the photobooths, but also want to keep your dignity, do it early before the beer kicks in. Otherwise this happens.
- Champion beers go fast, so get in quick.*
- Beer lists work great for the first hour and half.
- Pace yourself. You lose no points for drinking thirds or halves.
- Wear a silly hat. Because silly hats.
- Talk to people and get involved.
- Don’t take it too seriously.
- Be adventurous. Try everything you can. You might find a hidden gem.
*Some are also released at certain points during the day, so ask as soon as you get there and be prepared for a melee.
All our tweets and pictures from the day are in one convenient place!