On Friday I flew down to London with my brother for my fourth time at The Great British Beer Festival and his first. With myself being low on finances this summer I had decided back in June that I wouldn’t be going this year, but Cousin Iain was kind enough to buy me a return flight, which left me only having to find spending money.
The flight to Heathrow and ensuing journey into London went without a hitch, and after meeting up with Cousin Iain and walking to Earls Court, we met my mate Charlie and wasted no time in getting in there for our first half pint of the day.
Our first random choice was quite a “hoppy” ale, and typical of what to expect from a beer and ale festival. However, my brother Andrew wasn’t keen on it, as he much prefers sweeter drinks and he just doesn’t have the taste buds for it. Not sure I would have had at 18, either, so Iain took him off to show him where the cider stand was and Andrew followed that path to oblivion for the rest of the night, while the crowd of us moved around the different areas sampling the produce of different breweries.
Unlike previous years, where I’d made a determined effort to note down what I’d had, this year I just worked my way through a variety of ales without really caring what had went before. I figured that since, in four years of coming here, I hadn’t left and then sought out a specific ale after the event. So there was no point getting bogged down by specifics – it was more a case of enjoying the atmosphere and what was on offer without getting ruined in the process.
Unfortunately that’s kind of what Andrew did, ending up in a bit of a stupour despite warnings from several of us to take it easy as the night wore on. He’s used to lapping up the 4.5% mass market Magners & Bulmers stuff, and underestimated how much of an affect the 7% and 8% “proper” ciders would have on him. Still, it wasn’t like he barfed on anyone, he just ended up getting a bit silly before sitting about on the floor, and then getting upset when he was too drunk for us to go for a meal after we left the beer festival.
Thus ended Friday night.
On Saturday morning we went for a good breakfast at Café Continente on North End Road, near South Kensington underground. I’ve paid about the same for a breakfast of lesser quality in Helensburgh, so I can highly recommend it if you’re in the area.
Talking of locales – I’d gone out of my way to ensure I was checked in at each location on Brightkite, mainly so I could see who else might be around the area. I could see that other Brightkite users had been at the beer festival the night before, but there was no chatter about it for Saturday at this point.
Later, when we had met up with Steve and were inside Earls Court again, I saw some modest A4 posters jotted about encouraging people to add the #gbbf tag to their Twitter posts to potentially win a free beer. I’m not completely sold on hash tags, but since my Brightkite updates get posted to my Twitter feed I made a couple of updates with said tag as the day wore on to see if I could rustle up that free beer.
I don’t know if I was successful or not, as there was quite a lot of noise on Twitter for that topic, so I gave up on following it. Nice idea, though – the location based stuff is something Brightkite is well suited for, and it was fun seeing pictures people were posting on the Earls Court location stream.
Back to the point of the event, then. We discovered a lovely ale called Arrow Head pretty early in the day, having two halves in a row before moving on around the rest of the stands. Unfortunately, as is usual for Saturday at the event, lots of breweries have exhausted their supply of the more popular ales and it wasn’t easy to get our first choice.
The atmosphere was excellent despite the looming inevitablity of the throng drinking the place dry, though. Many people come in fancy dress for some reason – a sort of spill over from the “silly hat Thursday” that they have – and there were some great costumes on show. The best had to be these guys who had come as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, wearing green body paint, headbands, and poster-painted cardboard shells held on with string. The execution wasn’t perfect, but you have to doff your cap to that kind of effort! 😀
We knew time was almost up on us for 2009 when it came to the point where we were just playing it safe and going for more mainstream beer that was in plentiful supply. In the end we went back round to the Midlands area and were fortunate to get a final pint of Arrow Head, as it too was running out.
Savouring that last pint, we wandered around soaking up the atmosphere before agreeing that we’d done it justice for this year and headed off to watch some football in The Famous 3 Kings, a nearby pub.
After that we rounded off the night by going for a great curry at Iain’s usual place, but spending the day on your feet drinking ale can really take it out of you, so we called it a night not long after that.
I’m really glad I was able to make it down for The Great British Beer Festival 2009 – especially given that I’m not working full time at the moment. I hope I can make it back down for my 5th in a row in 2010.