Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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Mikkeller announced that it would finally open a London bar. It will be in Shoreditch, close to The St. Leonard’s church, and somewhat bizarrely it is in collaboration with Rick Astley, who is also investing.

Unfortunately they are not ticketing the opening, which will also feature the singer performing, so adding his fans to the legions of beer-geeks. They have already warned people to expect queues. London is approximately 20 times the size of Copenhagen and this is staggeringly stupid.  It could prove to be a lowlight of the year.

In contrast, a highlight of August was unquestionably LCBF, which, at Tobacco Docks, for the first time, soared to new heights in 2018. From humble beginnings, in 2013, at the Oval, Bethnal Green, and a now defunct ticket-system whereby you each got three coupons, entitling you to pours of the three different beers of approximately 10-15 breweries  and, I would guess, no more than 1,500 punters, this festival has grown exponentially.

There have been some hiccups on the way, and last year’s move to Hoxton didn’t really work, as the venue had logistics problems, and the event was hurt by competition from BeaverEx, when foreign brewers would not make two trips to the UK in five weeks.

LCBF: ray of sunshine.

However, the organisers showed great ambition and bravery to raise the stakes, and move to the much larger Tobacco Dock. They then got lucky with the demise of Heineken-Ex, and, this year, 90 breweries served over 10 000 customers!

The trade event took place on an absolute scorcher of a day. I was initially disappointed that there was no advance beer-list. However, it actually helped disperse people around the venue as there weren’t the bottleneck queues for the special ticker-beers. There were too many great beers to list, but a special mention for Fuller’s-sponsored cask area, which was a cool oasis amongst the heat and had Past Masters and Vintage Ale on draught.

Tobacco Dock is a massive venue, and there was a lot of space that LCBF 2018 didn’t use. Given the stunning success of this year, and the fact that Heineken-Ex is now possibly dead and buried, there is a window of opportunity for the organisers to show even more ambition and possibly take the title of Europe’s best beer festival from MBCC. London dwarfs Copenhagen in population and is so much better connected, which is vital for the all-coveted foreign brewers, and increases the number of poetical visitors.

Fuller’s at LCBF.

Somewhat ironically, on the morning that LCBF kicked off, Heineken took a $3.1 billion stake in China Resources Beer, that country’s largest brewer. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-heineken-nl-m-a-china-res-beer/heineken-seals-31-billion-tie-up-with-china-resources-beer-shares-surge-idUSKBN1KO00A).

As I don’t speak any of the Chinese dialects, I was spared the claims that they were a family firm and that the investment was only to build ChinaResourcesWorld. It greatly amused me to hear from my father, who is a Spurs season ticket-holder, that Heineken had to resort to emailing them all, offering discounted tickets to Heineken-Ex, for a day of drinking. What a fall from grace. From the UK’s best beer festival to a piss-up for football fans!

August 2018 was scheduled to be the last ever Rainbow Project, which would have been a real shame as this has been a marvellous idea, improving the UK brewers as they learnt from more experienced Americans, and producing great parties as well as some superb beers.

Fortunately, as this blog was going to print, Left Hand Giant announced that they would be reviving the project with a new set of younger breweries (http://www.lefthandedgiant.com/rainbow-project/). For 2018 the colours changed but the beers were all brewed at the same time as last year’s, and had then been aged.

The gloriously technicolour Rainbow Project.

Jester King showed tremendous integrity by refusing to allow their name to be on the same label as Heineken/Beavertown. Obviously I did not drink that one, but of the other six my favourites were Hawkshead/Modern Times Yellow, an apricot saison and Magic Rock/ Casita Cerveceria Papillon, a blueberry sour. The last brewery is owned by Ryan Witter-Merithew who did so much at Siren to further the UK scene and set up the Rainbow Project.

This year also saw the sad demise of London Beer City, whose volunteer organisers – led by Will Hawes – deserve a big thank-you for all their work from 2014 to 2017. However, there were some excellent LCBF fringe events, including Civil Society at The Axe, Stillwater Insetto at The King’s Arms and Garage Beer Co. at Euston Tap.

It was also at LCBF that I had my first Brut IPA, from Cloudwater, a style that, in the time I have taken to write this blog, has become almost ubiquitous in London. In general, the UK is still finding its feet with the genre, but the best British example I have had so far is Siren’s Hop Fizz Brut IPA, which I had at The Old Fountain.

Magical LCBF.

Bank Holiday weekend saw a ScandinavianTTO at The GNRT, Hornsey, featuring Omnipollo, Mikkeller, Warpigs, Toøl, Dugges, Amundsen, Dry and Bitter and People Like Us. Another fantastic event from a pub that goes from strength to strength. So many great beers, but Omnipollo Peach Candy Popcorn sour was new to me and my better half loves the Mikkeler spontaneous double berry.

GBBF is usually reassuringly consistent, which is I imagine how most of the attendees like it. However, there did seem to be more sponsored brewery bars than normal. I did enjoy the raucous booing & catcalls that greeted Greene King’s XX Mild’s victory in the mild category! Siren’s Broken Dream Breakfast stout has been around awhile, but when it was awarded Champion Beer of Britain 2018 it is the first time the accolade has gone to a modern “craft” brewery.

Virgin and Delta Airlines opened a pop-up, The Joint Venture, at The Old Crown, Holborn, to publicise the 230 American airports they fly to together. There was a US beer from each destination. Apart from the menu being absurdly written by airport code, rather than brewery or style, the selection was pretty good.

Bear Republic: pick of the bunch at Joint Venture.

As always, Bottle Shop had some interesting events: Summer Sour Sessions , including Rodenbach Alexander,  Omnipollo/Crooked Stave Wild Wild Bianca Bretta, a bretted peach sour, Dry&Bitter/Jester King Shakas Sunshine, a Tiki Sour and Omnipollo’s Aniara Lemon Wheat sour.

Double Trouble, featured paired beers from breweries who they had imported for LCBF , including sours from Stillwater (Insetto, Italian plum & Action Bronson Muscat grape). IPA’s from Stigbergets (Amazing Haze & Panta Rei) and Namastatve Saison & Dim Sum Gose form To Ol.

Finback was cold-chain flown over from Glendale, New York . Combining Forms Mango IPA , Definitely Seriously DIPA & Echelon, a DIPA with yuzu & spruce tips are all beers whose freshness really benefited from that approach.

Against The Grain, from Louisville, Kentucky saw 70k, Angel’s Envy (a premium Kentucky bourbon) BA Imperial Milk Stout, The Brown Note, brown ale, Johann Paycheque, a wine BA wild beer & Citra Ass Down DIPA, on the taps at the Bottle Shop.

Unsurprisingly (as I’m a shareholder), I enjoyed Bohem’s TTO at The Rake, and I know the headbBrewer Petr was delighted to add his name to the illustrious ones already on the wall

The month ended with a manufactured summer news story about a £22 pint. I won’t mention the details as I don’t want to give further PR either to the tabloids involved or to a venue which can over-charge.  Let’s move on please…

Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t. If you see this man and are tempted to buy him a drink think of the consequences.