To people from outside London the suggestion that the great metropolis is made up of various villages probably sounds ridiculous. But if you live here you find this is exactly the case – just without the green fields separating the different bits of course.
Forget the geography lesson, what about the beer, I hear you say. The fact is these villages have their beer preferences too. It’s fair to say West London has not really understood or embraced the new generation of craft beer in the same way East London has taken it to its heart and almost made it its own.
Maybe this is not surprising because for more than a generation London had only two breweries of any magnitude in Fuller’s and Young’s and they both resided in West London. And they predominantly produced cask ale.
It is rather apt therefore that the old and the new of London’s beer drinking scene inhabits the two ends of the capital during what has become known as London Beer City week (during the second week of August).
In the West corner (based at Olympia) we have the firmly established Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) sticking doggedly to its original remit of supporting cask ale. And in the East corner we have the newcomer London Craft Beer Festival (LCBF) that has been going two years (housed at the Oval Space in Bethnal Green) and focusing more on keg beers.
To visit both in the same week – as any true beer lover surely should – gives a full flavour of what is being produced in the UK. While some brewers rather adventurously try to straddle the two, for many it’s a tough bridge to cross at present.
It’s not just about the method of dispense, there is a mindset difference. Maybe it is disruptive upstarts versus the staid establishment types. As the newcomers become more established there could well be a blurring of the boundaries between the two camps.
Where things do blur somewhat already is in the way the overseas breweries are represented at these two festivals. Here dispense seems to count for little. There will be a plethora of overseas brewers present at GBBF dispensing keg beers from around the world including the Czech Republic, the US and Germany.
It’s just the same at LCBF where the likes of Omnipollo from Sweden, Lervig from Norway, and Founders Brewing Co from the US will be serving up some unusual beers rarely sighted in the UK – from the keg.
This blurring of the boundaries is not dissimilar to London’s villages where the difference between the various areas is only really visible to insiders. Everybody else appreciates the whole and doesn’t get bogged down with the minutae and (arguably immaterial) differences.