Today sees the opening of the 2011 Great British Beer Festival (#GBBF). Earlier I wrote why you should go to this remarkable festival, whether you’re a seasoned festival goer, a newbie, a ditherer, or a disappointed BrewDog fan. Actually, you should go on two days because there are just too many good beers for one session.
From the 2nd to the 6th of August, Earl’s Court, becomes the centre of the beer universe, with over 1000 beers available. Or perhaps that should be “center”, because London is being invaded by some great American beer. And what’s more, you get to taste them in cask form.
Things have changed in the last few years; hardly anybody bats an eyelid when you say that the USA is the most exciting brewing nation on the planet. The so-called craft beer revolution has been going a couple of decades in the US. Microbreweries in brewing nations the world over – with the possible exception of Germany and the Czech Republic – take their inspiration if not lead from North America.
But there is one area where the US still looks to Britain: cask ale. Craft beers in the US are largely delivered from the keg, and even if we’ve long since settled the argument that “proper” keg is every bit as “real” as the ales that CAMRA champions, the cask is an irresistible draw for many of the star names in US brewing from Brooklyn to San Diego. This week is your chance to find out what they make of it.
North American breweries often produce a much wider range of beer styles in general than their British equivalents: lagers of all hues, bocks, saisons, what beers, and so on. But this week is about styles that suit the cask, so you’ll find ales, porters and stouts – all with the distinctive American touch: lots of big-flavours, shed-loads of fragrant, citrussy, piney hops, and higher ABVs than we are used to in Blighty.
If you’re new to the US scene, you might want to sample beers from breweries you might stand a chance of finding in bottles in UK supermarkets or beer retailers: Flying Dog, Rogue, Brooklyn Brewery… Or take a couple of recommendations from Stan Hieronymus of the Appellation Beer blog: Red Ale (6.2% ABV) by the Marble Brewery (from New Mexico, as opposed to the one from Manchester), or perhaps Vanilla Bean Mal Pais Stout (7% ABV) from Le Cumbre (also New Mexico).
Me, I’ll be heading straight to Bar W2 – The Blackwell Bar, because the American beers sell out fast. I’ve got my eye on Lagunitas Censored Ale (6.9% ABV). Their IPA was my first beer last year and it almost ruined my festival it was so good. I’ll save the Great British stuff for Day 2.
Find these and other beers from Germany, Holland, Italy, Denmark, New Zealand… at the Bières Sans Frontières bar: http://gbbf.camra.org.uk/foreignbeers