I was only in London for a long weekend, but wanted to find something a little different to do on the Saturday evening - either a beer launch, a beer festival or a meet the brewer event. After a lot of web trawling I decided on either the London Brewers Alliance 2011 Showcase with up to 20 London breweries showing off their beers, or a tap takeover of Mikkeller beers at the CASK Pub and Kitchen and the possibility of getting to meet (well, probably only see from a distance) the legend that is Mikkel Bjorg Bjorgso. This was a pretty tricky decision on which I changed my mind a couple of times on the lead-up to my visit! However I wasn't sure what Mikkeller beers would be on tap (but I was guessing some fairly strong abv ones, confirmed after a visit to CASK on the Monday) and I had to meet some friends off the train later in the evening, and since I was in London it did made sense to try some new London beers, soooooo I eventually went for the London Brewers Alliance event (helped by some favourable comments from the guys at the Kernel Brewery). *Phew - end of sentence.* The cost of entry was £20, pretty steep up-front, but at least I received 8 half-pint token for that, including one for the special collaborative beer - the London Brewers Alliance (LBA) IPA brewed by Windsor and Eaton - so I think it worked out as pretty good value.
The event was held in the Vinopolis building in Borough, just along from London Bridge. It's a huge place with multiple restaurants, shops, meeting rooms and bars, including Brew Wharf with its own microbrewery.
After getting the stamp of entry on my wrist at the front door, it was a bit of a mazy walk up to the Mezzanine hall where the event was taking place. A £3 deposit for the glass later, I was in and eager to try some of the best beers brewed in London.
Although advertised as an evening event, even at 6:30pm the place was pretty packed.
The great thing about this Showcase was the opportunity to actually meet and chat to the brewers and brewery staff - something you don't normally get the chance to do (at least to this extent) at a 'normal' Beer Festival. I managed a few words with a number of the brewers and the following are my recollections before I had to leave (and things got a little too hazy) - hopefully I didn't seem too much of a twat to these people. I'm also fairly pants at tasting notes for beers, so I'll just try to give my initial impressions.
LBA IPA - as mentioned this was the collaborative London Brewers Alliance beer, brewed at Windsor and Eaton on the 13th September and launched this night (last year the collaborative beer was a Porter). It was slightly darker than a 'normal' IPA, but very smooth, bitter but not cheek-puckeringly bitter, tasting of slightly darker fruit rather than full-on grapefruit. I really liked it.
Windsor and Eaton - Windsor Knot. I hadn't tried a Windsor and Eaton beer previously so this was an impressive start. The beer was obviously brewed for the Royal Wedding but has proved so popular that it's been kept on. It's a marriage (oohh-dear) of Sovereign and Nelson Sauvin hops and so had the typical floral smell and citrus/orange flavours, but toned down slightly - again very nice. When I mentioned to one of the brewers (Will) that the Nelson Sauvin-based Whakatu that I had had last week as part of the Wetherspoons Real Ale Festival was quite wishy-washy (technical term), he was surprised, but when the Everards name was mentioned, just nodded his head!
By The Horns - Wheat (Facebook link). Slightly dark, slightly hazy wheat beer (~40% wheat), quite spicy, very easy to drink. They've only been going for a couple of months with 3 beers (Wheat, Red and Pale) and the brewery equipment was made in the old Atlas Brewery in Kinlochleven! Even more interesting is that brewing is now happening in there as well - River Leven Ales - amazing what you find out when you talk to people.
Camden Town - Wheat. One of the By The Horns guys admitted that he really liked the Camden Town wheat beer so, although kegged, I had to give it a go. It really was hazy (almost murky, with 60% wheat), with a huge banana and bubblegum aroma and taste - really great. It was probably as good a British wheat beer as I've tasted (OK - not counting the WEST unfiltered Hefeweizen, but that's almost German!). The guys at Camden Town had brought so much beer they were actually giving it away - can't complain at that!
Botanist Brewery - Kew Green. Another definitely hazy wheat beer (think I must have been on a quest by now), not as full-on as the Camden Town, but loads of spice and more dark berry flavours - also really great. The microbrewery has only been producing beers for a month or so with almost all the current output going to the attached pub situated near Kew Gardens (which always sells out of the beer). Mark, the manager/brewer, indicated that with some of the beers, including the forthcoming OPA (Organic Pumpkin Ale), they'll only use natural ingredients, even to the extent of not using finings and so leaving the beer very cloudy - nice! Definitely a place I'll try to call into the next time I'm in London.
By now the place was getting seriously busy. I managed a few further halves of Redemption Fellowship Porter and East London Pale Ale, but the photos I have are just filled with thirsty drinkers or blurred brewers! I didn't even manage to get to other new and interesting breweries such as Hackney Brewery, the redchurch brewery and Moncada Brewery, but then I guess you always have to leave something to come back for!
As I wandered out past the Brew Wharf microbrewey, I left most impressed at the number of very new London breweries and especially the enthusiastic people. In addition I didn't have even a single disappointing beer, so it really was a great event to attend.