Making a good fest of it

By Robyn Black

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: British beer festival, Great british beer, Beer, Great british beer festival, Public house, Camra

Cheers: The Great British Beer Festival opens it doors on Tuesday 2 August
Cheers: The Great British Beer Festival opens it doors on Tuesday 2 August
The mud-free Great British Beer Festival opens its doors on 2 August and we've got the complete low-down, Robyn Black reports.

Festivals aren't all about tents, wellies and Portaloos. Some of them are about good beer and cider, classic pub snacks, traditional pub games, tutored tastings and Hat Day. What is this utopia? The Great British Beer Festival (GBBF), of course, which is nearly upon us again, set to open on Tuesday 2 August at Earls Court in London.

Global beer celebration

Clearly the GBBF is all about celebrating the best of British, but it is also simply about showcasing all that is great about beer. Which is why this year there will be four foreign beer bars, rather than the usual three, say organisers the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

"This is a worldwide celebration of good beer, as well as a British celebration of the best," says a spokesman.

Along with the Dutch & Belgian bar (where sponsors Eurolines will be giving away an overseas trip to one lucky visitor), the Czech & German and New World bars, there will be a bar dedicated to American cask ale. Sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Brewery, the bar, CAMRA says, will be the biggest outlet for US cask ale outside the US itself.

In keeping with the international theme, there will also be a seating area in the style of a Bavarian beer garden for punters to rest their aching feet. It has been designed by London bar, the Bavarian Beerhouse, which is getting involved with the event for the first time.

In total, some 700 beers, ciders and perries will be available at the event, up from 500 last year and — away from the foreign beer bars — most of these will be from the UK, of course.

As well as the main bars that will this year be named after medical heroes, in honour of the event's official charity for 2011, Sue Ryder Care, several of the country's best known brewers will be creating their own bars (see box overleaf). The Society of Independent Brewers will also be taking a bar again to showcase its eight champion beers, whittled down from an initial list of 1,400.

Entertainment at every turn

In between all the sipping and slurping there is plenty else going on. The big event, as always, will be the announcement of the Champion Beer of Britain on the opening day. With regards to the Champion Bottled Beer category, the award is being sponsored by the Hotel Du Vin chain, which have also agreed to stock the winning beer in a selection of its bars.

There will also be an eclectic selection of live music throughout the five days, including comedian Adrian Edmonson's band, ex-England and Surrey cricketer Mark Butcher's band and a string quartet (for full line up see previous page).

Adnams brewery is sponsoring the pub quiz on the Saturday of the festival and is offering an overnight stay in Southwold and a trip around the brewery as first prize, while traditional pub games will also be available to entertain and amuse punters throughout the five days. Hat Day makes a return on Thursday 4 August and, as usual, all festival goers are encouraged to come bedecked with the most weird and wonderful head gear they can lay their hands on.

A taste for learning

For those wanting to learn a thing or two about beer in their time at the event, CAMRA has cajoled a number of beer experts into holding tutored tastings over the five days — although the organisers warn that most of the tickets have already sold out.

The Publican's Morning Advertiser's very own Roger Protz as well as Sue Nowak, Jeff Evans and Des de Moor have proved hot tickets, but at the time of going to press there are still some spaces left. If you act with unseemly haste (check out gbbf.camra.org.uk/tastings for more information), you might just be lucky enough to grab one of the remaining spaces.

Records to be smashed

Last year was a record-breaking one for the GBBF. Some 66,000 beer fans flocked to the festival, an increase of 5% on the year before. More than 200,000 pints were sold — at a whopping rate of 75 per minute and 1,000 new members signed up to CAMRA. Beat that Beyoncé.

BREWER'S ATTRACTIONS

The 700 beers, ciders and perries will be dotted around the many bars at the festival. Half the fun of the fair is wandering around and discovering them, but for those who would prefer more of a guided tour, here's a quick rundown of a few of the big brewers' bars.

Brains

The Welsh brewer's original Strong Ale will be making a special appearance at the festival.

BrewDog

The headline-grabbing Scottish outfit will be hosting their own bar for the first time this year.

Fuller's

As well as its best known beers, the London-based brewer will be showcasing its Brewer's Reserve No 3 — but only in "very limited quantities", so get there early to avoid disappointment. In addition, Bengal Lancer India Pale Ale will be making its GBBF debut.

Greene King

The brewer has created a cask version of its Old Crafty Hen brew especially for the festival, which it will be serving alongside Old Speckled Hen, Abbot Ale, St Edmunds and London Glory.

Marston's

Will the infamous Hobgoblin be making an appearance this year? You can sample a few of the brewer's top beers, while you hang around to find out.

Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA)

SIBA will again be running its Champions' Bar, which showcases its eight champion beers (not to be confused with CAMRA's champion beers). The brews have been selected from a total of 1,400 that have been through national and regional beer competitions.

Thornbridge

After its bar debut last year, the Derbyshire-based brewer returns with its bar to show off some of its extensive range of beers.

Thwaites

The Lancashire brewery promises to pour a range of brews from its portfolio.

Wells & Young's

These days it just wouldn't be the GBBF without the Bombardier double decker, so it's just as well the brewer is bringing it back for another year.

William Worthington

A new bar for 2011, the brewer is promising to pour some of its new beers, as well as the old favourites such as White Shield and Worthington E.

Live music line-up

Tuesday 2 August

Chaminade String Quartet

7.15pm-8pm & 9pm-9.45pm

Wednesday 3 August

Peggy and PJ

1pm-1.45pm & 2.30pm-3.15pm

The Chris Jagger Band — brother of Mick!

7.15pm-8pm & 9pm-10pm

Thursday 4 August

Ahab

1pm-1.45pm & 2.30pm-3.15pm

Thursday evening — TBC

Friday 5 August

The Mark Butcher Band (ex-cricketer for England/Surrey)

1pm-1.45pm & 2.30pm-3.15pm

Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds

7.15pm-8pm & 9pm-10pm

Saturday 6 August — TBC

Can't go to the festival?

You can keep up to date with what's going on via the official festival Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/gbbf​, which now has more than 3,000 followers.

Not got your ticket yet?

Tickets are available from the official festival website (www.gbbf.org.uk​) or by calling See Tickets on 0844 412 4640.

Advance day tickets: £6 (CAMRA members), £8 (non-members)

Advance season tickets: £20 (CAMRA members), £23 (non-members)

Day tickets: £8 (CAMRA members), £10 (non-members)

Group bookings: (10+): £7 per person (one price only), only available by phoning See Tickets on 0871 230 5594

Dates and opening times

Tuesday 2 August:

Trade session 12noon to 5pm Public session 5pm to 10.30pm

Wednesday 3 August:

12noon to 10.30pm

Thursday 4 August:

12 noon to 10.30pm

Friday 5 August:

12 noon to 10.30pm

Saturday 6 August:

11am to 7.00pm

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