The iconic festival is celebrating its 40th birthday this year, and the Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) has announced a number of exciting new additions to London’s most famous beer festival.
When the first festival took place in 1977, there were only 171 breweries across the UK, whereas now there are more than 1,500. With over 900 real ales, ciders, perries, wines and gins on offer, GBBF is rightly one of the highlights of any pub lover’s calendar.
Here are just some of the things to look out for if you are one of the 55,000 people expected to attend this year’s event.
The Champion Beer of Britain award
One of the mostly highly-anticipated events at GBBF is always the unveiling of CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Britain, awarded to the brewer of what its judges deem to be the best cask beer produced in the UK that year.
In order to be entered for the award, the beer must have been available for at least three months, and should have been entered for judging at a regional competition. The announcement of this year’s winner will take place at 3pm on the Tuesday of the festival (8 August).
Winners of the prestigious award in recent years include Timothy Taylor's, Tiny Rebel and Binghams.
New World beers
As revealed last month, beers from Australia, New Zealand and the USA will be exclusively showcased at this year’s festival.
The US and New World Bottles Bar, which is sponsored by the US Brewers Association, will showcase more than 100 sought-after craft beers for punters to try. Some of these beers will never have been available in the UK before, while old favourites from breweries such as Sierra Nevada and Odell Brewing Co will also be present.
There will also be an Irish brewery bar serving cask-conditioned beer produced by a number of the country’s craft brewers.
Beer festivals such as GBBF give brewers the chance to show off some of their best regular beers, but also to test out small batch releases and special collaborations.
In an exciting twist, several new wave brewers have worked with older, better-established breweries to produce some special beers that will debut at the festival this year.
Sussex brewers Harvey’s have teamed up with neighbours Burning Sky to produce a strong IPA in memory of Ruth Anglezarke, a prominent member of Brighton and South Downs CAMRA who recently died, while Fuller's and Thornbridge have collaborated on a very special red rye ale.
GBBF is all about enjoying some of the finest beers in the UK and beyond, but it is also about raising money for a number of admirable causes. CAMRA is itself a volunteer-led organisation, but GBBF also generates funds for other worthy recipients.
The MS society will be hosting a table with games such as beer-pong and pitch and putt to raise awareness of the symptoms of MS, which affects mobility and vision.
Meanwhile, Prostate Cancer UK will be launching its ‘favourite local’ competition in the hopes of encouraging landlords to sign up to fundraising events in their pubs.
Former professional darts player and television presenter Bobby George will be heading up the campaign and on the Prostate Cancer UK stand from midday to 3pm on 8 August. Bobby will speak to landlords and traders about why getting involved could help their pub, their customers and help save men’s lives.
Not just beer
With hundreds of real ales and bottled beers to choose from, as well as a whole host of ciders and perries, you’re unlikely to go thirsty at GBBF. However, in an historic first for the festival, this year’s visitors will have the chance to sample fine English wines and gins from some of the country’s top winemakers.
Some of the brands on offer include Exton Park - a relatively new vineyard based in the heart of Hampshire, and Chapel Down – the Kent producers of a world-class range of sparkling and still wines. Their sparkling wines are created using the traditional method, the same as Champagne, from fruit sourced from the south-east of England.
The one drawback about having nearly 1,000 different beverages to sample is that one tends to get a little peckish in the process. Luckily, some of London’s finest street food vendors will be on hand to help, serving up delicious cuisine from across the globe.
From traditional Cornish pasties, to exotic kangaroo and ostrich burgers and fancy bar snacks from Jack Links peperami to Indian lentils snack Karkli, there is enough variety to keep even the fussiest of diners happy at GBBF.
Live music and entertainment
Food and drink aren’t the only attractions at GBBF. At the back of London Olympia is the festival stage, where a whole host of live bands will play across the five days of the event.
Among the highlights are folk-rock and jazz singer Mad Dog McRea (Thursday night) and swing/blues band Fret and Fiddle (Friday afternoon).
Don’t forget to check out other entertainments on offer, which include auctions, traditional pub games and Saturday’s (in)famous Big Pub Quiz.
You can buy tickets for The Great British Beer Festival here.