Jon Knibb reports from the Great British Beer Festival.
The annual CAMRA Great British Beer Festival has been running annually since 1977. The cavernous Olympia exhibition hall in West London is surely the best venue in which the festival has been staged, conveniently placed next to a mainline railway and tube station and perfectly suited to be turned into Britain’s largest pub for the duration.
Upon entering the hall the new arrival quickly becomes aware of the slick organisation by CAMRA, with around 1,000 trained and efficient volunteers ensuring the smooth running of the show.
Once the visitor has received their programme and glass it’s time to select the beer of choice – and what a choice. With over 800 real ales, ciders, perries and foreign beers to choose from the testing notes provided have to be studied carefully. Watching drinkers reading their programme in one of the many seated areas is like watching punters studying form at a race meeting.
The festival is not only about drinking. There is a wide range of traditional food on offer and numerous stalls including tombolas, CAMRA recruitment, breweriana and beer/pub-related book sales, with authors on hand for signing sessions. Traditional pub games are available and entertainment is provided each evening with a performance by seventies rocker Alvin Stardust to look forward to on Friday.
The festival also sees the unveiling of the Champion Beer of Britain awards for 2013, with the gold medal for the country’s best beer going to Elland Brewery’s 1872 Porter – a worthy accolade against such stiff competition.
The Great British Beer Festival runs until Saturday. Day admission is £10 (£8 for CAMRA members). www.gbbf.org.uk