I’VE never been to a beer festival before.
People inside and outside the Kenna League may find that hard to believe.
I run a fantasy football league to all appearances with the sole purpose of organising as many all-day drinking sessions in as many different London pubs as possible.
Outside the Kenna I regularly kneel at the altar of licenced premises. Some would say too regularly.
But for some reason I’ve never happened upon the promised land of a big room full of lots of different beers and likeminded souls. Like an itinerant Fifteenth Century monk visiting churches, monasteries and other holy places throughout Christendom without once thinking to go to the Vatican.
So it was with a little trepidation I went to Craft Beer Rising in the old Truman Brewery last Friday night. Having lived in Brick Lane for almost half the noughties, the venue and area were well known. But what goes on at a beer festival was based on barely-remembered, badly-told, second-hand accounts from friends.
Before I go on I should admit bitter disagrees with me. That’s a pretty big obstacle to going to beer festivals, I suppose. Lager, cider and IPA? Can’t get enough of them, but traditional English ale is a nonstarter.
So as a committed lager drinker, I must assert – ahead of a description of Craft Beer Rising – that for too long the British tippler has been enslaved by the evil of big breweries limiting options to Kronenbourg, Stella Artois, Carlesberg, Fosters and other poor excuses for enduring session pints. To the part-time palette and Paul Calf they may be acceptable, but to me they’re all on a par with Skol.
A few years ago Peroni came along and brightened bars for a while, or at least until a visit to Craven Cottage. After the match I tasted a watered-down version at The Temperance on Fulham Palace Road.
Peroni ruined, Veltins stepped up. This is a pilsner one can drink and drink and drink, but sadly it’s only available in a finite number of boozers I know, none of them convenient to home or work.
Then three years ago I started working in Holborn, and there, beneath the faux Romanesque pillars of Sicilian Avenue, I found The Whippet. And Lagunitas.
In truth, Lagunitas IPA is a little too strong to knock back in large amounts, but Lagunitas Daytime is, and by thunder it’s good. They both are.
For £15 then, a room with Lagunitas IPA, Daytime and 598 other beers made with the same care and consideration for the consumer could only be a good thing.
After work on Friday, and the customary weekly après in The Skinny Dog, two colleagues, the ISIL manager and I went to E1.
Entering the sell-out event we were issued with a glass and ascended some stairs. We entered a huge room full of cheerful people and an overwhelming amount of beer.
Like the barefoot, medieval pilgrim entering St Peter’s Basilica for the first time, I was filled with wondrous awe and reverence, but also the sneaking suspicion such excess should inevitably lead the to the utter corruption of the weaker man’s soul.
Struggling to maintain composure in front of my drinking companions, we approached the first stand. It was only after I had tried and bought a third of a pint of Williams Double Joker IPA I realised it was 8.3 per cent. Well-laid plans had already come unstuck, but it tasted good enough to make the Pope blaspheme.
Next we tried Bru. An Irishman with the most marvellous whiskers explained their mission to replace Guinness as the stout of choice. This was the cleanest tasting beer I’ve tried since visiting the hometown of the Żywiec brewery in the Polish mountains a couple of years ago. I hope Bru can repeat their Nottingham feat in London and break the St James’s Gate monopoly.
The evening passed in a jovial blur, and in between all the beer and the chat there was an observation among the demographic of the event that requires deeper inquiry.
Predominance among the people was not the tubby, ageing, male pedants associated with real ale campaigns, Morris dancing and celebratory pub scenes at the end of Time Team episodes. There were certainly plenty of blokes, but there was also a sizeable minority of women. And they were really enjoying themselves.
In fact, they were enjoying themselves so much that as the night wore on – more drinks, going for cigarettes, throwing a few woefully-executed shapes in the cider hall – it dawned on me this event was an absolute meat market.
As a taken man I was keen to repel any slurred advances, but unfortunately the ISIL manager had his own predictable agenda and I was forced into the role of reluctant wingman. I’m proud to say my marriage vows remain intact.
What also remains secure is my conversion to the way of the beer festival. Even without the Ballet of Chestnuts unfolding before me, this was a superb event and a must for anyone revelling in the Renaissance of lager.
And anyway I have to go back. In five hours we didn’t even get halfway round.
Quarter final second leg results
Uncertain 9 (19) – 12 (41) Pikey Scum
Walthamstow Reds 30 (84) – 12 (38) Young Boys
Northern Monkeys 18 (51) – 11 (54) Dynamo Charlton
Thieving Magpies 15 (48) – 25 (51) Lokomotiv Leeds
Semi final fixtures
Pikey Scum v Lokomotiv Leeds
Walthamstow Reds v Dynamo Charlton
First leg – 12 April
Second leg – 26 April
Kenna table – week 27
|1||Wandsworth Network Solutions||Will||37||2|
|2||Newington Reds||Ben D||30||1|
|4||Lokomotiv Leeds||Ben S||25||2|
|8||FC Tescticuladew||James N||21||0|
|9||Judean People’s Front||Sholto||20||0|
|12||Young Boys||Andrew D||12||1|
|16||Headless Chickens||John N||10||0|
|17||KS West Green||Stix||9||0|
|Player of the week||15||Rashford, M – MUN – STR|