The great and the good of the beer world seemed to be at Earls Court this week as The Great British Beer Festival 2008 kicked off. Amazingly my group was at the very front of the queue thanks to Angelo arriving at 9:30. We eagerly watched the clock on the big screen near the door countdown towards 12 noon, and then beyond that advertized opening time. The staff inside didn't look like they were having a last minute brief so the short delay was somewhat confusing.
Nevermind, 12:05 arrived and the doors opened. We piled through the turnstiles and the first face we saw was Roger Protz, on his way out of the hall. Perhaps he'd already had enough beer, but it did seem somewhat strange to pass him going in the opposite direction.
The RateBeer crowd took up residence at two tables near the Biere Sans Frontieres bar. We were all keen to try Lost Abbey The Angel's Share, De Molen Tsarina Esra Reserva, and Dogfish Palo Santo Marron, amongst others. These 10% plus monsters could wait for later in the day for me, although a lot of table started with these beers - it can only be downhill from there!
I therefore spent most of the day on the mid strength American beers interspersing the mad hoppiness with a German or Czech lager or two. It's great to see all those US casks but sometimes the palate needs a change.
As good as the beers were, I spent more time than ever chatting and socializing. As mentioned on their respective blogs, I met The Beer Nut and Tandleman, as well as Stonch, and two members of The Young CAMRA Collectiv, who have yet to file a full report of the festival. I enjoyed the company of my fellow bloggers immensely, all of whom have a delightful enthusiasm for beer and blogging, and, I think our style of blogging comes out in our personality.
So what of the beers? Well for the fourth year on the trot I didn't buy anything English. I did have a large sample of someone else's Marble Janine's One, which was possibly the nicest light beer I had in the two days I was there. It put the APAs and IPAs to shame.
I am, though, a sucker for high gravity extreme beers, and the three I mentioned at the start of the article were all excellent. They're not for the faint hearted, and it would be fair to say the alcohol was a bit hot in the two US beers, but they were all just so sippably gorgeous.
The Angel's Share was the best of the bunch. The bourbon barrel aging was a little obvious but it was good enough for me.
Thanks then, to everyone I spent time with during the two days. Chris, my host overnight, as ever was the top man, but to everyone who made me laugh, paid me a compliment on my writing, or taught me something new; a big Cheers.