Over a thousand beers, ciders and perries all served in one venue. The first chance to taste the freshly crowned Champion Beers of Britain. An auction selling bits of beer-related tat. Of course I’d be mad not to go.
Much like Christmas, the Great British Beer Festival comes but once a year. And, much like Christmas, it ends up being a lot more expensive than you expected. Sure, you get a CAMRA discount when booking your tickets, and the full £11 entry fee is hardly breaking the bank anyway. But that £1.50 you’re spending on each third of a pint flies out of your pocket very quickly, and before you know it you’ve bought 35 thirds and a large curry bowl and have somehow managed to purchase a litre Lowenbrau stein at auction.
Part of the excitement around this event is that it’s where they crown the Champion Beer of Britain. In theory, this is the best of the best on offer at the festival, so demand is likely to be high. I was lucky enough to taste all of the top three.
Bronze: Mordue, Workie Ticket 4.5%
This beer won Gold in the Best Bitter category as well as Bronze overall, so I came in expecting great things.
It’s certainly different from any of the other beers I tried. Very dark brown in colour with a toffee coloured head. I picked up liquorice and aniseed in the aroma, with more aniseed and dandelion & burdock in the flavour. The taste lingers, which would be lovely if the taste were a bit nicer.
Workie Ticket is a weird one. It was nice enough drinking a third, but I’m not sure I could handle a full pint. 2/5
Silver: Green Jack, Ripper 8.5%
They will not serve this one to you in full pints at the festival, which at 8.5% is probably fair enough.
There’s a lot of sugar in the Ripper. Not much going on with the aroma, but the flavour is sickly sweet, with hints of honey and pistachio. It’s a bit like drinking baklava.
Somehow, it tastes even stronger than it is. If you’re a fan of stronger beers you might enjoy this, but it’s not one for me. 1/5
Gold: Siren, Broken Dream Breakfast Stout 6.5%
Knowing demand for this was going to be strong, my friends and I made a beeline for this beer (a beerline, if you will) as soon as we arrived. Perhaps unsurprisingly, at 2pm on day one of being open to the public, the barrel had run dry. Purely by luck, we were standing nearby when they laid on a fresh barrel a few hours later.
I’m a big fan of a breakfast stout generally, so this was always going to go down well. Very dark and smooth, with smokey, coffee and chocolate flavours. However, the mouthfeel was less thick than I was expecting, making it far less satisfying than hoped. Overall a lovely beer, and certainly one of the better ones we tried…but it wasn’t the best. 4/5
So not the greatest turnout from the official champions of the festival. In my next post, I’ll be going through what else I tried and listing my own prize winners.