My first visit to London of 2018 took me to Brick Lane, more specifically The Old Truman Brewery. Here, they were proudly hosting Craft Beer Rising. Although now an established event on the London (and UK) beer scene, this was my debut at CBR. Here’s what I thought of my experience!
I’ve never been to the Brick Lane area of London. So, the walk from Aldgate East tube station to the brewery was an experience in itself! Such a fascinating and interesting multi-cultural experience. A truly diverse and lively area, with plenty of sights and eating places, and one that I’m keen to experience again properly, other than just to commute through.
The Old Truman Brewery is about a ten-minute walk away from the Tube (assuming you don’t stop and look at things like I did!). And, it’s clear you’ve reached your destination by the bridge walkway that goes over Brick Lane and is decorated with the brewery logo – a black eagle.
As I arrived, a fairly sizeable queue was starting to make its way through the entrance to the event. Although there was little in the way of delay, and staff checking tickets and handing out entry wristbands whilst queuing quickened things up too.
After entering the venue, picking up my 2/3rds glass and copy of ‘Ferment’, I made my way up the stairs with an increasing sense of anticipation.
On reaching the top of the stairs, my breath was taken away. The sight in front of me was just incredible. Rows of brewery bars, with seemingly no end. People everywhere and a real buzz of excitement. The scale of the event is huge – just when you’ve done the circuit of the first main hall, you realise there’s another one with food, then another with even more beer, and then another with a DJ. Within the first minutes, I knew I would love this event.
With an estimated 175 exhibitors, and the clear majority of them breweries, there is no shortage of choice at CBR. For someone like me, who likes to try new, I also had an overwhelming choice at my disposal. Prior to attending, I’d set a goal to not drink beer from any breweries I’d had before.
This approach immediately ruled out favourites like Adnams, Brewdog and Thornbridge (who I thought had the best bar set up of all), but left me still with over 50 breweries to choose from. Astonishing.
So, I didn’t have to walk far beyond the main entrance to find my first beer. Step up Canopy Beer Co. who gave me a taste of their ‘Everyday Oyster Stout’ and ‘Brockwell IPA’. Both great tasting beers, but I ended up with a third of the latter, suitable pale and hoppy to quench a thirst after the journey from Leeds.
Although early in the session, it was a wise move to go for food pretty much straight away. The queues were minimal, and it was a good setup for the session ahead. I can highly recommend the Cheese Dog from Fleisch Mob. “Perfect Beer Festival Fuel” they had written on their board – I couldn’t agree more.
Fueled and Ready to Go
With the first drink finished and food consumed, it was time to really get into things. The next beer I tried was ‘Parody’, a session IPA from Firebird. Another tasty beer that started to give me the impression that breweries weren’t just here for the sake of it, but were bringing their ‘A’ game with them too.
Moving on, I settled by the Goose Island bar and used that as the base camp for the next couple of beers. First up a superb ‘Grisette’ with Ekuanot and Mosaic hops, by Swansea-based brewery West By Three. It was nice to chat with these guys who are fairly new to the scene, but producing some really good beers.
Following on from that, I came across Toast brewing, who brew their beers with surplus bread supplied. All profits the brewery makes goes to the Feedback charity. I loved the concept and the beer, especially as bread used in beer adds a great quality to it. I had a third of the ‘Bloomin’ Lovely’ session IPA, where the bread really came through. Very tasty. It was also great to hear this brewery’s story, which I intend to write more about in another blog post.
Some other new brewers that I met and are worth watching out for, are Infinite Session. Having written two articles (here and here!) now about low ABV beer, I’m really interested in how the scene evolves . Infinite Sessions is run by two brothers who have produced a very tasty 0.5% pale. And, it is brewed using Mosaic hops (hooray!). Keep an eye out for this one, it’s another challenger to the old school status quo of bland alcohol-free lagers.
I then had a bash on the ‘India Pale Lager’ from Bulletproof brewing. Another very young brewery coming armed with quality tasting beer. Then came a tannoy announcement, about an event taking place in the Talk Room, which sounded very interesting.
Foraging Ingredients for Beer
Yes, because there’s not enough with all the beer, and all the food, and the DJ, there is also an events space too, featuring talks on a variety of topics by big names in the UK beer scene. The talk that was of particular interest, though, was by Thirsty Gardeners.
The Thirsty Gardeners are experts in nature, and one area they know a lot about, is foraging for ingredients to help make beer. This isn’t just hunting for wild hops, or casually stealing barley from farmers’ fields! This is the quirky – leaves, roots and herbs that add a variety of different flavours to beer, often replacing the hops.
Of course, every good talk comes with live demonstrations. So out came boxes of various foraged ingredients, all safe (or I’m somehow writing this from beyond the grave), with information on each and encouragement to taste.
And, to entice you further, plenty of free beer too to try, including Redchurch ‘Plum Stone Sour’ and To Øl ‘Frostbite’. This was a fascinating session and the Thirsty Gardeners are worth learning more about.
After leaving the talk, there was a couple of hours left to sample a few more beers and grab some takeout beers. I visited Thornbridge and sneakily broke my rule around not drinking from breweries I’ve had before. Thank you, James, for the ‘Green Mountain’, another classic Thornbridge beer. At least the beer was new to me, if not the brewery!
With the session coming closer to the finish, I managed to try ‘Scarlett Honey Hoppy Red Ale’ by Lickinghole Craft Creek Brewery, and Erin’s ‘American Pale Ale’. As well as picking up beers for the road by Big Smoke, Neckstamper, Pillars Brewery, Virginia Beer Co, Mad Squirrel and Cassels Brewery, amongst others.
Because it just wasn’t possible to drink all the beer @craftbeerriseuk #CBR18 yesterday, I brought a nice little haul home with me @madsquirrelbrew @Cassels_Brewery @bigsmokebrew @VirginiaBeerCo @PillarsBrewery @neckstamper #craftbeer #beer 🍻😁 pic.twitter.com/ZKWgO4IXuM
— Mike Hampshire (@Naitch1982) February 25, 2018
I feel like I barely scratched the surface of this event, and I can see why people can spend days here, because there is so much of it.
The only thing I didn’t like about CBR, because there is so much to see and do, with so much entertainment and people to meet, is the session felt short. But, I guess I just enjoyed myself so much, and I know that buying tickets for two sessions next year will solve that little problem! I will definitely be back in 2019.If you enjoy reading our content, please consider sharing with your friends using the sharing buttons at the bottom of each post. Also, you can subscribe to receive notifications about new blog posts via email. Simply enter your email address into the 'Subscribe to Mike's Tap Room' box at the top left of this page.