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The battle of the beer festivals commences this weekend. Which one will you hit up for a frothy booze odyssey?

Great British Beer Festival

Where and when: London Olympia, Kensington, Aug 13-17.

The booze: More than 800 real ales, ciders, perries and foreign beers will be on hand for punters to swill. The Great British Beer Festival is CAMRA’s (Campaign for Real Ale) flagship event – the organisation dates back to 1971 and has been campaigning for real ale and community pubs ever since, it’s MO being to challenge the domination of the UK beer market by a handful of big companies.

Although this type of British beer has long suffered a rep of “flat and warm” among visitors to our chilly isles, CAMRA’s Neil Walker explains the temperature of real ale is all down to its status as a natural product, which is left to mature in a cask. “Real ale should never be served flat or warm, but it also shouldn’t be freezing cold or carbonated in the same way as a keg lager would be,” Walker explains.

“Real ale is served at cellar temperature, meaning it’s nicely cool rather than ice cold, and has a soft carbonation that comes from the naturally occurring CO2 created by a secondary fermentation in the cask it’s served from.” It’s a living product, as opposed to keg beer, which is pasteurised to make it sterile (giving it a longer shelf life).

“It’s the traditional way to serve beer in Britain and is truly unique,” Walker adds. Still, if you remain unconvinced by Britain’s brown ales, there are plenty of European beers and American brews at the fest to have a go at (out of the 800 booze varieties available, only half are real ales). You can also sign up for tutored tasting sessions.

The food: Stalls serving Cornish pasties, bratwurst and fish and chips will help soak up the day’s experimentations. 

The music: A typically British eccentric mix of brass bands, string quartets, and a Celtic-folk-meets-rock-n-roll band called Ferocious Dog.

The crowd: Say ‘real ale’ and we immediately think beardy types in socks and sandals, but Walker disagrees. “This has changed over the years and you only have to walk around the festival to see that real ale is a drink everybody can enjoy,” he reckons.

Don't miss: Walker says he’s looking forward to “big hoppy IPAs such as St Austell’s Big Job or Kirkstall’s Dissolution IPA, and beers you can’t get anywhere else on cask, such as Harvey’s Imperial Stout or Fuller’s Vintage Ale”. 

The damage: Day tickets start at £10 and tasting session tickets at £18 for non-CAMRA members. 

Get tickets:


London Craft Beer Festival

Where and when: Oval Space, Bethnal Green, Aug 16-18.

The booze: More than 80 beers courtesy of 21 craft breweries from London, the UK and Europe. Brewers on board include the capital’s very own Camden Town Brewery, Crate Brewery and Beavertown, plus Scotland’s BrewDog. London’s craft beer and brewpub scene has been snowballing at the rate of a sexting scandal of late, so it was only a matter of time until we got a proper festival to celebrate it.

And, as with anythin  ‘locally artisan’ these days, east London has established itself as the epicentre. So it seems only right the shindig be held at Oval Space, a warehouse-esque multi-arts venue that overlooks Bethnal Green’s dramatic gas holders (this is industrial chic at its highest to the hip). But if you’re not one for skinny jeans and rampant facial hair, don’t let the setting put you off.

“This festival is for absolutely everyone,” says fest founder Daniel Sylvester. “It’s not an exclusive club and it’s not just for a certain type of person. It’s really celebrating a concept, which is the craft concept – quality, passion, ability and skill. People often say CAMRA is a more old-school establishment and not so into craft beer, for example, but we’ve had a huge, supportive response from them.” 

Dipping into the craft beer scene can seem a bit overwhelming when you’re used to big-brand lager, but this is intended as an inclusive event where you can have fun experimenting (or, to know your porters from your IPAs, check out our cheat sheet over the page).

“You don’t have to have any prior knowledge about craft beer,” Sylvester assures us. “All we require of you is a sense of adventure and a willingness to try something new.” Or, indeed, many, many plastic cups of newness. 

The food: Top-notch street food from London’s finest, including cuts from butcher The Ginger Pig, gelato from artisan poshos Gelupo and a series of dishes created especially to match a pale ale, an IPA, a porter and a stout.

The music: Live sets from bands including French electro-poppers We Were Evergreen and DJs such as BBC Radio 6’s funky chicken Craig Charles. 

The crowd: Inevitably young and pretty owing to craft beer’s  lofty position on the trendometer.

Don't miss: Sylvester is keeping the final list of beers close to his chest, but snap up a BrewDog Dead Pony Club if you see one. 

The damage: Tickets are £35 but this includes a beer from every brewer at the fest and a commemorative glass.

Get tickets:





A battle brewing: Great British Beer Festival vs London Craft Beer Festival, which will you choose?
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