Our take on why this weekend’s craft beer festival is going to be great.
The London Craft Beer Festival kicks off this Friday and, let’s just say, we’ve gotten a little bit excited about it all. This year, their ‘all in’ ticket gives you the freedom to enjoy beers from every brewery without having to replenish your dwindling token stash. So, in the spirit of sharing, we thought we’d offer up our thoughts and a few reasons why we’re excited about this weekend at Tobacco Dock.
THE SCANDINAVIAN CONTINGENT
Scandinavia has its fair share of sour-producing breweries. Brekeriet are amazing, Tempel are new to UK shops and are getting us a little excited but it’s difficult to argue that anyone other than Lindheim Ølkompani should be wearing the Scandinavian Sour crown. Expect this to be a real highlight of the festival.
If you’ve followed Ghost Whale for a little while then you may be well aware that we have quite a bit of love for Copenhagen’s To Øl, and for good reason. It seems that no matter what style of beer they produce, there’s a level of clarity and refinement which is universally exceptional. We don’t know what they’re pouring this weekend but if their new Fuck Art This Is Hygge (a rye saison made with potato and rhubarb, yup) makes an appearance, drink it because it’s bloody mind-blowing!
Despite the fact Ghost Whale are hosting Lervig for a (free entry!) shop and tap takeover this Thursday, we couldn’t be more excited about their appearance at LCBF. While we’ll be serving up their Barrel Aged Coconutz Kake imperial stout, Barley Wine and Orange Velvet Milkshake IPA – and will maybe have to ‘check’ it’s good enough for others to drink, if you catch our drift – we’ll still be there drinking anything that comes out of their Lindr machine at Tobacco Dock when Friday rolls around.
FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE POND
More often than not, it’s the North American breweries who are winning at Instagram that’ll draw the longest queues (lines, if you will) at beer festivals. You’re unlikely to ever find their beer for sale in the UK and, well, the hype is more often justified. And while Tree House and Foam aren’t making an appearance this weekend, there’s still a solid contingent of breweries from the other side of the pond that you need to check out.
Let’s start with Collective Arts. This weekend is set to be one of the first UK festival appearances (but maybe don’t quote us on that…) for this stunning Hamilton brewery (from just outside of Toronto) in Canada. We’ve been privileged enough to stock a lot of their beers on Canada day for the last two years and they’re really damn good; their Black IPA and Imperial Porter stood out. Plus, Collective Arts’ modus operandi of bringing together the creativity of music, art and beer resonates particularly strongly with us as this – along with our passion for food – is essentially why we set out to start Ghost Whale.
Thanks to the increased investment in cold chain distribution from people like The Bottle Shop, breweries such as Finback are increasingly willing to agree to ship their beer to the UK every so often, simply because they know it’ll kept cold all the way and taste exactly as intended. But despite this, it’s still basically impossible to get your hands on some of their beers here. So if aggressively-hoppy, hazy IPAs are your bag, get Finback right on your check sheet for the weekend.
Cuckoo brewery Stillwater Artisanal have occasionally seen their beers land on these shores so you may know firsthand that everything Brian Strumke has brewed ranges from damn good to, frankly, simply flawless. Much like Collective Arts, Stillwater’s ties to the music and art world are prevalent in their great can designs and collaborations (their latest, with NY rapper Action Bronson), all proof that they’re producing some of the best and most creative beers you’re likely to find this weekend.
CLOSER TO HOME
Sometimes it’s easy to forget that there are plenty of breweries on our doorstep who are producing absolutely world class beer. It may be easy to glaze over the ‘local’ breweries at events like LCBF in favour of those seen less in UK beer shop fridges, but there’s loads on offer that you should be trying out. Here’s our pick of those pouring this weekend.
We’ll start super local with Orbit. If you’re based in London and have even just a passing interest in craft beer, chances are you’ve tried, or at least seen Orbit’s beers in craft beer shops and bars around the city. What you may not know, though, is that they recently picked up Paul Spraggett as their new head brewer. Responsible for creating the ridiculously good Tzatziki Sour at Mad Hatter, Paul then went on to produce some incredible one-off beers at Fourpure. Orbit’s most recent ‘White Label’ series of specials have been brilliant and we’re excited to see what’s next.
While we may have a real love for Newcastle here at Ghost Whale, bias aside, Wylam are one of our top three UK breweries right now. Their recent releases have been simply stunning, and their All Formats citra pale is absolutely exceptional. GIVE ME ALL THEIR BEER PLEASE.
Ireland’s local, right? It’s pretty local, let’s go with it. With several Irish breweries pouring this weekend you can really get a taste for the growing craft beer scene there. Whiplash has probably made the biggest impact on us, with people drawing comparisons to Other Half no less. Their Northern Lights micro IPA was definitely our beer of the day at this year’s Hop City!
SOMETHING WE’VE NEVER TRIED
Beer festivals aren’t just about ticking hype breweries off your list: they’re about discovering breweries you’ve never come across before. Luckily, there’s plenty that are likely to fulfil this quota for everyone going to LCBF – it’s these two that we’re most keen to check out.
Rebel’s Brewing from Rome haven’t quite hit the UK yet but their modern approach to brewing great IPAs and beers with Belgian-inspired recipes means they’re really standing out in Italy. With near enough every beer they’ve made falling just short of 4 / 5 on Untappd, we’re excited to see what Rebel’s are all about.
Name one French craft brewery. Go on. Yeah, not easy is it? And that’s why we’re very keen to see what Popihn are producing. Another brewery who’s beers all sit around the 4 / 5 mark on Untapped (the totally 100% accurate barometer for beer quality) that we’ve not heard of, we’re ready to dive right in.