Blimey, it comes round quick. It’s year three for the Beeranauts at the Battersea Beer Festival, a hastily assembled crew gathered for an evening session, as we weren’t organised enough to pull it together for a full day.
The South West train service from Reading is slow, but direct to Clapham Junction (un-nervingly, the station announcements were running backwards in my carriage. If I were to believe them I was heading further away from Clapham with every stop). From there, a short hike up Lavender Hill brings me to the Battersea Arts Centre, brutish in concrete cladding.
In the Great Hall, it’s a different matter. A huge oaken hall with a pipe organ at one end, the very best of Victorian municipal architecture, and improved no end by two long counters housing hundreds of beer barrels. I walk straight in, but it’s already busy, roaringly so, barrel-belly tight, and I was lucky to dodge the queue that must have started forming immediately behind me. Charmer Ciaran wasn’t so lucky. He was in a one-in, one-out shuffle forward that took him and The Lovely Chloe an hour to negotiate.
Joining the Beeranauts (for the purposes of this gathering the rollcall is Rev Sherlock, Cranford Sam and new addition John The Oilman) I was informed of the first problem. Some popular and interesting ales had already vanished, a victim of the tickers on the first night. Tickers are the twitchers of the beer world. They will come to a festival with a list to try, and will drain a popular barrel like piranhas on a cow carcass. This is not good. Tellingly, the one beer I really wanted to try, Entire Stout, which had just won Champion Ale at a big CAMRA show in Manchester, was the only one of the five Hopback beers in the catalogue that wasn’t on offer.
This makes it sound like there was a crisis in supply, which is errant nonsense, of course. There was, as ever, an embarrassment of choice. All it meant was that we abandoned all pretence of discernment in our picks, and went for the beers with the waggiest tails.
I’ve found that I tend to drink in the same way at festivals. I start light and hoppy, before moving onto juicy IPAs, building up towards dark, rich stouts and porters. A palate cleanser of hoppiness at the end, perhaps a cider or perry, and I am replete.
I must make mention of the food at the BBF, run by a small concern that serve up proper grub for a small lay out. Their Hunter’s Stew, a thick concoction of sauerkraut and all the finest smoked meats that Eastern Europe has to offer is particularly good, although their meatballs with olives over rice also do the job nicely. I bought a plateful just to be polite. I didn’t think I was hungry. I scarfed the lot in land speed record time. A godsend for the hungry drinker.
We had a wander round the cider room, which seemed a lot friendlier and fuller than last year. No twats in hats, but the demographic was noticably younger and more female. The Lovely Chloe recommended a Welsh cider, which was delish. Uncharacteristically, I forgot to note it down. Forget I mentioned it.
Beer of the night? I’m going to go for Powerhouse Porter, a rich, dark, fruit-and-nut bar confection from Sambrooks, who are local to Battersea. It divided the Beeranauts. Cranford Sam and I loved it. John couldn’t finish his half. I was a gent, and helped him out.
As ever, the Battersea Beer Festival was a buzzy, beery treat, well-organised, friendly and well-stocked. It’s worth getting there a little early if you’re planning to go, because it does fill up fast for the evening session. I always find it worth the trip, and always come home with a new beer to rave about.
(The pic illustrating today’s post is from the Battersea Beer Festival Flickr pool, and is by streatham mike. The Battersea Beer Festival is at The BAC on Lavender Hill, London SW11, and is on today. Try the meatballs.)