Ealing Beer Festival 2016, London
I went to Ealing Beer Festival in both 2012 and 2013 but couldn't make it the last few years. This year, I made my triumphant return. Has it improved? Has it got worse? Let's find out... Ealing Beer Festival is nearly as old as I am (this year was the 27th one) and appears to still be going strong. The festival runs from midday on a Wednesday to 5pm on a Saturday in Walpole Park and unlike previous years, I decided to go to the opening night. In the past I had only attended the Saturday when some of the beer had ran out and things were winding down so I was excited to finally check everything out in full swing.
A lot has changed in 3 years; the beer tents that adorn either side of the temporary festival area have expanded, the seating area has increased, the food tent has grown and there was even a Bombardier beer bus complete with taps - though quite why you'd want to try any of their ales when the tents offered far more interesting beverages seemed slightly at odds with coming to a beer festival but each to their own.
The number of food options has expanded too. There was a burger and hot dog van, a pie & mash counter and the staple of any beer festival: the hog roast. There were also a number of food stalls selling various cheeses, meats and chocolates. Though I didn't pick anything up myself, I did bear witness to the aftermath of a friend that had sampled some chilli chocolate which was pretty amusing.
There was a wide range of beer on offer from many local breweries and some not-s0-local. The festival also boasted a plethora of ciders, wines, bottled foreign beers and even mead. I stuck to the beers and sensibly started the night with a 7.3% pale ale (the excellent Tsujigiri from Weird Beard) which more or less set the tone as the beers that followed were also high in percentage, unintentionally I might add.
Shout out to the 10.5% thunderbastard I had that kicked my head in - Baltic Trader by Green Jack Brewing.
It wasn't long before the Hanwell Ukulele Group started to play to the delight of the crowd. Having never really been exposed to ukulele music before, I'm not sure what I expected but it was not a group of around 30 middle aged people in Hawaiian shirts belting out karaoke classics. It was pretty fun, if you like that sort of thing.
As this was my first time attending the festival on the opening day, I was surprised to see it so busy on a week night. The area was comfortably full of beer fans, both young and old (mostly old - it was a CAMRA event).
I managed to try the festival special - a Rhubarb IPA from XT Brewery which was as pleasant as it sounds. Big props also to Lytham Brewery for their Ginger Nut ale which genuinely tasted like liquidised biscuits. (And I mean that in a good way, obviously.) We had a few more beers whilst enjoying the sultry tones of the swarm of ukuleles before retiring home for the inevitable hangover.
Ealing Beer Festival doesn't seem to be showing any signs of quietening down as it reaches its late twenties and I hope to be in attendance as we both slide disgracefully into our thirties.
Favourite beer: Baltic Trader by Green Jack Brewing. A 10.5% Russian Imperial Stout.