The Ultimate Beer Festival?


Throughout its 131 years, London’s Olympia exhibition centre has seen many sporting, music and corporate events, and many legends (and dogs) have entertained the masses beneath the massive roof of glass and steel.

Olympia has hosted the majority of CAMRA’s Great British Beer Festivals since the 15th such event was held here in 1992, and following the demise of the venue’s even more famous cousin a short distance away — Earls Court — this now appears to be a semi-permanent fixture in the venue’s calendar.

For 5 days each summer, tens of thousands of Real Ale-lovers, Cider and Perry fanatics, gin-hounds, food fans, party revellers, and those generally interested to see what is happening, descend on the west London venue to consume hundreds of thousands of pints — whether it’s served as a pint, a half or a third.  For one week each year, all beer-roads across England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and other territories lead to London, W14.

The event, much like CAMRA itself, has recently been seen as increasingly outdated and losing touch with a younger drinker-base, or those whose preference for beer rarely touches the strict ‘Real Ale’ boundaries set by CAMRA.  However, there is a revolution happening, an imminent vote is expected to see its members agree to widen CAMRA’s scope of influence in an attempt to remain relevant and representative of a vast majority of the country’s beer, Cider and Perry drinkers.

The best Real Ales, Ciders and Perrys from each region across the country are chosen by local CAMRA representatives and shipped to the event, which makes Olympia the largest pub in the world with a seemingly endless spillage spanning 30-bars, holding kilometres of casks and other containers.  Beers from across Europe and the USA are represented, too, although many British craft and artisanal beers are (sadly) excluded…for now.

Besides the pub-like atmosphere in every corner of the two vast halls, there are also a large number of dedicated brewery bars.  2018 will see the return of favourites such as Harvey’s, Greene King, Fuller’s, St Austell Brewery, Budvar, Bedlam Brewery, Wadworth, Beer Monkey Brew Co and previous award winners and one-time official sponsors, Tiny Rebel Brewing Co.

Kaeru Beer shall be in attendance, as always, supporting the Cider and Perry manufacturers.

If you’re a beer lover, interested in Real Ale, interested in Real Cider and Real Perry, intrigued by cask-conditioned beers with low carbonation, or generally want to experience something that may not exist in its current state for too long, the Great British Beer Festival is certainly worth a visit.

Is it The Ultimate Beer Festival, as stated on the posters?  It’s possible.  However, as supporters of all beers, ciders and perrys, even those not welcomed by CAMRA, it’s difficult to say anything is the ultimate definition of something when many wonderful producers are absent.  It is fair, however, to state it could be the Ultimate Real Ale, Real Cider and Real Perry Festival.