Heading to the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) at Olympia over the next few days? With hundreds of breweries featured on regional bars, plus a number of dedicated brewery bars, Susanna Forbes picks out her favourites
Thornbridge, Strawberry Lucaria (4.5%)
With its Jaipur campervan making its first appearance in the Big Smoke since its fifth-birthday outing a few years ago, Thornbridge Brewery’s bar is sharing beers old and new, with a duo based on its ice-cream porter Lucaria appearing alongside established regulars, Jaipur and Crackendale. While the Salted Caramel Lucaria was decadently seductive, our favourite is the strawberry, with its soft red-fruit notes, plus just enough tang not to get lost in the vanilla smoothness.
Bath Ales, Lansdown (5%)
Refreshing and entertainingly hoppy, one of the first beers to emerge from Bath Ale’s new brewhouse.
A West Coast IPA, the hop charge is led by Mosaic and Simcoe, resulting in tropical fruit notes held in check by well-judged sparkle and judicious malt bill.
Lickinghole Creek Craft Brewery, 9 Mile IPA (6.5% abv)
Very balanced, with a distinctive tangerine-zest hop flourish and a long forest-green hop finish. East Coast in style, from Lisa Pumphrey, the dynamic co-founder of Lickinghole Creek, Virginia’s first farmhouse brewery. Check out also if the legendary Enlightened Despot is still available, a Russian imperial stout aged in Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve bourbon casks. The 9 Mile IPA also raises funds for village communities in the Jamaican highlands.
Bar 9, Transatlantic Bar
Cigar City Brewing, Jai Alai IPA (7.5%)
With cans accepted for the first time on the international bars, Cigar City Brewery made its GBBF debut with its intensely flavoured IPA, illustrating how the Tampa-based brewery has made its name. Big, but very balanced, this has mandarins and clementines aplenty, alongside the appropriate malt backbone. Look out also for Epic Brewing’s tangy, refreshing Tart 'n Juicy Sour IPA.
Bar 9, Transatlantic Bar
Boundary, A Berliner Vice (4.9%)
Ireland was this year’s guest country focus at the Transatlantic Bar, with Belfast’s cooperative-owned Boundary among the ten breweries present. Aim for its Berliner Vice. Part of a lactose-infused series, this has blueberries and is bottle conditioned. Pouring light pink, it is redolent of Neapolitan ice cream with its fresh summer notes and light tartness.
Whin Hill Norfolk Cider, Perry (5.8%)
While Norfolk is not a traditional perry pear source, Whin Hill's Mark and Lisa Jarvis have their own orchards, planted back in the 1990s with true perry pears. These offers ripe pear notes, low acid, a medium-sweet palate and light astringency.
With over 100 ciders and perries curated by long-time GBBF cider and perry director Chris Rouse, look out also for Oliver’s Perry from Imbibe Live Cider Ambassador Tom Oliver, and Turning Japanese Perry from Big Nose & Beardy in East Sussex.
On the cider side, check out the Russet single varietal from Imbibe Live regular Nightingale, and King Stoke, with its refreshing, green-tinged astringency, from Llanblethian Orchards in Glamorganshire.
Ciders & Perries on Bar B1 and B19
Thanks to all, in particular Chris Rouse, GBBF’s cider & perry director, and Kerr Kennedy and Steve Lamond at GBBF Transatlantic Bar