Sipping 3 Floyds – Zombie Dust and eating halloumi fries, with the dulcet tones of Morrissey ululating through the electric atmosphere of the room, full of people enjoying some of the best beers the world has to offer. Saturdays don’t get much better than that. An extravaganza we were promised; an extravaganza we got. And I’m writing this as a thank you to the folks at Beavertown for putting on such a show. Arguably the likes of which have never been seen before in the UK.
Before I get to the all-important beer. Let’s start with the venue. Printworks was a great choice. What it lacks in the aesthetics of a Victoria Baths, Kensington Olympia or Loch Fyne. It makes up for in being spacious enough so as to not feel crowded, yet the right size to accommodate enough people to create an atmosphere of significance without feeling cavernous. Being five minutes walk from an overground and underground station (not to mention twenty minutes from an airport), also made it the most accessible beer festival I’ve attended. Something that can’t be underestimated when it comes to the all-important infrastructure that a festival organiser needs to take into account.
But enough about logistics, and on to the most important thing. I didn’t have a bad beer all day – and I did double check my Untappd on Sunday just in case. In fact, I’d go as far to say that I didn’t have a beer that wasn’t excellent.
When I heard Twitter rumours on the Friday about slews of queues and lack of brews, I must admit to pangs of uncertainty. Would this event I’d been looking forward to since January be a ‘final episode of Lost’ level let-down?
Well on taking to south-east London on the Saturday and entering the venue around half an hour before pouring time, I was straight in the door, and my fears were allayed. Sure breweries like Omnipollo, Trillium and Other Half had queues, but outside of these marquee signings (which I should add were very well spaced so as not to cause clutter), I didn’t wait more than five minutes to get a beer at any point – even at the likes of 3 Floyds. And imports of outstanding quality such as Modern Times, Boneyard and Pizza Port had single digit numbers of people in the queues at the times I visited.
Beers of the day (apart from the aforementioned Zombie Dust) included Modern Times – Countermagic, a juicy, dank, hazy IPA; Beavertown + 3 Floyds – Heavy Lord, a barrel-aged, coffee-coated mash-up of the fabled Dark Lord and Beavertown’s Heavy Water; Other Half – All Enigma Everything, possibly the juiciest thing I’ve ever tasted and finally Slim Pickens – Microphone Check, my dark horse drink of the day which was, of all things, a banana cider. Yes, that’s right. A banana cider.
As with anything though, it wasn’t all sunshine, rainbows and delicious suds. Let’s be frank. Beer did run out. And some breweries ran out a few hours before closing time. Whilst not ideal, this was to be expected and happens at other festivals. And even though I didn’t get to try every beer I wanted to (Magic Rock, if someone’s reading this I’ll happily take some Bearded Lady Salted Caramel off your hands), I tasted wares from the likes of: Other Half, 3 Floyds, Modern Times, Pizza Port, Brewski, Trillium, Mikkeller, Boneyard, *inhales* Beavertown, Omnipollo, Mahr’s, Kernel, New Belgium, Magic Rock and my aforementioned surprise favourite of the day, Slim Pickens Cider. And being able to try this variety of beers (and ciders) was well worth £55. To put that into perspective, I could have easily gone around the corner to a pub in Docklands and bought an average at best, yet fancy-sounding bottle of wine or a round of Peronis for the same. And I know which option I’d rather.
Now there’s definitely a few things Beavertown can look at to make BeaverEx18 bigger and better. An increase in water stations inside the venue would be an easy win, as would selling merchandise from other breweries. And although benches that ended up looking like the end of a Dudley Boyz match did provide a bit chuckle, sturdier seating should probably be in order in case of people hurting themselves. And… well… that’s it really. Sure, there could be a few more kegs of everything, but it will run out eventually. And the fact that these are the only things that I’m picking up on shows you how well this festival was organised. It took BrewDog years to get PunkAGM 100% right. And considering this was a first attempt and a much more ambitious format, Tottenham Hale’s finest should be very proud to have set the benchmark for how a beer festival in the UK should be done. Roll on 2018.