Croydon Craft Beer Festival 2: The Revenge
March 20, 2016
Most sequels aren’t a patch on the original (Jaws 2, Robocop 2 anybody?), but organisers of the second Croydon craft beer festival (18–20 March) provided beer lovers with plenty of kegs appeal at a foam-flecked, hoppy-go-lucky celebration of good ale in the heart of Croydon. A crowd-pleasing sequel more akin to The Godfather: Part II then, or maybe Craft Beer Festival 2: Electric Booze-aloo.
Organisers had ironed out the problems that arose at the inaugural event in October last year, most notably a shortage of beer on the Saturday, and challenged thirsty punters to drink them dry. When we rolled up at Saturday lunchtime at Braithwaite Hall, drinkers had clearly risen to the challenge and a few of the casks had sold out, but there was still plenty of booze to be consumed, rounds to be bought, stories to be told and, eventually, friends to be spectacularly insulted.
The amount of beers on offer was simply staggering – much like the Croydonians making their way home at the end of the night. The long cask bar in the beautiful old hall, with 60 different beers on tap in spanking new cooling jackets, was challenged for supremacy by the quieter bottle bar, with its bewildering array of trappist beers, brown ales and barley wines.
A strange experience, getting drunk in a council building. Beyond the bottle bar, you could sit at big communal tables beneath library notices to clean up your dog poo, not fly-tip and get HIV tested. You could sit and watch Wales tonk Italy or England stuff France in the rugby on a TV guarded by a council employee sitting plumb in front of the screen, turning the volume up or down depending on who had asked him last.
We sat with bearded, tattooed real-ale nerds, rowdy mad-for-it students and a young couple forlornly eating Scotch eggs with a knife and fork as the growing queue for the toilets snaked past. For the most part, the crowd weren’t note-takers or chin-strokers but enthusiastic amateurs, enjoying something far more interesting than the fizzy Foster’s or boring bitters on sale in pubs a stone’s throw away.
So, down to the beer. London Beer Factory‘s Beyond the Pale had dried up, but a knowledgeable server recommended Signature‘s Pale from Leyton which was as light, refreshing and hoppy as promised. Gipsy Hill‘s airy and crisp Beatnik and Bexley‘s eminently quaffable Golden Session also stood out amongst the pales.
Belleville‘s Calif-Oregon was pedestrian, Gipsy Hill’s Southpaw as thin and bitter as Madonna, but, travelling from just up the road in Penge, Late Knights’ copper-coloured Morning Glory was more than an excuse for a leering joke – no head but tangy with honey, caramel and oak.
From the bottle bar, Bermondsey’s Brew By Numbers Brown Ale added to the general jollification, as did their 08/06 Oatmeal Stout. Siren‘s tasty Liquid Mistress red ale was as tempting and voluptuous as its name suggests. You could lose custody of your kids over this one. Siren’s Caribbean Choc Cake was thicker and richer than a Tory MP and almost too filling – you could survive for six weeks on a bottle of this if you crash-landed in the Andes.
Dud of the day had to be Mongozo’s Coconut beer. If you didn’t have one too many beers to order it, you’ve had one too many after drinking it. Tasting like your nan’s hand cream (one of the more generous appraisals on the day) it also clocks up just 3.6 per cent ABV, so there’s no point even grinning and bearing it.
As seats got rarer and the drink started to run out, we headed for Matthews Yard, where beer still took centre stage. Brixton Brewery, By The Horns, Gipsy Hill and Fourpure all had concessions there, staffed by knowledgeable and friendly brewers, and their suds washed down the decent burgers and fries (belated stomach lining) dished up by the chaps at Brgr&Beer. Gosnells London Mead, sweet and refreshing, was being passed out; I was on the verge of doing so myself.
A great day and a success for the organisers and sponsors, Freshfields Market and the Cronx brewery. Here’s hoping there’s another festival soon. Those who really can’t wait, and if that’s so, you should probably seek help from your GP, can visit Crafty Purley, a festival at Christ Church on Brighton Road on 3–4 June.