Last year saw a new edition to the beer festival scene in Liverpool, the craft beer expo, organised by Liverpool Craft Beer Co, The Camp and Furnace and an army of volunteers. It was in my eyes a great success and the biggest coming together of both cask real ale and craft beer (yes on keg CAMRA U MAD?). the great surroundings of the camp and furnace, great entertainment, lovely food and of course great beer made it a stand out event. And it all happened again this year!
Sadly i only got to go to the opening night, otherwise I definitely would have been back again over the weekend, but it was enough to wet my appetite for another expo in 2015
Organisation: Papers please
Again like a lot of the well organised events in the city tickets were available for sale online, early sales were available if your signed up to early access by email, various places around the city also sold tickets for the event adding greatly to the availability, owing to the popularity there were a few last-minute desperate calls for tickets over Facebook and twitter, hopefully they didn’t miss out.
swapping your tickets gets you a wristband not as snazzy as something you would get a music festival but it does let you move onto the next stop, collecting your glass and program/menu and 3 free tokens of course your going to need more than that!
Tokens are available for £10 or £5, a full sheet includes 20 tokens, beer pricing ranged from 3 to 5 tokens. Usually this was affected by the beers strength, and the pricing does work pretty well, though your sheet can end up looking like a game of connect 4 after a few drinks, so a bit of careful management might be required if you want to avoid overspending! 20 tokens is quite generous if you prefer lighter abv drinks but you’d only manage 4 very strong beers, in the end i myself mixed stuff up and ended up with two sheets during the whole night!
The program/menu was smartly designed and quite easy to thumb through quickly, the previous years took the form of a broadsheet newspaper which in some cases was a bit unpractical so its good they slimmed it down, also more detailed info is included on the beers this time which is great that feedback was listened to, also you got a pencil when you come in if your that way inclined you can scribble on your menu, thumbs up and down marks are available on each beer, being a bit of a geek i did scribble on mine. I liked all the beers I had as well, not a single thumb down. Beers were marked whether they were cask or keg so you could wander over to the appropriate bar. I’d like to go on record as saying I quite liked the newspaper look of the 2013 expo program, but it was a bit large and lacked info on the beers.
The glass which is as usual yours to take home at the end of the night and was the same as last years event with slightly different writing on, i left mine behind as I’m running out of glass space in my house! also i had no practical way of getting it home again sadly!
The 2013 expo took place in the smaller of the two camp and furnace warehouses (are they warehouses?) this year it was moved into the large one that tends to host the fanpark and other events. A lot of people thought it was a good move, im still getting mixed feelings about it, i can see why it was done, you can fit more people in, its less cramped, i just prefered the atmosphere that the other warehouse gave off, maybe that’s just me and its a personal thing, it seemed more light and airy. But it doesn’t take anything away from the expo itself this year was great, im just being a fusspot so ignore me! as in the previous year, long bench seating was provided which was generally easy to find, so there was no hovering round trying to get a seat or giving people evil stares to make them shift.
A new edition was the big screen at the stage, projected onto it was a rotating list of a the cask and keg beers currently on. Brewer, beer name volume, token cost and which bar it was situated on were all handily visible for quick reference, and this swapped from cask to craft at a regular interval so all you had to do was look on your menu and see if it was currently on.
Not all the beers in the menu were available each day so the screen would allow you to double-check before you got off your bum to get your brew.
There was a good selection of food on this year including burgers, hot dogs and fish, im not sure if there was a vegetarian alternative? but since im a raging carnivore i was ok! Queues for the food did tend to fluctuate but service was quite quick for me when i went, although i have to say having a booming loudspeaker right next to where you collected your food made it a bit hard to hear (WHAT!?) when your food was ready!
I opted for a simple cheeseburger and chips it was quite nice! the bun could have done with being warmed maybe but im no food critic, it got demolished by me and i was a happy monkey afterwards! my friends got fish and chips which looked pretty tasty as well.
Again this is what you really come for isn’t it!? The craft beer expo doesn’t disappoint either, and blends cask and craft beer better than any other event in the city at this point in time. Over the 4 day period of the expo there were 140+ real ales and keg craft brews available, there was also a whiskey lounge and cider as well to complement the whole list. Something else that only the expo does is all the cask beers are on handpull, no other beer festival in the city does this. I for one think it makes the beer better, im not sure why but it just tastes and feels better, I feel that some beers can be a bit watery or lifeless when they come direct from a cask, I don’t know why again, I’m certainly no expert but that’s just what i think. So well done to the expo for having all the cask range on handpull.
However not all these beers would be on at the same time, things ran a bit different at the craft beer expo! After speaking to a few folks i could understand why this setup was chosen. If you have all the beers on from the get go some of the most popular can sell out, some later people will miss out, not only that but the beer will start to spoil after a few days which isn’t good of course! so by running a certain selection and then replacing them with newer casks/kegs as they run out it maintains the freshness of beer on hand. The main disadvantage with this is you might look in the program (as i did) see something your interested in, check the big screen or bar and discover its sadly not on. Not quite an issue if you’re coming to another session but since I couldn’t, I missed out on quite a few.
It’s a good idea to try this method, no other beer festival in the city has done this to my knowledge, do you think it worked? let the guys know with your constructive feedback it will all help! I would have liked to have had everything on so I can just pick as a I please but i can understand why its been done so if this system remains in years to come ill be comfortable with it! probably means ill need to visit twice though!
Thumbing through my menu I can see there are quite a lot of beers i circled to try. I tried to keep a wide scope of different opposing styles, so I’d have a malty beer first then a hoppy one, then maybe another malty and then maybe a saison, and so on so forth. There wasnt a bad drink in the house for me, probably the most memorable was the napalm like Hell’s Porter from Liverpool Craft Beer Co, a smoked porter made with chipotle chilis, it was very VERY spicy and VERY hot, probably too much so for my taste! but i had it on a whim and i sure wont forget it!
Other stand out beers included again from Liverpool Craft; bad choice milk stout, which wasnt a bad choice at all but a very good one. I haven’t noticed that many stouts coming from the folks at Liverpool craft I hope it’s a sign of change because this one was lovely! it would be nice to even see it added to the core range (pretty please guys!). Siberia Rhubarb Saison from Ilkley Brewery back home in my native Yorkshire was a highlight, and it was made using proper Yorkshire Rhubarb (probably from very close to where i was brought up too) so even more of a patriotic bonus for me! Dark Arts by Wirral brewery Peerless was something i had been hunting for a while, and was a nice surprise as it wasnt listed in the program, it was very sweet and very drinkable, i believe it has the distinction of being hop free as well?
From the keg bar comes I ♥ Galaxy, recommended to me by Angus of Wapping brewery which was a great balanced beer it had toffee and biscuit malts mixed with hops which is how i like my pales. Truman’s Runner was a lovely traditional tasting nutty bitter which offset the hoppy pales well. Finally bringing the event to a close for me was Anspach & Hobday Table Porter, this is a very low percentage beer but it’s amazingly rich for its low strength, so you don’t have to make things a silly strength for them to be tasty!
At the risk of being shouted at by my peers i think having low strength brews on such as a the table porter in many bars and pubs might not be a bad idea for those who may want to have a drink out but who may need to be up and about in the morning for work! Of course self moderation works just as well!
Music for the Masses
The expo had a wide range of entertainment on over the weekend all attached to different establishments, Thursday night when i went was in association with Bido Lito (Liverpool music magazine), Friday was the Kazimier garden, Saturday afternoon The Caledonia, Saturday evening Rebel Soul and finally on Sunday Mello Mello
The DJ on thursday did a great job of trying to entertain everyone with a varied mix of music from a bit of 80s new wave (is it still new wave or old?) to house music. It wasnt too loud as long as you were not right next to the speakers (WHAT?!) so it didn’t impinge on any conversations going on. I personally would have prefered a live band, i suppose i was spoiled by having Loose Moose on when i visited last year!
once again the beer fans of Liverpool answered the call and came to help out at the expo, without these people it simply wouldn’t happen! you can’t pay people for this sort of even and expect it to balance out economically so hats off to the Volunteers again, they do get paid in beer though the jammy sods! It was nice to bump into many familiar faces at the expo and everyone was friendly and suggestive of what to try.
I think the second ever Liverpool Craft Beer Expo has again been a stonking good success. It’s not inclusive it welcomes all, real ale fans and craft beer fans, yes it probably might seem like the cooler cousin to all the other beer festivals in the city but it’s not uppity about it, everyone is here from all walks of life and age ranges. It proves to me beyond all reasonable doubt that having both Cask and Craft beers on works, they work together, they compliment each other, they are just GOOD BEER and that’s all that matters in the end. So a hearty slap on the back to all involved in making it a success and here is looking forward to the 2015 Liverpool Craft Beer Expo….