Probably the biggest and most anticipated event on the Beer Voyage calendar was this behemoth of a beer festival.
GET HYPE. As longtime fans of Beavertown Brewery, we were stoked when they announced that Beavertown Extravaganza (two of my favourite words) was landing in London this year and was set to be the largest craft beer gathering in the UK, well, ever. To make the occasion even more special we combined it with birthday celebrations for Beer Voyage co-founder, Hedges.
Beavertown Extravaganza (or BeaverEx to the cool cats) took place at the Printworks London, which is, unsurprisingly, a former printing factory. This huge industrial complex was the home for BeaverEx which ran across two days, Friday 8th and Saturday 9th September. The venue featured four main appropriately named Beavertown-esque rooms; the Rocket Room, Skulloon Room, UFO Room and the Rainbow Room. More on these later… There was also a huge food village area curated by Kerb (between us we had an amazing bhaji bowl, some fried chicken and a burrito – beer is hungry work!) and a small merch area near the entrance. There were several thousand people heading to the event but fortunately, Beavertown found a venue massive enough to house all of the eager craft beer drinkers and allowed entry to the venue two hours prior to entry to the beer rooms which helped with the crowds. If it wasn’t already apparent – this event was huge. Really huge.
BeaverEx welcomed attendees to unlimited craft beer from a selection of the world’s best breweries. That’s right, UNLIMITED BEER. The tickets were £55 but it’s not often that you get a drink-all-you-can (or should that be drink-all-you-want) offer. The caveat was that all servings came in 100ml measures in a tiny stemmed glass. This might sound pretty minuscule, but when you’re sampling some high quality, very strong beers, it’s more than enough. The sheer range of breweries featured at the Extravaganza, around 70, also meant that a small sample was more than enough otherwise it would be impossible to get round to many. BeaverEx showcased the finest brewing talent from around the world, a full list of them can be found on the Beavertown website.
Where to start with discussing the beers… with so many on offer, each brewery had two on rotation at a time and it was truly overwhelming trying to decide on what to have. In fact, I completely abandoned any plan of trying to make a ‘hit list’ of beers as it would have taken me aeons of planning. For my first of the day, I opted to go for a well-known brewery stand, Mikkeller, as did many of the other attendees. Although the queues at the start of proceedings were pretty ridiculous it actually only took about 20 minutes max and allowed me to work out what I might have next. The queues soon died down once the crowd naturally spread through the colossal venue. I enjoyed Omnipollo’s Lemon Meringue Pie collaboration with Buxton, served with soft-serve ice. I’d been meaning to try this for absolutely ages and BeaverEx finally gave me the chance to. After this I meandered around the festival, having a few hits and the odd miss along the way. It’d be a fool’s errand to try and list everything we sampled throughout the day but below is a list of the best we had:
- Imperial Ginie by Põhjala (collaboration with To Øl). A barrel-aged sour, this time with gin! Refreshing, salty and moreish.
Hedges note: this was also one of my highlights. I’d had Ginie in a Bottle (the non barrel-aged version) but this 10.8% Imperial number blew it out of the water. Punchy.
- Raspberry Meringue Ice Cream Pie by Buxton (collaboration with Omnipollo). Back for more fruity soft-serve, I actually enjoyed this more than the lemon version. Again, another beer checked off the long wish list.
- Escape Attempt by Pressure Drop Brewing. Possibly my favourite of the festival, refreshing, salty, moreish goodness.
- London Sour Damson by Kernel Brewery. Another sour! Tart berries, very fruity and easy drinking. This got a lot of praise.
Hedges note: this was also one of my favourite beers. Perfectly balanced and a great depth of flavour from the damson. Plummy!
- Pilot Series: Imperial Nut Stout by Stone Brewing Berlin. One of my last of the day, as the taps were running dry I managed to get my hands on this indulgent Imperial Stout. I tried a few Imperial Stouts throughout the day but I found most a bit sickly, this one had a good balance.
- Double Dry Hopped Fort Point Pale Ale by Trillium. Possibly one of the most popular breweries on the day, alongside Omnipollo, Mikkeller and 3 Floyds. This big juicy pale ale was packed full of fruity flavours and strong hops. Well worth the wait!
- Trillwater by Trillium (collaboration with Stillwater Artisanal). Luckily I tried several Trillium beers when we visited Beavertown a few months back so could avoid the giant queue for their beers at BeaverEx. That still didn’t stop me joining the queue for this gose when the queue was a little shorter. This was great – a subtle sourness and quite a winey taste justified the wait. A great palate cleanser.
- Double Dry Hopped Cabbage by Other Half Brewing. Another very popular brewery offering a whole host of pales with this being the standout. Super refreshing and very quaffable considering it was 7.9%. Glad I hit these guys up a few times as they certainly know how to brew a pale – be it IPA, DIPA, IIPA, they’ve got it covered.
- Original Maple Truffle Ice Cream Waffle by Buxton (collaboration with Omnipollo). Forget what Brand said about some stouts being sickly sweet, he’s a wrong’un and this beer proves it. Pretty much dessert in a glass but you’d expect nothing less from this series. Ridiculously drinkable for 11.5% and incredibly rich.
- Beer Geek Vanilla Maple Shake by Mikkeller. It’s your regular Beer Geek stout with a shitload of maple syrup chucked in. It’s obviously going to be great. Coffee, vanilla and maple are an excellent trio.
- Heavy Lord (keg) by Beavertown (collaboration with 3 Floyds). A combination of Beavertown’s Heavy Water and 3 Floyd’s Dark Lord. There was a keg version and then a cask version soaked in coffee on offer. Both were good but the keg version just pipped it for me. Lovely warmth from the bourbon barrels and a thick, complex finish. When you’re mixing two great imperial stouts, the end result is going to be a great imperial stout. It’s basic science. Also, I was served this by Logan Plant himself and may have got a bit overexcited like the sad bastard that I am.
One of my favourite parts of the festival was the little Rainbow Room bar set up in honour of the Rainbow Project located in the heart of the venue. By the time I got there most of the Rainbow beers had gone but I did manage to enjoy the orange entry, West Fork by Partizan/New Belgium Brewing Company. Other highlights of the festival were the big red double decker bus which provided some additional drinking space and the chance to get a photo up against the Beavertown van. We even coordinated our outfits…
Overall, BeaverEx was a really well run event. However, there’s a couple of minor improvements that could have been made. One being the water and glass washing stations, I know we weren’t there to drink water but the idea of putting huge water barrels with nothing to catch the drips from the taps (or in the case of one bursting, a flood) onto a concrete floor was pretty short-sighted. The other slight gripe is that the event ran out of beer perhaps a bit earlier than a lot of us expected. You can check the Facebook event comments for evidence of this – a little too overboard for some patrons. The event was scheduled to end at 10pm but by 8pm a lot of the beer had started running out and by 9pm it was pretty much all gone. Beavertown have defended this by saying that 45 breweries were still pouring at 8pm. I can understand people getting a bit annoyed, particularly if they were turning up after work since this took place on a Friday but some of the reactions were a bit ridiculous. The lesson here is, drink more and don’t pace yourself. As this was the first time the event ran at the Printworks and on this scale, you’d expect Beavertown to iron out these kinks for 2018.
This event was unlike anything I had ever attended before and had an absolutely brilliant atmosphere. The 100ml pours were the perfect size to sample a lot of fantastic beer and a great way to try a wide range of styles. This really wasn’t your typical beer festival. Some of the queues got pretty long but that was mostly for the big well-known breweries, there were so many other smaller breweries with amazing beer on that it wasn’t a problem and it was easy to get served. Bringing all of these amazing breweries together was an amazing feat by Beavertown. The layout of the event was well thought out and it was fun flitting between the different rooms, the massive food area and the talks from experts in the craft beer scene being run throughout the day upstairs.
Will we be back for 2018? Abso-bloody-lutely.