London Printworks. Once Western Europe’s largest print facility which supplied Londoners with the Evening Standard and the Metro. Now a vast events space with six rooms arranged over split levels, the original machinery left in situ. What better place for Beavertown Brewery to host the inaugural Beavertown Extravaganza. Well, where else in London can you fit over 60 of the world’s greatest brewers, thousands of thirsty beer geeks and a double-decker bus?
For veterans of the Mikkeller Beer Celebration in Copenhagen, the format is familiar; there’s an entry fee of £55 for the session but this covers all your beer, access to all talks and seminars and the souvenir 100ml tasting glass is yours to keep.
As festival venues go, the Printworks rivals the Victoria Baths in Manchester; the original industrial features made it a memorable space and there was even a gallery where visitors could chill out and appreciate a collection of beer art. There was plenty of room to catch some fresh air and a who’s who of London’s finest street-food meant there was no chance of going hungry.
Unlike other festivals which sell tickets for half-day sessions, the Extravagnza was a whole day event which seemed to have the effect of creating a more chilled out atmosphere. Gates opened at 11 on the Saturday and the beautiful weather meant the outdoor food-court was a sociable place to wait for the main festival to open at 1. No beer available but the delicious Pressure Drop Cardamom Orange Porter ice cream from Blu Top was a pretty appropriate pre-beer treat.
Each brewery had listed between two and eight beers for the seven-hour session and being a bit of a nerd, I’d prioritised and highlighted my favourites the night before but this organisation went out the window when I realised only two would be available at any one time. There was the usual stampede at the start with beer geeks making a bee-line for current favourites; I joined the queue for Omnipollo, always a crowd-pleaser with their soft-serve machine and masters of all manner of pudding-inspired beers. As expected, the hot tip was Trillium who had a queue stretching the entire length of the largest hall and predictably Three Floyds also drew a crowd. However, possibly because it was hard to tell what was going to be on at any time and maybe because the session was so long, the silliness died down as the afternoon went on and there was barely any queue at Trillium when I visited for the immensely flavour-packed Miles Away Sour Wheat Ale.
With so many high ABV, super-rare beers on offer, there was a surprisingly low level of drunken unpleasantness. The seven hour session seemed the perfect length to try as many beers as I wanted at a sociable pace and have time to enjoy a proper lunch of a Louisiana Crawfish roll and Halloumi Fries. Chatting to beery friends from Instagram with an empty glass in hand, I wasn’t in a hurry to dash to the next bar – I think other festivals could learn from this. And the beer itself? A perfect selection across all the styles – I can’t say there was a bad one. Well, apart from the Brewdog Paradox Absinthe Barrel Aged edition but that may also have something to do with memories of too much cheap absinthe in my student years.
A massive thanks to the organisers and especially the volunteers who ran a super-slick operation and stayed smiling throughout. See you next year!
The beers I tried (as I remember…)
Stockholm Brewing Co – Fläder Saison
Lervig – Hazy Days DDH IPA
Wild Beer Co + Side Project Indigo (Rainbow Project Colab)
Mikkeller Brewing San Diego – Karaoke Knight Bourbon BA Trippel
Buxton x Omnipollo – Blueberry Slab Cake Ice Cream
Basqueland – Imparable Pomelo w/grapefruit
Brekeriet – Purple Rain
Omnipollo x Buxton – Yellow Belly Sundae Bourbon Barrel Aged
Trillium – Miles Away Sour Wheat Ale
Partizan + New Belgium – West Fork Saison with spruce tips and experimental hop 522 (Rainbow Project Colab)
Burning Sky + Three Floyds Burial Vault (Rainbow Project Colab)
Green Cheek Beer Co – Attack with Love Hazy IPA
Gueuzerie Tilquin – Experimental Fruit Series #1 Cassis Tilquin
Põhjala – Pime öö Islay BA Imperial Stout
Garage Project – Rebel Counry Jameson BA Strong Ale
Cellarmaker – Manhattan Barrel Vastness of Space Cocktail Barrel Aged Imperial Stout
Heretic – Peach Tartuffe Berliner Weisse
Heretic – Evil Cousin Double IPA
Alesong – Guava Berlinner Weisse
Brewdog – Single Barrel #1770 Paradox Absinthe
J Wakefield – Boutit Boutit Imperial Stout
The Lost Abbey – Cuvee de Tomme Blended Dark Strong Ale with Sour Cherries
Crooked Stave – Petit Sour Peach
Pizza Port – Party Pat Barrel Aged