East London CAMRA recently held their 31st Pig’s Ear Beer & Cider Festival at the Round Chapel in Hackney. Always with a focus on London breweries, this year they also featured a “dark side” bar showcasing extreme winter warmers from many of the UK’s most adventurous breweries. It seemed like a great way to round out the 2014 festival calendar…
“Pig’s Ear” is Cockney rhyming slang for “beer” so off went Mr Fueled by Beer and The Navy Son riding the Toby on the John to get a Butcher’s. The festival’s informative and often entertaining progam is available to view online *here*.
Everything about this event hit all of our “favorite” festival buttons: an intimate venue; an emphasis on dark/strong ales; some excellent food concessions; plenty of seating; and friendly folks on both sides of the bars.
Out of the more than 200 cask ales on offer we managed to taste 18 between us. The overall standard of the beers we sampled was so high it is impossible to pick any particular standouts. The festival was however notable for several things.
First, an amazing thing happened at this festival. Although it may only be an initiative by the local branch to recognize craft keg, since it is now such an integral part of the craft beer scene in their area, I still want to see it as a long overdue and most welcome Cockney “up yours” to CAMRA’s official position.
I refer to the The Kernel Brewery’s gorgeous KeyKeg of Nelson Sauvin Pale Ale that was displayed surely with intentional tongue-in-cheek in the “foreign bottles and draught beers” section. I was halfway through my Brodie’s Kiwi from the main bar when I saw that Bermondsey had come to Hackney; seconds later the Kiwi was gone and The Kernel was sliding down – love it!
The next notable thing was the presence of our beloved Wild Weather Ales, our sole representative from the Reading area. Mike’s distinctive pink cask shone like a beacon at the end of the main bar. His long awaited Blizzard Double IPA, following as it does the string of knockout brews earlier this year, did not disappoint.
Finally there was Elgood’s Brewery from my birthplace: Wisbech, Cambridgeshire. This over 200-year-old family owned brewery, with the only remaining Georgian brewhouse in England, is showing how British breweries can still innovate. I don’t know what strings ELAC CAMRA had to pull but they managed somehow to get a kilderkin (18 Imperial gallons) of Coolship, Elgood’s wild fermented Lambic-style beer. The story behind this game-changing beer was covered in the Summer 2014 issue of Beer Magazine. Download a PDF scan *here*.
Elgood’s Coolship is being brewed at this point for export to the USA. Artisanal Imports of Austin, TX has taken almost all of Elgood’s production so far and is clamoring for more. They are supplying kegs to distributors in IL, IN, KS, KY, MA, NC, NE, NJ, NY, ON, PA, TN, WA, WI. For latest intel on where you might find Elgood’s Coolship on tap check *here*.
All in all Pig’s Ear 2014 was one of the best UK beer festivals Mr Fueled by Beer has attended so far – he’ll be back. 🙂