Heist Bank Beer Festival: city sleek with lots of cask

The first Heist Bank Beer Festival was held in Paddington on the 14th and 15th October, bringing craft beer from around the world to a pizza and beer joint in London. A selection of over 100 beers from more than 30 breweries was pouring from keg and cask while workshops were held in the bar’s basement.

Heist Bank is a sleek city space with an industrial vibe and casual atmosphere. It boasts twelve taps for pints or growler fills and a wood fired oven for their house specialty, sourdough pizza. The space excludes quirky personality, jazzed up with a collection of generously scattered street art, and is complete with a fully-stocked games room downstairs.

Heist Bank Paddington Beer Festival Cask

It worked surprisingly well as a location for a beer festival, where cask beer was lined up in two areas perpendicular to the bar. The taps were subsidised by a second pop-up bar, where the classic Salty Kiss from Magic Rock Brewing Company rubbed shoulders with the Mormora Sour with Coffee from Cloudwater Brewing Co.

With a £15 ticket, attendees were given two tokens for cask beers and one for a slice of pizza, with the latter quickly flying out of the oven. The cask selection was truly the highlight of the event, with an impressive line-up and everything tasting superbly fresh. Following pints of Wylam Brewery’s Jakehead to Tiny Rebel Brewing Company’s Stay Puft, we were reticent to move on to keg, but we did find DEYA Brewing Company’s juicy Into the Haze was worth every cent.

Heist Bank Paddington Beer Festival

Wild Beer Co hosted a workshop on blending during the Saturday evening session, giving attendees the chance to sample their beers while hearing about the complexities of barrel-aging and brewing with wild yeasts, two of the brewery’s benchmarks. As a special treat, a rare keg of Winter Blend 2015 was tasted, which had been magicked up for the occasion. It was a glorious beer with tartness from sour cherries, hints of vinegar acidity and generous berry flavours. On the nose was vinegar, berries and funk.

Pizza fresh from the oven was washed down with Pint from Marble Brewery while a DJ kept the atmosphere light. The festival was rightfully busy – with our session sold out – and impressed with its selection, which we were told had been curated by a Certified Cicerone on staff. Both the keg and cask lists were equally as appealing and the relaxed ambiance – and maybe the tasty pizza – won us over.

Thank you to the Heist Bank PR team for inviting me along to the Saturday evening session.

London Beer City 2017: going four years strong

This year saw the triumphant return of London Beer City, a 13 day event showcasing craft beer across the capital. Now in its fourth year, the itinerary was loaded with several concurrent happenings each day, making it impossible to do it all.

With some clever logistical planning, however, it was plausible to squeeze several events in on a single night. There were plenty of opportunities to get involved, even if you bypassed the three day long London Craft Beer Festival, one of the focal points of LBC. Other events that unfolded between 3 - 13 August included tap takeovers, food pairings and open brewery days. Some events were ticketed, but most weren't, making it easy for the tempted to show up and discover some of the best beer that London – and the UK – has to offer.

London Beer City opening party at Mason & Company in Hackney Wick.

London Beer City opening party at Mason & Company in Hackney Wick.

It all kicked off with the opening party on Thursday the 3rd August. Hosted at Mason & Company in Hackney Wick, a spirited crowd showed up to sample the special LBC beers for the first time in good company. The festival beers saw two groupings of breweries: The Five Points Brewing Company, Pressure Drop Brewing and One Mile End Brewery representing North London with Agadoo, a saison brewed with pineapple and northern hemisphere hops, and the South Pacific Pale from Fourpure Brewing Co, Brew by Numbers and Wimbledon Brewery brewed with southern hemisphere hops.

In addition to these, the beer list included some exemplary British beers worth working through, including 07/08, a strawberry wit from Brew by Numbers, Pale from Buxton Brewery and the intensely chewy Quebec Syrup Heist brown ale from Pressure Drop Brewing. A DJ ensured that music filled the air throughout the evening, contributing to the general buzz of excitement. 

A packed corner of The Duke's Head in Highgate, where Marble Brewery was showcased.

A packed corner of The Duke's Head in Highgate, where Marble Brewery was showcased.

The Duke’s Head in Highgate held a meet the brewer event on Wednesday the 9th August, with Manchester darlings Marble Brewery, who travelled down to London for a tutored tasting and tap takeover. Beer writer Matthew Curtis led the proceedings with support from the Marble team, including their head brewer JK (James Kemp). For a £10 ticket, guests were treated to an evening with four half pint samples of beers on cask and keg. The event was popular, selling out and seeing dozens of attendees squeezed into the back section of the cosy pub.

The story behind the recently resurrected Dobber IPA was relayed by Matthew, who helmed the campaign to have the beer reintroduced and helped brew the first batch himself. Trying it on cask and keg, opinions were divided on whether the cask or keg version was superior- while Matthew confessed to being more partial to the latter, our table thought that cask had the edge. The Marble team brought some special limited edition samples in tow, including some stunning barrel aged offerings, which were passed around for all to relish.

Tiny Rebel being bold at the Great British Beer Festival.

Tiny Rebel being bold at the Great British Beer Festival.

As a counterbalance to the London Craft Beer Festival, primarily showcasing keg beers, the Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) is a celebration of cask. Britain’s largest cask ale event has been running for 40 years and brought in droves of drinkers to Olympia in Kensington from Tuesday the 8th - Saturday the 12th August. The best of the UK was represented alongside examples from the US and further afield. The scale of this festival is absolutely immense, with a sprawl of booths serving up extensive menus, broken up by region or country. Some breweries splashed out on their own stand, such as Cardiff’s Tiny Rebel Brewing Company, who were also offering a small keg selection to eagle-eyed customers.

Great British Beer Festival Harvey's Brewery

Harvey's Brewery from Lewes proved very popular, dispensing several ales to a thirsty crowd, including the mighty Prince of Denmark imperial stout with rich notes of chocolate and liquorice. The collaboration beer with Burning Sky Brewery, Anglezarke IPA, had generated enough of a buzz that punters were immediately notified of the precise time that it would be put on.

The crowd at GBBF is diverse in terms of age, seeing groups of younger drinkers jostling with older drinkers, and the atmosphere is a bit confused. But given the sheer size of the event, it's no wonder that it feels as if it would be impossible to cover it all in a single session and it felt slightly disorganised.

The Tottenham tasting session at the London Beer City closing party.

The Tottenham tasting session at the London Beer City closing party.

London Beer City concluded with an eventful closing party on Saturday the 12th August at the Five Points Brewing Co's warehouse yard in Hackney. London breweries were featured and their beers served across three bars with tutored tastings sessions offered; sessions were broken down into three of the capital's beery neighbourhood hotspots: Bermondsey, Hackney and Tottenham. Brewers and representatives of the featured breweries guided small groups through one of their beers each, giving tasters insight into the beer and some tasting notes.

Just as it began, LBC finished with a cheery crowd of drinkers who demonstrated healthy enthusiasm about great beer. The size of the crowds at many events were indicative of how the interest in craft beer has growth in London – and that it's becoming increasingly accessible to a larger segment of the population. The ethos of LBC is, after all, to encourage everyone to appreciate small beer and champion independent breweries. After four years, it's certainly continuing to achieve just this.