Goose Island LDN Block Party 2017: breaking into the mainstream
Back for a second year, Goose Island Brewery's LDN Block Party returned to Red Market in Shoreditch last weekend, bringing beer, street food and live music in the heart of East London. New and rare beers were available to ticketholders in the confines of the urban outdoor event space, where bars and a line-up of bands entertained a spirited crowd.
The Block Party epitomises what an enormous event budget can deliver: an ample selection of beer, including a selection of rare, barrel-aged styles, a well-known indie band and an enthusiastic team representing the brand behind every bar. Goose Island, owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, pulled out all of the big stops and repeated the success of last year’s inaugural LND Block Party, and the event – with a £10 entry fee – sold out days in advance.
The crowd was a combination of beer drinkers and gig goers – although these weren’t mutually exclusive. There were just as many revellers there for the headlining act, White Lies, as there were for the drinks. The main stage side bar was met with a constant flow of people, while the more tucked away bars – concealed in adjacent rooms or requiring some exploration – remained manageable. Wayfaring paid off, as the Bourbon County Stout and sour beers didn’t require much of a wait.
The House of Funk, an indoor bar emulating the noisy ambiance of a nightclub, was serving up the Goose Island vintage ales range, from the wild ale Lolita, with puckering tartness from raspberries added to the wine barrel, to Halia, a farmhouse ale aged in wine barrels with whole peaches. Visitors were treated to a spread of four cheeses paired with four ales. They were also given the opportunity to discuss the menu with an Advanced Cicerone, Jonny Tyson, who was behind the bar.
Once of the upstairs spaces was christened Blocktoberfest, where a jovial, lederhosen-clad host welcomed guests. Here, the new collaboration between Goose Island and German brewery Spaten Brauerei, also part of the AB-InBev family, the 6.3% unfiltered Keller Märzen, was a traditional dark German lager. It was apt for the time of year and boasted sweet caramel notes from the darker malt, followed by a rush of a warming alcohol. It was a surprisingly strong beer, but ideal to wash down hotdogs from Engine Hot Dogs, conveniently located beside the bar.
Across the yard was a second upstairs space, this one a bit tighter area. Joining the set-up of tables and chairs was a piano pressed against the bar, where pianists filled the air with a roster of classic singalong tunes in between the live music sets below. Here, the revered Bourbon County Stout was poured by Goose Island Brand Ambassador, Joshua Smith; the 2015 vintage was a velvety chocolate-rich delight.
In addition to this, there was a selection of Bourbon County Brand Regal Rye Stout, Grand Prestige Vatgerijpt and the 2 year reserve Bourbon County Brand Barleywine. Josh also broke out bottles from his personal collection to offer as palate cleansers between the rich, boozy stouts, including Goose Island’s Class of '88 Belgian ale and delightfully sparkling La Bonté with pear from Wicked Weed Brewing.
As a follow-up, this year’s LDN Block Party was another impressively sleek feat, just as you'd expect from a big American brewery. Goose Island have nailed the format, bringing plenty of beer to keep the crowds going well after the music stops. You have to marvel at the execution of their London-based events, which have channelled a largely mainstream audience keen to experience the event as a whole; not everyone was eking out the unusual or rare, but the was crowd happy to be a part of it with a beer in hand.
A massive thank you to the Goose Island PR team, who very kindly invited me along to this event.