It is more than a week since Kensington Olympia closed its doors to the nation's beer lovers for another year. Earls Court had been the venue since 2006 but due to it being an Olympic venue CAMRA had to return to the venue that had successfully hosted the Great British Beer Festival since 1992. This was my 23rd GBBF. My first was way back in 1985 when it was held at the Brighton Metropole. In those days the small venue was a bit of a problem as Brighton proved a very popular place to visit in August for obvious reasons. After a lunchtime session you could sleep on the beach for a few hours before returning for the evening session and at the end of the day there were plenty of cheap guest houses to provide a comfortable bed and a hearty breakfast.
The move to Kensington Olympia in 1992 was a great success. The glass roof caused a few problems with regard to keeping the beer at a drinkable temperature but that was overcome by an effective cooling system. When the event moved to Earls Court in 2006 I felt the event lost some of its appeal. It had become too big and too commercial and despite being larger it had a claustrophobic feel to it. This brings me to this years event.
I did not know what to expect this year. Would the venue be too small? Would the Olympics reduce vistor numbers or increase them? Would the beer have run out by Saturday as it had done a few times in recent years? I am delighted to report that the event, which had obviously been scaled back, was an absolute joy. The beer selection was fantastic, the atmosphere was tremendous and there was plenty of space. All the usual activities and stands were there. The table skittles was well staffed and efficiently run. The CAMRA stand had its usual fine selection of books (more about my purchases on a later post). The food stands were offering the usual wholesome fare. The stage was in a sensible place and had plenty of seating.
I am delighted to report that next year the venue will once again be Kensington Olympia (August 13th - August 17th). Earls Court is being pulled down so it will be interesting to see if Olympia will once again be the regular home of this magnificent event. I for sure will be there once more.