Our very own Quality Guy ventured to London a couple of weeks ago to represent Odell Brewing at the Great British Beer Fest, and I stole his diary…
It’s a very strange place over here. I find myself asking everyone, “Excuse me?” or “What was that?” You would think that in the country that invented English, it would be easier to understand it here. There are just so many dialects, and on top of that, other languages, being spoken around London that I find myself constantly intimidated. Which leads me to be suspicious of everyone. It’s a far cry from Fort Collins. Everything is so tight, and bright here that it’s a bit of a shock coming from the open country back in Colorado. Public transport is the only way to get around. I can’t imagine trying to drive a car around here. There are a near infinite number of one way streets, constant public works diversions, and an overwhelming array of signs vainly trying to add a bit of organization to the chaos of the streets.
Tomorrow will be a great day. I’m jet lagged as all hell right, and I pity my body. I will do all that I can to get some rest tonight, but with the 7 hour time change combined with staying up all last night on the flight, I’m not sure which way is up. I went out to eat, just because it was getting dark out. I can’t believe that after being here only 9 hours, I’m already homesick. I miss my bike. I miss the cool, clean air of Colorado.
Much better today. Once you get some experience with the Tube system, it isn’t all that intimidating. Then the city really opens up. I went all the way to the other side of London, thinking that “Abbey Road” was actually named for Abbey Road. Instead, the station I wanted was actually “St. Johns Wood”. It became quickly apparent that I made a wrong turn, when I got out at West Ham. It seemed off for such a popular tourist trap. Luckily, the Tube station operator was kind enough to refund my money and send me on my way.
Popped out at St. John’s Wood, and followed the masses down to Abbey Road. As I am traveling by myself I was hesitant at first to get a picture taken. Luckily a foursome of what I believed to be Japanese travelers proposed a swap. I took their photo, and they mine. I didn’t want to go by myself, so I had three of them join me. It was the first bit of fun I had since being here. Up until then I was more in awe or floating about in the ether of being transported halfway across the globe. As I took those pictures for four strangers in a foreign land to both of us, I realized that these were the same people I left behind in Colorado. Kind, caring, and genuinely helpful.
Afterwards, I walked around a bit as I like to do whenever I am in a new place. It is still hard for me to understand this city. So many people in so little space. It’s this high concentration that creates the crucible which defines London. Even given that romanticism, I find myself getting nauseous on the Tube at times.
Right around four was the BA’s meet and greet BBQ down towards the central part of London around Regents Street at Oxford Cross. It was a whole different world than were the hotel is at. Designer shops three stories tall under Victorian architecture. Typical London, the city that is constantly reinventing itself, yet paying homage to its roots. After getting quite lost, as is my lot, I arrived a half hour late to the meat house. I met some interesting people, had some decent American craft beer, and stumbled on back to the hotel. I like the tube, but I don’t like it at night. Tomorrow I will be at the festival, then out at a high class beer dinner. I hope it goes well and I get home before I become a pumpkin.
Today was the big day, the trade session at the Great British Beer Festival. I took the tube to the overground, and was at the Olympia center in around 30 minutes. The line into the center was about as I expected: around the block and down the street. It moved quickly once the doors opened, and I couldn’t help but smile as I heard the locals talk about which American beers they wanted to get. The GBBF works a bit differently than the GABF in Denver. The primary difference is in how one acquires a beverage. Once you get in, you make a deposit for a few pounds on a pint glass of your choosing. There was a slender tulip glass, a half pint straight walled glass, and a big Imperial pint glass. Obviously, being from America, I assumed that bigger was better and snagged the imperial. So, you have your glass, now it’s time for some bubbly adult beverages. The festival had hundreds of casks all set up and different tables by region. Once you have selected your region and picked a brew, now comes the interesting part. You pay based on how much beer you want. You can get a third pour, a half pour, or a full pint. So not only will the veteran GBBF goer plan a route along the massive event enter, they will also have to include a side note for quantity. A third of Belgian sour, followed by a full pint of German Pils? Maybe a full pint of American IPA, followed by a half of Irish stout? Paralyzed by choice!
I spent a great deal of the time standing by the American craft tables, talking to people about beer and generally doing my best at earning my stripes as an Odell Ambassador. All in all, I think it went swimmingly. American craft beer has been on the rise in the UK for almost a decade, and it’s inspiring to see the impact we have had in a country that has been making beer for longer than the US has had states.
Afterwards, it was off to an Indian restaurant called Benares in Mayfair for a beer dinner put on by the BA. I could tell this was going to be something special, as I rounded the corner to the restaurant and passed both a Bentley and a Rolls Royce dealership. Turns out the power of deduction served me well. The food was superb, and both highlighted as well as complimented the beer being served. Each meal was paired with two US craft beers, in an attempt to showcase the flexibility of American Craft Brewers within a single style.
I got back fairly late to the hotel, and may or may not have stopped off for a night cap at the Fuller’s Pub on the corner before heading in for the evening.
I awoke several hours later in a daze, and spent the majority of the morning slowly coming to terms with myself. I had the morning off, and after an ample and quintessentially English breakfast, headed out to do some touristy things.
Towards the end of the day, the BA had arranged an Italian tap takeover at Camden Town Brewery. It was a blast to talk to the Italian brewers, while drinking their beer that came out of UK taps. Doug had brewed a 7.0% Baltic porter with Camden a while back and it was delicious. I was amazed to see that they have a similar brewhouse, although obviously much smaller, to the new one we are currently commissioning at Odell. It’s really encouraging to see a brewery like that invest heavily upfront in a high quality heart. I have high hopes for them, and the culture they are nurturing.
It was a great trip through London and I genuinely appreciate the opportunity. It’s easy at the brewery to get in a flow of what goes on here being commonplace. Oddly, leaving the brewery and talking to other people about beer and what we do here, makes me want to get back all the quicker.
“01001001 01100110 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01100011 01100001 01101110 00100000 01110010 01100101 01100001 01100100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00101100 00100000 01111001 01101111 01110101 00100000 01100001 01110010 01100101 00100000 01101101 01111001 00100000 01101011 01101001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01101111 01100110 00100000 01101110 01100101 01110010 01100100 00101110. It’s binary code for, ‘If you can read this, you are my kind of nerd.” (Eli Kolodny is the QA/QC manager for Odell Brewing).