The Great British Beer Festival, CAMRA's main festival of the year, is taking place from 7th to the 11th August. I've no idea whether being held at the same time as the Olympics will be good for business or not - I suspect the latter, but I'd like to be wrong. I've worked at the GBBF twice in Leeds in 1988 and 1989, and although it seemed massive, it was much smaller than it is now. It was held in huge former tram sheds, which were subsequently demolished and redeveloped long ago.
I went with my friends Graham Donning, now organiser of the National Winter Ales Festival, and Peter, AKA the beer blogger Tandleman. We stayed in student accommodation and spent most of the time working on pub games, which was fun, until I slipped on some spilt beer and went flying. Fortunately, nothing broken - just bruises to my thigh and ego. Pub games were very popular and we raised a lot of money. A beer festival organiser asked us whether we'd do the same at his festival. Graham and I agreed and found ourselves a few weeks later at Alfreton beer festival stuck in a dingy corner where hardly anyone noticed us, and we were bored silly; a complete waste of time.
I've never been tempted to attend the GBBF after it moved down south, and from what I can see, it looks a much slicker operation now. However, friends who do go all seem to enjoy it; I just feel it's an awfully long way to go for a pint. This year, travel to and from the festival is likely to be difficult with the Olympics hogging the transport system, but if anyone feels tempted to try to get around "over 800 different British real ales, ciders, perries, and foreign beers", here's theGBBF website - and if you go, good luck. If you don't fancy the journey, click here for details of more local beer festivals.
It will be held, appropriately enough, at Olympia, Hammersmith Road, London, W14 8UX.