Czech it out! Bohemian beers get my vote at GBBF as Essex is again The Only Way

Tuesday’s opening night at The Great British Beer Festival 2011 marked the 21st consecutive year that I’ve made the pilgrimage to this temple of beer. Ever since the festival made its permanent home in London, in fact, although the current event bears little resemblance to the one-off edition that began my adventure at the London Docklands Arena in 1991.CAMRA clearly learned a lot from that Dantean Inferno of an event, which – on the day I visited at least – saw most of the beers on offer dispensed at a temperature more akin to that of a brew kettle at full blast than that of a cool cellar. GBBF moved the next year to the greater expanse of Olympia where it stayed until 2005 (it’s going back in 2012) while barrel cooling jackets rapidly became de rigueur at all CAMRA festivals. The overall excellent condition of the various tipples sampled on Tuesday night at Earls Court, which would largely have passed muster in a Good Beer Guide-listed pub, is testament to the skill and knowledge that the Campaign’s volunteer army brings to the World’s biggest bar.

Perge Pilsner: Turkish delight

One of the delights of tippling alternatively is that – Forrest Gump-style – you never quite know what you’re going to get. Even when you find yourself drinking “off-piste” in what looks like an unpromising environment. That’s certainly the case with this little gem of a lager that I discovered, unheralded and unexpected, when lunching at my local (to work) Tas Restaurant a couple of weeks back.

Described by the friendly waiter as simply “Turkish beer” the fresh, bready aroma and flavour led me to enquire further. This was certainly no Efes or Turkey-brewed Tuborg (for those familiar with the limited Turkish beer scene). Rather the bottle, which the waiter kindly brought over for me to examine, revealed it to be Perge Pilsner, a 4.2% straw-coloured lager in the German tradition.

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Be aware of Australians gifting beers: four from down under

One benefit of my day job is that it constantly brings me into contact with folks from around the world, whether as colleagues or through business. One downside is that many of those who I’ve worked with eventually choose to go home. But my work being what it is, our paths may well cross again. And if I’ve done my job of boozy education properly, such meetings may well see my tonsils crossed with exotic liquor.

Such was the case a few weeks back when a company “global summit” brought my Australian colleague and chum Tim back to Blighty with a brown paper bag full of micro brews from the land down under. As I’ll no doubt find out for myself when I return the favour and head to Melbourne and Sydney this autumn, it seems the Oz brewing scene has undergone a revival since I was last there in 1998.

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Why alternative tipples? A journey of alcoholic discovery

Welcome to The Alternative Tipple, an assortment of anecdotes, observations and musings on the subject of alcoholic beverages, the places and ways in which they’re consumed and the culture that’s grown up around them. And what those things mean to me.

Posts relating to beer and whisk(e)y will form the bulk of my meanderings, simply because they’re the drinks I gain the most pleasure from, spend the most time with and most actively seek out. They’re also the domains where I’m able to cast my net widest. From IPAs to Islays, rauchbiers to rye whiskies, and porters to pure pot stills, there’s more than enough to keep me going for some time to come.

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