Britain is a nation of craft beer drinkers. That much became clear when figures released last year found the number of craft breweries in the UK had jumped to 1,700; a 65% increase on 2011, more per capita than any other nation in the world.
Beer lovers Greg Wells and Daniel Sylvester have seen similar growth figures within the M25; they started the London Craft Beer Festival (LCBF) in 2013, drawing from a pool of around 30 craft brewers in the Capital.
As they ready for the fifth annual LCBF next week, the figure has now risen to over 100.
“We wanted to create a big celebration and experience that promoted the modern wave of brewing that’s happening in London and across the world,” Greg says
The whole culture around beer; how it’s made, consumed, and marketed was changing for the better and we wanted, as good food and drink fans, to help that.
It’s remarkable how the world of beer in London has changed since then, and this year we’ve got one hell of a celebration to acknowledge that.”
From humble beginnings of around 2,000 patrons packed into Bethnal Green’s Oval Space, this year the pair are expecting more than 6,000 beer lovers through the doors at the festival’s new location at Shoreditch Electric Light Station.
Billed as a bigger and bolder showcase of the world’s best beer, LCBF 2017 has secured a line-up of 45 brewers from around the world; from Copenhagen’s Mikkeller to Brazilian brewers Maniba.
A new collaboration with drinks symposium P(our) will see them launch the first P(our) Beer; a day of curated talks by some of the world’s most influential brewers.
Despite this growth, and the proliferation of local beer festivals around London, the pair see LCBF as retaining its own niche.
“We see ourselves as small – there are there other festivals in London larger than ours – but we see ourselves as different; we’re highly curated, we bring in amazing food and top headline music,” Daniel says.
Middle Eastern grill house Berber & Q, tapas bar Morito, and East London homestyle Indian kitchen Gunpowder are among top London restaurants to have signed on to be partnered up with the breweries for unique beer and food pairings, while the event’s eclectic programme of music pits indie rock band Foals alongside electronic DJs Hot Chip and Metronomy’s Olugbenga.
LCBF’s strong music and food offering was born of Greg and Daniel’s desire to offer patrons a more well-rounded experience, but they have little doubt the focus will remain solely on the hard stuff.
“People are becoming way more discerning, from identifying freshness to the growing thirst for sour beers,” Greg says, adding that there are “a lot of poor beers out there under the name craft” that won’t make the cut with today’s barfly.
“I think beer is changing from the drinker’s point of view; visiting a brewery is a common part of people’s social lives; specialist bottle shops and wine shops have fantastic selections, new restaurants are putting great beers on their lists and pairing them. We are really only at the beginning.”