Our beer columnist Bill Lacy rounds up his top picks for beer lovers this summer. Read on for beer inspiration and where to get your beer fix in London and beyond.
London Craft Beer Festival, Tobacco Dock, London 11-12 August 2023
Photo credit: Nic Crilly-Hargrave
One of the country’s premier beer experiences – the London Craft Beer Festival – hits the Capital this summer. If you’ve never been before, know that this is no ordinary beer festival. It’s about as good as it gets.
A beer lover’s paradise, set in the magnificent Tobacco Dock, Wapping, spread out over different levels and sections, meaning you never have to wait long for a drink. There’s too many beers to even make a dent in – nearly a thousand of the country’s finest beers from around 100 breweries. It really is a treat to walk around and sample beer from some familiar and less familiar faces. Even the most dedicated beer fan is likely to find something new at almost every turn. Check the website for details of the line-ups.
It's not just about the beer, it’s the whole experience. The selection – both quality and range – of food is superb (in particular, I recommend a sandwich from Dom’s Subs). There’s also great music, to make for the perfect atmosphere.
The ticket (£57.50) is all-inclusive – this means that it’s unlimited beers once you’re in, for your five-hour session. As I say, as good as it gets.
Great British Beer Festival, Kensington Olympia, London, 1-5 August 2023
Another must-visit August beer event is the mother of them all, CAMRA’s GBBF. CAMRA of course is the Campaign for Real Ale, its 50-year campaign to revive and promote cask beer (and cider and perry) has made them one of the most successful consumer groups in the country.
CAMRA organises hundreds of beer festivals up and down the land, and this one is the biggest and most famous, staffed by hundreds of dedicated volunteers. Expect to see every brewery of significance represented here. The Festival is also the place where the Champion Beer of Britain, the most prestigious beer award in the country, is awarded. There’s also traditional pub games, merchandise and CAMRA’s Learning and Discovery stall for those who want to know more and beer and pubs. Believe me, once you start this journey you won’t turn back. You may wish to consider joining CAMRA, which is modestly priced and comes with an array of benefits, and you’ll also be part of something special.
It can be a serious business, but it’s great fun – alongside real ale conditioned as it should be, great food and live music complete the package.
Tickets are £16 in advance, which includes a souvenir glass (£2 discount for CAMRA members), and beer tokens can then be purchased.
Swan with Two Necks, Pendelton, Lancashire
Lancashire Pub of the Year 2023
Remember years ago when you walked into a fine pub? It was so different from the places you usually ended up in, and the beer was so good it was unusual. You didn’t know pubs were this good, and the memory of it quickly became something like a dream, when you then went back to normal pubs.
Being part of CAMRA is like having a secret code to find these types of wonderful pubs almost every time you go out. And rarely will you find a better place than The Swan with Two Necks in Lancashire. It may require seeking out, unless you happen to live in the tiny village of Pendelton. But that’s half the fun.
The Swan has won CAMRA’s Lancashire Pub of the Year 2023, and as everyone who has stumbled upon this glorious place will know, it is truly deserved. The pub is a picturesque inn with glorious views of Lancashire hills. But it is for the beer that it is best known: so good that the rumour is that owner and landlord Steve talks to it in the cellar.
Charismatic publicans, Steve and Christine Dilworth, have been at helm for over 30 years and the passion they have for the business is evident for all to see. The food is home-cooked and prepared lovingly, with help from the family-run kitchen. This is a pub that will quickly become a treasure in any pub-goer’s inventory.
Five Points Courtyard
Launched in partnership with London Fields Courtyard, the new Five Points Courtyard features smoky BBQ from open-fire specialists From The Ashes and rather good Middle Eastern tacos from Anoosh.
Five Points Courtyard is open from Thursdays to Sunday:
Thursday-Friday: 5PM - 12AM (outdoor closes at 10PM)
Saturday: 12PM - 12AM (outdoor closes at 10PM)
Sunday: 12PM - 10PM
Bank Holidays: later close times apply