Yesterday was the London Vegan Beer Fest in Bethnal Green. It was hot and it was lovely.
Temperatures of over 30 degrees combined with tasty craft beer and vegan BBQ can’t go wrong you’d think, but it wasn’t just about that – the organiser and guru of London Veganism, Sean/Fat Gay Vegan, had created a relaxed community feel, making us all feel like we’d come together for something special. It was a fine choice to do it in the garden of London’s cutest vegan cafe, The Gallery Cafe, on its lawn out back, which you can’t normally go onto (never been sure why)
A small selection of top-class breweries were there, all defying the old-timer law that real ale has to made with isinglass – don’t let anyone tell you it does, it’s either laziness on the part of breweries to not use available alternatives, or fear of drinkers not being able to cope with a slightly-cloudy pint. This is strange to me – shouldn’t old school ale supporters like CAMRA support the most natural pint possible?
Meeting the breweries in Bethnal Green gives me real hope that we might get more vegan beer options in pubs everywhere – I love real ale, and I don’t want to have to drink lager, or miserably order a gin and tonic when I’m not in the headspace of a suburban Mother. Sometimes (most times) you want to drink a real beer in a deserted pub with some old people and a newspaper, and it’s a sad feeling to be denied that thanks to a very-old recipe for refining beer so you can prove you look after it.
I’m a regular user of the Barnivore iPhone app – which, if you don’t have it, will sort of make your life easier, but also mean you spend 5 minutes at a bar searching for every bit of booze in the database – fun, but embarrassing and a little stressful too. So meeting the vegan-friendly beer people eye-to-eye and remembering who make the good stuff is a treat.
My favourites of the breweries fighting back were:
– Five Points Brewing, local to me in Hackney, who had a tasty pale ale on tap. They’re going to be big very soon, already doing some fine targeted marketing at the local hipsters.
– Brass Castle in Pocklington, Yorkshire, who had an excellent ginger-flavoured treat called Fireship, and a golden smooth one, called Cliffhanger. They seemed like very nice people indeed, which they would being from England’s best county (can you guess where I’m from?). I also love a website with a Cliparty gif of a pint of beer, and any clothing with a bear on, so I’m fully behind this team.
– The Hastings Brewery who had a delicious golden beer, probably my favourite of the day. And they have an excellent lion as their logo too, and stock in a few places in London.
Also present were Pitfield and Redchurch Breweries, who are two local-ish breweries who are well-known for their vegan range, and are reasonably well-stocked across London pubs and shops. I know them very well and wanted to try other beers but as the widest-available vegan breweries in town, it’s good for anyone unaware of their vegan status to know about and support them.
There was karakoe for charity (the wild-at-heart Sea Shepherds, who are the less-cuddly Greenpeace) which was cute. I wasn’t sure who was doing the BBQ, but they had a superb tofu burger, and I hope they’re going into business making those burgers because they were ace. The seitan kebab looked incredible too.
This was an excellent celebratory event showing that being vegan is so much about getting treats not self-denial, but more importantly also a new way of doing business and making food and drink as a craft on a small scale. I was there with 3 people who weren’t vegan and one person who was, and I’d like to think that the gathered beer-drinkers and tofu/seitan-munchers, regardless of their usual ethical food and drink choices, were there to try handcrafted delicious goods, and revel in the point where veganism and handmade fresh local refreshment come together. They often do, you know.