The International Real Ale Festival 2013 in Brighton


No better way to discover a city than to have a walk-about. Most assuredly it is best to have a walk-about on a warm day but imagine the things one would miss if one only went out when it’s warm! Like the Spring International Real Ale Festival at a pub named Bright Helm in Brighton City Center. It was a freezing day and I was thinking of where to stop for a drink when I saw it.

I walked in, asked around and was given a long list of tasting notes for over 50 ales that are supposed to be displayed over the 19 days of the festival. Talk about paralysis! What to choose? Which ones to try? Even my infamous capacity for alcoholic beverages would not dent a tenth of 50 pints. Problem solved, there were only 5 on display and I could try 3 for the price of a pint. Lovely!

I picked 3 local Sussex brews, the Black Swallow (a black IPA with a 6% ABV) and the Triple XXX brewed by Langham and the Ruby Mild brewed by Turners. IPA stands for Indian pale ale, it used to be brewed extra strong to survive transportation to India in colonial days where the colonists thirstily waited for their pint of brew! How’s that for a history lesson!

The Black Swallow was by far the best; rich, deep, sharp and bitter. I could get used to this. I found the Triple XXX a bit bland, like most pornography I must say. The Turners wasn’t too bad but wouldn’t be drinking it again. Nigerian beer gives you a taste for strong beer with lots of flavor. Festival continues till April 21 and I intend become a regular in order to try out the 50 ales that will be available.

At the festival I learnt about an organization called CAMRA. CAMRA stands for ‘Campaign for Real Ale’. Hear, hear! I dig it! They are campaigning for pub goers and beer drinkers (that’s me, count me in). Their flyer says “It’s important that CAMRA members enjoy real ale, pubs and great membership benefits”. Sign me up.  Check out all their campaigns here.

Brewing ales is an entire sub culture I have found out and one that I look forward to supporting and exploring. Eight international brewers were invited by the organizers JD Wetherspoons to come and brew specifically for the festival, they came from USA, Canada, Russia, Greece, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and down under. Here is a blog from New Zealand brewer Kelly Ryan.

The Bright Helm meanwhile is itself full of history and gets its name from the old Saxon name for Brighton. Brighton was a Saxon village in the 5th century, (that’s like 1500 years ago) before King George V made it a popular resort. I will be returning here frequently, after all I have  only 15 days to sample 50 beers, that’s three and a half ales a day.

 Ale festival