Bensoir! It's me, Benjamin. I like to eat and drink. And cook. And write.

You may have read stuff I've written elsewhere, but here on my own blog as Ben Viveur I'm liberated from the editorial shackles of others, so pretty much anything goes.

BV is about enjoying real food and drink in the real world. I showcase recipes that taste awesome, but which can be created by mere mortals without the need for tons of specialist equipment and a doctorate in food science. And as a critic I tend to review relaxed establishments that you might visit on a whim without having to sell your first-born, rather than hugely expensive restaurants and style bars in the middle of nowhere with a velvet rope barrier, a stringent dress code and a six-month waiting list!

There's plenty of robust opinion, commentary on the world of food and drink, and lots of swearing, so look away now if you're easily offended. Otherwise, tuck your bib in, fill your glass and turbo-charge your tastebuds. We're going for a ride... Ben Appetit!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Irresponsible Drinking

So, it's the start of London Beer City.

What a week it's going to be - just look at the schedule. A whole host of fantastic beery events taking place all over the capital.

Brewery open days, one-off brews, beer and food pairings, it all looks lovely, doesn't it?

Trouble is, there's hardly space for any beer in this room, given the massive, trumpeting elephant that's stamping all over common sense and reason as we speak.


The same week. Who in their right mind could possibly think that this insane scheduling is a good idea, hmm?

Cards on the table

OK, so I have a few issues with the Great British Beer Festival:

Firstly, there's a big chance the Champion Beer of Britain winners will leave me scratching my head, and voices (and palates) like mine will likely never be represented on the tasting panel.

Secondly, the CBoB categories themselves are limited with some baffling and arbitrary restrictions and inconsistencies, and this extends into the programme notes which make CAMRA appear less than authoritative on the subject of beer.

And finally, while I don't agree with those who think the Campaign should embrace non-real dispense, I have long felt that the British beer selection is rather conservative and perhaps not representative of the current state of play in the country (where are all the sours, the saisons and even the black IPAs?)

You cannot compete with this so don't try
But, all these points aside, it's still the best fucking beer festival we have. It deserves respect. It deserves a few days exploration, and it deserves not to have to compete with a bunch of johnny-come-lately events, however good they may be!

I'm a pragmatist. I'll try to get as much as I can out of LBW - particularly Southwark Brewing's rare casks day tomorrow, and the Thornbridge takeover at the Craft Beer Co, Clerkenwell.

But I like the GBBF. I've been going for 20 years, and I'll be damned if I'm not going to attend every session this year too.

I mean, come on. The GBBF only lasts for four and a half days - does LBW absolutely have to overlap it completely?!? Couldn't it maybe start next Friday, on the last full day of GBBF?

(Though a completely separate week might be better - did you ever stop and think that GBBF staff who might be working during the set-up and take-down phases might like to join in?)

Some of the activities look brazenly provocative: The Camden Town brewery will be selling beer and breakfast outside the trade session on Tuesday morning, while later that day, Brewdog Shepherds Bush are hosting an 'after party'.

Excuse me? Two of the best known non-cask breweries in the country unofficially tacking on their own events to CAMRA's flagship (and no doubt using them to promote other events later in the week for folk to attend in preference to later GBBF sessions...)

We all have limits

Look, people can only drink so much. Even in isolation, a fully-realised LBW or GBBF week would involve rather a lot more drinking than any other time of year.

To expect people to indulge in both would be irresponsible, and so, one has to sadly conclude that the primary purpose of London Beer Week is to compete with the GBBF.

'Hey, look at us, we're craa-aaft, come to our party instead, we're better than stuffy old CAMRA! Look, we got a DJ!'

No doubt some willy-waver somewhere is waiting to add up the combined attendance figures for the many events right across the capital that comprise London Beer Week, hoping to be able to claim, spuriously, that London Beer Week is more popular.

Perhaps the ultimate insult though, is that the London Beer Week schedule lists the GBBF, as if it were just another event taking place during the week, on a par with a tour of the Essex street brewery.

To my mind, this is the equivalent of a 20 pence tip - more insulting than ignoring it altogether!

So, that's where my loyalties lie. The GBBF is the main event. I'd have a lot more time for London Beer Week, both literally and figuratively if you'd only just do the damn thing at the end of June or something!

GBBF 2015 runs from August 11-15. Tickets available here. My first timer's guide to the GBBF is here.


  1. Can't help agreeing there Ben. I will be working at GBBFand missing the Thornbridge do for exactly the resins you state.

    Is yhe Southwark thing at the brewery tomorrow? What time?

  2. The Southwark thing runs until 6 today. Happen I'm on the bus heading there right now.

  3. Agreed. No need for London Beer Week to be same as GBBF week. It can stand on its own preferably week after.

  4. What do you mean about voices like yours not being represented on the cbob tasting panel?

  5. What I mean is that there is a clearly a ingrained predisposition towards - and I've noticed this at a local CAMRA level too - what many of us call 'boring brown bitter'.

    This preference is clearly evident in some of the inexplicable podium finishes we've seen over the years, but also in the way the categories are structured.

    A brewery could put out 3.9%, 4.3% and 4.7% versions of a very similar BBB and win in three categories.

    But an Imperial Chocolate stout, a Damson Wheat Beer and a dry-hopped sour - three completely different beers - would all have to compete against one another in the 'specialty' category. This is nonsense.

    You know, I even think they invented the ridiculous 'Golden Ale' category (Golden is a colour, NOT a style) in order to protect their precious boring brown crystal malty stuff in the other categories...

    But, as I say, voices are mine aren't represented, and after this latest dose of criticism, they probably never will be :-)

  6. Be very careful. With blog posts like this, there's a very real danger of common sense breaking out in that there London!

  7. I thought the timing of LBW was daft as well. There were several events scheduled that I would have liked to go to but clashed with visits to the GBBF. Maybe some sense will break out among the organisers next year and they'll put LBW well away from GBBF.

    Oh and it was good to see that the CBOB wasn't just another boring bitter but the excellent Cwtch, albeit entered in the Best Bitter Category!

  8. Agreed. I think Tiny Rebel do better beers than Cwtch, and I think there are better breweries than Tiny Rebel, but this was a big step forward. I punched the air when the result was announced.

  9. What were the toilets like there?


Comments are always welcomed and encouraged, especially interesting, thought-provoking contributions and outrageous suggestions.