Visit the Pencil & Spoon site

The Good: The beer (obviously); the pork scratchings (obviously); seeing friends, old and new; third measures; the volunteers who deserve a standing ovation each evening; the location (big, brilliant); the speed to enter is incredibly good if you have a ticket; despite the hoards of people, the gallons of beer and mountains of food, it somehow never seems dirty or messy in there; the waves of Cheers which growl around the venue as the days progress.

The Bad: I think water should be freely available and encouraged, perhaps on a free water bar; on Saturday there was no cask US beer left and much of the other beer was sold out by 5pm (good for the festival, not so good for the drinker who can only attend on Saturday); and does anyone really listen to the music? (these are all minor - there's little to complain about, in my opinion)

The Ugly: The gents’ toilets towards the end of the day (a long time queuing followed by standing swaying-shoulder to swaying-shoulder with two other guys, aiming with considerable difficulty into the white hole surrounded by a frog chorus of farts and barely-stifled giggles).

The Best Beers: Portsmouth Brewery Bottle Rocket IPA was my favourite overall beer, a fruity, tangerine-juiced IPA, so deliciously good that it’s got my tongue doing excited somersaults just remembering it; the Portsmouth Oatmeal Stout was also exceptional and the smoothest mouthful of beer of the week; Fyne Ale’s Jarl was the best UK beer I had, its bright flavour blinds its bland 4% peers, firing out fruity hops and pithy bitterness; a passing gulp of Birrificio Italiano Tipopils was excellent and I’m glad I picked up a bottle to bring home; Fuller’s Chiswick and ESB were both in remarkably good condition and reaffirmed to me just how good their beers can be, while the Brewer’s Reserve No.2 showed the other side of Fuller’s, a side worthy of considerable attention (Kelly Ryan writes this great piece about it); Durham’s Hopping Mad, Arbor Beech Blonde, Marble Manchester Bitter, Thornbridge Kipling and Moor’s Revival all really hit the hop spot, vibrant and full-flavoured UK ales; Opa Opa King Oak Milk Stout was a great example of a style I drink drink often enough; a few good lagers were served to me by Tandleman, all excellent and cool with crisp flavours and just what I wanted as a little refresh from the US hops, even if I can’t remember what they were (there was a Zoigl and an unfiltered Kolsch among them...); De Molen’s Tsarina Esra Reserva was ridiculously delicious and dangerously good.

The Other Memorable Beers: Saltaire Triple Chocoholic really is a cocoa lover’s dream; four bottles for 50p each, two unlabelled, one from 1980 and one from 1981, all perfectly drinkable, all showing the results of careful aging, all interesting to try; Revelation Cat’s Single Hop Lambic was unforgettable in a bad way, clashing sour with big, citrus hops; Rogue’s Chipotle Ale had three of us all exclaim ‘smoked paprika’, which, while it may be my favourite spice in the kitchen, is not something I want in my beer (this was one of three bottles which Mark writes about, which had us talking for an hour about beer and food pairings for three out-there beers).

GBBF week is done. It’s a crazy, intense and brilliant week. It’s a time for meeting up with friends and drinking good beers, just because we can. If you went, what was good, what was bad, what was ugly?! The best beer you had was...?

I got the images from the CAMRA website.