Tucked away in the Oval Space in Hackney, we joined the Ales Tales Festival to discover just what makes Belgian beer worth the walk on a rainy day. Once inside we were greeted by such a selection of craft beer that we felt obliged to try as many as time allowed.
When it comes to events, the venue can make or break a new venture so we were surprised to find ourselves wandering along in the rain last month, looking for the Oval Space and the Ales Tales Belgian Beer Festival. We were heading off the beaten path from Hackney Road looking for an unassuming event space and wondering why the organisers chose this location when there are so many more prominent venues around the city to choose from. Yet, once inside we could see just how well this venue lent itself to the UK's first ever Belgian craft beer festival.
The Oval Space has a relaxed and earthy feel to it, and unlike other larger venues, it oozed charm. A simple white washed hall was filled with stands, loaded and ready to serve us the very best selection of craft beer that Belgium has to offer; with blonde, dark, fruit and pale craft beers being poured for the many visitors who attended the selected tasting sessions. Food was available to buy from a dedicated outdoor area, and the freshly made burgers went a long way to driving out some of the chill from the very British rainy day we were experiencing that day. However bad though, the weather certainly had no impact on the many people queuing up to visit this premier festival event.
Personally, craft beer has never really been my tipple. My partner Andy is a keen fan and a good person to take along with you to this type of event if you are looking to try something new. Having tentatively started with a relatively innocent blonde beer, we were swiftly introduced to the selection of fruit beers on offer. And this is where it got very interesting. Beer and fruit mix amazingly well and the Flower Sour from 't Hofbrouwerijke that we sampled that had been matured on raspberry and bromberry for about four months had us hooked. It certainly had a sour edge, much like those deliciously sweet yet sour gummy chews you can readily by, but with the added feature of being beer!
Fort Lapin also offered a remarkable sour cherry beer, which made it to the 'take home' list, along with a selection from over ten other breweries out of the many on offer. The samples poured were certainly generous, and if you found one or two you particularly liked then a full glass was on offer. Having a wide selection of bottled beer available to buy at the event certainly made for some serious purchasing post-taste.
If you like your beer without too much added then Enstoemelings produced a very respectable example, respecting the Belgium culture for fine craft beer; very drinkable, fantastic quality and good colouring. Another easy drinker came from Brasserie Deseveaux with their Avena Saison.
After what can only be seen as a success, we are certainly looking forward to the next Ales Tales Festival. If you are looking to expand your palate in terms of craft beer choice then keep their website bookmarked for details of their next event. For picture highlights from this year's festival (2017) visit Ales Tales on Instagram.