They say…

Des de Moor
Best beer and travel writing award 2015, 2011 -- British Guild of Beer Writers Awards
Accredited Beer Sommelier
Writer of "Probably the best book about beer in London" - Londonist
"A necessity if you're a beer geek travelling to London town" - Beer Advocate
"A joy to read" - Roger Protz
"Very authoritative" - Tim Webb.
"One of the top beer writers in the UK" - Mark Dredge.
"A beer guru" - Popbitch.
Des de Moor

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Games Time in London City of Beer

Tap East craft beer bar at Westfield Stratford City E20, within a javelin’s throw (or a shot’s put) of the Olympic Park. Pic: Rob Howard for Tap East.

With the 2012 Olympic Games taking place between 27 July and 12 August 2012, followed by the Paralympics between 29 August and 9 September, we’re in for a few hectic months here in , with visitors pouring in to enjoy the Games themselves and the carnival atmosphere that always grips a host city.

If you’re here for the Games but also fancy a good pint or two along the way, welcome to London and its flourishing beer scene. Let me help you find your way around.

But don’t expect to see anything of London’s beery glory at the Games venues themselves. In a multimillion deal, Heineken has secured the right to offer a meagre two beers at the venue bars – its standard Dutch lager, and Yorkshire-brewed pasteurised keg John Smith’s Smoothflow bitter. The latter will be sold unbranded and simply labelled English bitter.

Even at Lords cricket ground, the cask Marston’s beers usually on sale are banned during Games events. Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised given the big business ethos that pervades major sporting events these days, but it’s still infuriating in the capital of one of the world’s great beer nations, particularly at a time when London itself is enjoying a major beer renaissance.

The answer, then, is to get out of the venues as quickly as possible and spend some time exploring the rest of the capital and its flourishing and beer scene.

Might I recommend that if you haven’t done so already, you equip yourself with my book The CAMRA Guide to London’s Best Beer, Pubs and Bars? Although it was published a year ago, I’ve been issuing regular updates since, most recently in July. With the book, the update and an Oyster card, you’ll be able to treat yourself to a beer experience few other world cities can offer.

The latest update even includes a list of Olympic venues with nearby pub and bar recommendations, and you might also want to work your way through my most recent Top 25 Places to Drink list.

If this is your first visit, don’t expect business as usual. London in Games Time will be a changed place. Transport will be under huge pressure, with particular ‘hotspots’ expected to be very crowded. And even many pubs and bars that normally avoid screening sport are likely to show Games coverage. Some places will undoubtedly be much busier than usual, others much quieter. If your visit gives you a taste for London and its beers, do try to come back when things are more settled!

Please take even more care than usual to plan your journey – see www.tfl.gov.uk, including the Get Ahead of the Games section with advanced information about potential difficulties.

The regular slot for the Great British Beer Festival falls during Games Time and CAMRA has taken the decision – the wisdom of which remains to be seen – to go ahead anyway on 7-11 August. As Earls Court is being used as a Games venue, the GBBF has returned to its previous home at Olympia, and will be smaller than normal, but still provides a great opportunity to try a dazzling range of beer from the UK and elsewhere.

The London CAMRA branches are promoting London as City of Beer during July and August, starting with the open air Ealing Beer Festival in Walpole Park W5 on 4-7 July and running to the end of the GBBF. There’s a programme of events at a variety of pubs, bars, breweries and other venues and a special edition of London Drinker as a guide.

A special event I’ll be participating during Games Time is the Alelympic Ale Trail around Newington Green — on Saturday 28 July, the first day of the Games proper, you’ll find me spinning the discs at participating pub the Snooty Fox, with my usual eclectic mix of retro soul, rhythm and blues, easy listening, ska, punk, rock and roll and who knows what else. Perhaps I’ll see you there for a gold medal beer or two.

Let the Games begin…

See also my 10 great places to drink near London 2012 venues post at View London.

6 comments to Games Time in London City of Beer

  • Is renaming John Smiths, English bitter a tactic to sell more? A tourist coming to the UK for the games is going to look at a beer called “English bitter” and think, “Oooo, I must try an English bitter while I am in England as it must be their beer of choice”. (A lame example but,) If you went to Italy you would order Pasta as they are known for it.

  • Des

    Well I guess it might have that side effect, but as I understand it, it’s purely for branding reasons. What Heineken paid only bought them the right to promote one brand — if they’d wanted to brand John Smith’s, they’d have had to cough up a few million more.

  • Will

    Just found your site through a NYTimes article. As a certified Yankee beer geek who will be working the US television broadcast of the games and looking to explore and enjoy both the past and present/future of British beer culture during what little downtime I’ll have, you’re insights will be invaluable. Thanks and cheers!

  • If they paid the upfront cost they should be able to promote whatever they like. They should not be made to pay another few million for a different brand IF it uses the same advertising space and storage of one beer, etc.

  • Des

    Will — welcome! Hope you enjoy some great beer while you’re in town and hope you find my stuff useful.

    Craig — frankly I’m not going to be losing sleep over Heineken’s inability to promote John Smith’s but I think you’ve missed the way these things work. The Olympic authorities are not selling just advertising space and storage, they’re selling the right for commercial partners to associate their brand with one of the world’s most recognised and valued “non-commercial” brands, thus the restrictions.

  • I won’t lose sleep as I don’t like John Smiths lol. I understand I am confused atm on how it works. just don’t get why they would sell John Smiths renamed as English bitter.

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