Thursday, 14 April 2016


The kegs have been emptied, the cash has been counted and the Charity Beer Night raised £3,700 for Evelina Children’s Hospital!

Thanks so much to everyone who came along, thanks to all the breweries who supported the night with beer, thanks to Grill My Cheese for their delicious food and thanks to The Kernel for allowing the event to happen in their brewery. I had a brilliant night and I’m delighted with the money raised – I’m also delighted with the atmosphere on the night and it was one of the most fun beer events I’ve been involved in. It was also great to be behind the bar and pour some beers and be able to talk to people. It was great.

Extra thanks need to go to The Alchemist. I emailed the brewery with the crazy request that they might donate a couple of cases of their wonderful beer to the night. I didn’t expect them to say yes but if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Gloriously they did say yes and they sent beer to London. I was going to pay for the shipping of the beer but the brewery requested that instead of giving the money back to them, I donated it to the cause, which is extra generous. About £500 of the total is thanks to them and their beer.

Now I just need to run the London marathon. There’s just over a week to go and I can’t wait!

I’m still collecting money for Evelina Children’s Hospital – specifically for the intensive care unit. Every extra fiver really helps. You can sponsor me here.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Charity Beer Night: The Beer List

With a week to go before the charity beer event (tickets here), which I’m arranging to make money for Evelina Children’s Hospital as part of my London Marathon fundraising, it’s time to reveal the beer list.

All of these have been donated by the breweries and I’ve picked them as some of my favourite things to drink right now, trying to get a balance between beer geeks and good drinking beers for a general crowd.  

The Starting Line Breakfast Porter (6%)                                      
The Kernel Table Beer (3.1%)
The Kernel Dry Stout Bramling X (4.5%)      
Pilsner Urquell (4.4%)                                            
Firestone Walker Pivo Pils (5.3%)                         
Gipsy Hill Hepcat Session IPA (4.5%)                                
Summer Wine Juice Facilitator (5%)                                 
Forest Road Work (5.6%)                           
Vocation Life and Death IPA (6%) 
Cloudwater DIPAv3 (8%)               
Boulevard Tank 7 (8.5%)   
Chorlton Kohatu Brett Sour (5%)
Brew By Numbers Grisette Saphir (3.7%)
SeaCider (4.6%)                                  

Plus there will be bottles of Duvel and Duvel Tripel Hop 2016 – you can use a token on these to drink in or take out. There are also two other canned beers but these are super limited and not part of the token system that come with tickets - to get these requires an additional donation.

Some info on some of these beers... The Cloudwater DIPA is hitting the taps a day ahead of its official release (if you want a hint on the cans then it's a Vermont-brewed beer that Cloudwater is surely inspired by...). The Juice Facilitator is fresh out of the tanks and is going to be juuuicy. And the Pilsner Urquell has been sent as fresh as possible from the brewery so it’ll be just a few days old when we drink it.

And what’s The Starting Line Breakfast Porter? I brewed a beer with UBrew for the festival and I based the recipe on the breakfast that I eat before I go for a long run: a strong coffee, a massive bowl of oat with loads of raisins in it, some honey and a banana (the beer does contain actual bananas).  

We will have food on the night and Grill My Cheese are making some amazing grilled cheese sandwiches outside the brewery (these are to be paid for on the night and aren’t included in the ticket).

And it’ll be the kind-of launch of Cooking with Beer as I’ll have copies available for people to buy on the night – bring cash (£15 a copy!).

The event runs from 5pm-10pm. It’s strictly ticket only and numbers are limited. There are still some tickets available and you can buy them here. A ticket to the festival costs £20, all of which goes to the charity. For your money you get five beers – most will be 2/3rd pint, with those above 8% ABV poured shorter (1/3-1/2 pint).

The beer list may change in the next week but that’s the core of it. I’m really excited by those beers and I hope others are as well. I hope to see you there!

And if you want to support the charity and my marathon fundraising (here’s why it’s for Evelina Children’s Hospital), then here’s my general fundraising page.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

UPDATED: Charity Beer Night - 8 April

This year I’m running the London Marathon and raising money for Evelina Children's Hospital. In March 2013, my week-old nephew Lucas was rushed to Evelina where he spent a week in intensive care. The hospital saved his life and now I’m raising money to say thank you (I raised money for the charity in 2013 when I ran the Paris Marathon – here’s a blog about that).

I know people often ask for charity donations and seldom does the donater get anything back for their cash apart from the warmth of knowing they’re helping out a charity. I wanted to organise something that actually gives people delicious things for their kindness and their cash, so I’m fundraising in the best way that I know – drinking beer.

On Friday 8 April, at The Kernel Brewery, I’m organising a one-off beer night. There’ll be a range of amazing beers on tap and all the money raised from the tickets (apart from the small booking fee) will go to charity – breweries are donating the beer, The Kernel are offering their bar and the staff are working for free (if you’d like to help pour beer on the night then let me know!). I’m working on the full beer list and I’ll announce that nearer the time, but be assured that I want the best beer line-up that I can get.

UPDATE: Here are confirmed breweries sending beer: The Kernel, Vocation, Cloudwater, Gipsy Hill, Chorlton, Firestone Walker, Boulevard, Duvel, UBrew (I'm brewing a one-off beer!) and SeaCider. More updates soon...!

The ticket is £20 and that gets you entry and five glasses of draft beer (they are 2/3-pint glasses). If you want to drink more then all other beers are paid for with cash donations on the night (just respect that this is a charity event and don’t take the piss!) There are only 150 tickets, so get them quickly.

There will be a limited amount of cider but no wine or spirits. Grill My Cheese are cooking outside - these cost extra. Doors open at 5pm and will close promptly at 10pm.

Get your Charity Beer Festival Tickets here!

That’s not all… As well as this beer festival, I’m also doing a London Beer Run. On 2 April, a group of beer-loving runners will be doing a 20-ish mile run around London, passing as many breweries as possible on the way (should be around 20 breweries).

If you would like to donate but can't attend the event, then the fundraising page is here, which is also the link for the London Beer Run fundraising.

Today Lucas is a wonderful, crazy, hilarious little (almost) three-year-old and we have Evelina to thank for that. I’m hoping to raise as much money as I can for a charity that means so much to me and my family.

These are my marathon trainers. When my legs hurt, when I can't face another lap around Victoria Park, when I don't want to get up at 6am to go to the gym, I look down at my battered feet and I see the reason why I'm running.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Blumenau Oktoberfest: Bavarian Cheer In South Brazil

It was at the exact moment that thousands of people dressed in lederhosen and dirndl started singing a German drinking song in thick Portuguese accents that I had to step back and really think about what was going on.

There I was, in the sultry south of Brazil, somewhere in the middle of a series of trips which took me to five continents in two months all in the search for delicious beer, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

It wasn’t just the German outfits, it wasn’t the oom-pah music with the samba beat, it wasn’t even that everyone was drinking German-style lagers from large tankards while surrounded by dense, dark subtropical forest. What really struck me was how this town was built to look like a postcard illustration of a Bavarian fairytale.

The town is called Blumenau and is named after Dr Hermann Blumenau, a well-connected German chemist who founded it in 1850, bringing with him a small group of immigrants from his homeland. The town gradually grew over the decades as more Germans arrived, joined by increasing numbers of Brazilians.

A century later, in an attempt to draw in tourists, the town decided to market its Germanness and play up to its past, eventually leading to 1984 and an ostensible Oktoberfest, which has since become an annual thing. Alongside the party they built a replica German village, complete with a small castle which is modelled on Michelstadt town hall, and lined their streets with shops selling typical German clothes, food and beer glasses, all while encouraging the citizens to embrace their German heritage.

Today the people of Blumenau call their Oktoberfest ‘The Party.’ The whole town builds up to it, the whole town gets excited about it, they dress up for it and they drink steins of German-style beer when there. If they didn’t do it annually, and they didn’t take it so seriously, you’d almost think it was the most elaborate parody you’d ever seen ­– a trick for the tourists. But it isn’t. And it’s a big deal: it’s literally put the town on the map and draws in hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

What I find fascinating as I stand in the sweaty heat is that this event isn’t about the beer yet the beer is so integral to it (and it’s good, too, with a bunch of local microbreweries pouring their take on classic German styles, plus a few pale ales). Those swaying steins are shared in the same way as the jokes and the laughs and that’s what makes this event – and beer in general – so good. It brings people together, it brings smiles to faces, and it can make a small Brazilian town famous for its Bavarian buildings and fun beer festival.

I was there searching for the best beer in the world and while the ones I drank there might not have been the best-tasting, the experience was unbeatable. And that’s what really matters – it’s the main lesson I learnt on my global beer drinking adventure – because sharing drinks and good times with people is the reason beer is the greatest drink in the world.

This is adapted from a blogpost I wrote for Foyles last year and I thought I’d share it here. In TheBest Beer in the World I tell the full story of Blumenau – how the town was founded, how it grew, how Dr Blumenau struggled but ultimately succeeded, how he built a brewery in his garden, and then how the Oktoberfest grew and what it’s like today. It was one of the most remarkable trips I’ve been on and one of my favourite stories in the book. Most of the images are from the official Oktoberfest Facebook page.