GBBF 2019 - your thoughts?

It was a strange one this year …

Pro’s …

Keg bar
not as busy on Tues and Thurs evenings (when I visited)
Water dispensers and glass rinsers
US beers lasting the week
Picked up some Cantillon Lambic D’aunis from the bottle shop

Con’s …

No CAMRA discount for season tickets
US beers coming on at opening time (good if you booked a half day … I didn’t want to waste one this year seen as they were held back till 1700 the past few).
No free crisps from pipers
More brewery bars than ever … many with the bulk being core beers so limited interest to the experienced tickers
Toilets not in great shape … one I visited today had only 3 urinals out of 5 (was down to 4 yesterday) and 5 minute queues
Really busy Friday 1330 - 1630 which is normally a nice leisurely session
Not enough water dispensers / glass rinsers !


  • Got to see some long time friends and tick a bunch of beers with them.
  • Interesting to try so many American beers on cask, very diverse selection in that regards.
  • Even when it seemed busy it wasn’t that busy. I guess I came in with mindset that an event this big would make it a bit more impossible to get to some of the beers.
  • Lots of new breweries and beers to me.


  • Missed some friends I hadn’t seen in 10 years or more because I didn’t attend Wednesday.
  • Although a ton of breweries were represented, the single pump handle for several left me only able to try one of the breweries beers.
  • Likewise breweries having same beer on cask as keg bar at same time. I could have had two of their beers, but no it’s wasn’t possible.
  • No random person bought me beer for wearing a RateBeer shirt…where is my free stuff for representing?
  • Ciders being held back/off, but staff pulling half’s right in front of us saying they aren’t available.

Only went the Wednesday and thought it was well run and ‘not too busy’ got seats!

Loved the bottle and can bar 24!

Good to see some ‘old friends’ and have a mini-chat.

Annoyed about one beer from each brewery available at a time (as SHIG mentioned).

Too many ‘brewery bars’ with ‘old favourites’ (as Colin said), or in the ‘new wave’ brewery bars, too many Keg Sour beers for me.


Thought the Cheese Platter @ £11:00 was good, Mexican food outlet not so cheap or good.


I thought the food was a lot pricier than before … above inflation rises.

I normally use the pie places for easy to eat filling options and the 3 for £5 on the samosas was £6 this year and the large pies / steak pasties had gone up from £5 to £6 also.

On a plus point I just realised I finally got all my English counties to double figure rates with the Bakers Dozen beer for Rutland.


I expect CAMRA charge a high premium for a slot at GBBF to the food operators, but yes, in general everything seemed expensive, even for London.


I have started to add my beers this morning, mostly new breweries for me (and two new States). I don’t expect to move up any ‘County Ladders’ as I jumped from bar to bar every time I got up.

The bars didn’t seem to have a system for what breweries they had, no regions or areas, just a selection of different breweries on each bar. Made it difficult for me to hit anywhere really hard. Even though I did have a little list of beers/breweries I wanted to try.


There was a semblance of organisation at the bars based on counties Alphabetically.

I preferred it when they placed them in regional groups though.

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I didn’t even notice that, but looking at the ‘Beer List’ it does have them in a semblance of order, as you say by counties in alphabetical order, what a crazy system!


Cost of a brat was 3 thirds of beer. :cry:

Food was quite good but overpriced IMO, they have a captive audience and can get away with it I suppose.

I’ve been going every year for almost 30 years now, this year was not as good as last year which I really enjoyed.

I really like the venue, air con, the key keg bar, drinking water/glass washing, didn’t seem too busy during weekday afternoons, meeting people I hadn’t seen for years including ex work colleagues.

No season ticket discount, silly prices for some beers especially on the key keg bar, overly officious CAMRA staff in orange shirts who like to state the obvious (where do they dig them up from?!), they advertised contactless payment but most of the staff didn’t know how to use the machines.

I’m sure I’ll be there next year but won’t bother with a season ticket, just a 2 day ticket.

It is still a decent event but it could be better.

Contactless payment … that didn’t affect me the first 2 visits but yesterday afternoon I got stuck at a bar for 3 or 4 minutes as everyone in front was paying by card but they only had one machine !

If you’re going to go modern you need to make more than a token effort or don’t bother !

My main complaint would how tiny the steak sandwich I paid £7 for actually was. I could’ve eaten it in two mouthfuls. The stilton pork pie was nice on the way home.

I only used conctactless once. Having taken £110 I have about £5 left. That included food times 3, 2 US cans, 1 US bottle and 1 miniature of mead.

I took out cash before hand. Only heard about contactless late on Thursday. Sometimes it was hard enough getting service from the lackadaisical staff, let alone having them worry about contactless pay or cards. No thanks!

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I had no problems paying cash and all the staff I came into contact with were fine, didn’t even notice the contactless points. Washed our glasses every other beer, never a queue for it (by the keg bar).


Finished adding my haul for the day (7th Aug), one cider tick and thirty one beer rates.

Very happy with that, two American cans brought home to rate at leisure as well. Only shared with the wife, as well as trying a few of my brother’s and son’s beers. £111.00 (cash) spent inside Olympia during the day!


Late to this party! I really enjoyed the KeyKeg bar and it showed up how flat and tired some of the casks were by Thursday. They need to find a way to make them more environmentally friendly though, one use, if I understand it correctly, is pretty damn wasteful.

Having the US bar open from midday on Tuesday was great. The bar was never infested like it has been every year they delayed opening. Common sense finally prevailed! What wasn’t so good was how slowly they turned over.

Food prices are a rip off and a lot of it is shite. Witness Leighton’s pork and apple thing! Or rather not1 For the first year, I brought my own food. The food stalls take up far too much space an all but hey - seeing how 90% of the punters seem to want to stuff their boats as soon as they walk through the door and have a half pint, I guess they are here to stay.

Rumours circulating that GBBF may not be on next year. Olympia needs maintenance and there is no Plan B at this time.

I was interested in the environmental impact of KeyKegs and this is what their website says:

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I’ve got one in my garage, hope to re-pressurize it and make a small table for the birds that come into or garden.