My contact with beer started even before I reached GBBF this morning. It wasn't quite bitter for breakfast - though in hindsight that might have been nice - but while cycling to Earls Court the delicious aroma of brewing wafted under my nose, carried by a kind breeze from Fullers. Perhaps it helped in getting the journey time down from yesterday's 30 minutes to around 25 minutes today, but more likely it was just the practice.
Here at GBBF, it may be early but there are already glasses of beer out. Not for yours truly, but for the Champion Beer of Britain Judges who have a hard morning's tasting ahead of them before we hear the results of their deliberations at around 3 this afternoon. And it is a hard job, albeit also a very enjoyable one - remembering the first beer you tasted once you've got to number six or seven requires a fair bit of focus and concentration, especially if they are of varying strengths and bitterness levels. It's even more of a challenge for the final panel who must fairly compare beers of quite different characters - golden ales with stouts, for example.
The first round of judging is about to start, and the second round panellists are gradually arriving, ready for their turn later this morning. I can't tell you who the judges are yet - the full list is still super-secret, I'm told it is known only to two people in the GBBF hierarchy, and of course they are closeted in with the judges!
For those of you who can't get to GBBF this afternoon - we open at noon for the trade session and the beery press - there will be a live audio feed of the CBOB announcement from the stage at Earls Court. Stay tuned to our Twitter & Facebook feed for details.
For this evening's public session we hope to have full printed results available on the CAMRA Membership Stand, and of course we will have it on the GBBF website here - beware though that this link won't go live until after the announcement.
We also have some news on beer pricing at this year's festival. Beers start from £2 a pint, while the majority of our 430 British cask ales are under £3 a pint. Our beers range in strength from 3% to 9.5% ABV, and if you're looking to sample lots of ales, we have 121 cask ales under the 4% ABV mark. If you missed the National Winter Ales festival, some of the champion beers are showcased at the festival too - oh and 8 of our beers are over 7%. If you're a vegetarian, vegan or coeliac, there are beers available for you too - ask for details at the Membership and Information stand in the centre of the hall.