By Kate (@kate_blaszczyk)
Over the last few years, a day out at the annual Liverpool Craft Beer Expo at Constellations has become somewhat of a family tradition. Falling on Father’s Day weekend, it facilitates perfect gift-buying for me, and means that my Dad actually ends up with something that he really enjoys (because sometimes, you just “don’t need any more socks Katie”, apparently).
The organisers of the 2017 Expo had obviously pulled in a few favours with the Met Office, as this was the hottest weekend of the year so far, and for the first time the event had been extended to encompass part of the street outside the venue. This resulted in plenty of outdoor space for everyone to slowly poach themselves in the sunshine, but Constellations also has a substantial indoor area where a lot of the featured bars are located. It’s fun and quirky, with angular wooden structures and seating providing the perfect environment for a summer beer festival.
There was a real carnival atmosphere this year, not least because of the delicious smells coming from Cuban street food traders Finca, now residents of Constellations, and an exotic ice cream cart serving up frozen custard and cinnamon icy treats. With this and the sweltering heat, you could be forgiven for thinking that you’d left the Baltic Triange far behind and touched down somewhere far more exotic.
There was no mistaking our location when it came to the beer selection though – plenty of local breweries had their own featured bars. Favourites of mine included Black Lodge (their Exotic Garden Pale was perfect for today, sweet mango and delicate icy tea), Chapter Brewing (a new discovery for me, and a very welcome one. I was intrigued by Roadside Picnic, a celery sour, and was pleasantly surprised by a sharp and refreshing beer that, luckily for me, was not too celery heavy. Also contender of beer of the day for me, Tired Eyes, was a gentle honey and camomile wit beer which I could happily enjoy as a nightcap), and Neptune Brewery, who proved that you definitely can enjoy a chocolate stout on a blisteringly hot day (especially with the addition of coconut in Attack on the Bounty!).
We were all bowled over by the deliciously juicy Ramblers, a collaboration DIPA by Deya and Gipsy Hill Brewing Company, and a few of us went back for second helpings. Others also highly rated Line in the Sand by Top Rope, and Wylam’s Sticky Bud made a welcome return after last being sampled at Hop City.
Sadly, our afternoon session flew by and 5pm was swiftly approaching. Once we had pooled and exhausted our remaining tokens, we realised we were very well placed to pay a visit to Black Lodge Brewery Taproom, only about a five minute walk away. Probably not usually suited to blazing sunshine, the darkly industrial bijou bar was buzzing with merry festival goers, and they’d brought the party atmosphere along with them. Saturday evening was home to the Kernel tap takeover, in addition to the Black Lodge selection, so there was plenty to choose from.
After this we were able to pay a visit to our favourite Liverpool venue. No trip here is complete without swinging by the Dead Crafty Beer Company who always have an impressive tap and fridge selection, and also arguably the friendliest staff in Merseyside! Everyone here is always keen to chat, advise, and champion the beers of whichever brewery has recently hosted one of their popular tap takeover events. It’s worth visiting the city for this bar alone, especially as it’s so well situated for Lime Street Station.
In a climate where craft beer festivals are popping up all over the country, it may become increasingly difficult for festival organisers to keep things unique and exciting. However with LCBE, it maintains a sense of personality which grows year after year, and with all the new additions for 2017, it will definitely remain as a staple event in our family calendar. (Until Dad needs new socks, at least).