The day we went to Gin Festival in Birmingham it was summer dress weather, shorts for Mr M, we wandered around a city bright with sunshine and a ceiling of blue sky. We ate a burger at Original Patty Men (which, by the way is frickin awesome – review coming up very soon!) then tootled off to the Custard Factory for the perfect occasion for a sunny Saturday day – drinking gin!
I’m a bit of a fan of gin – and no, that didn’t start when it suddenly became trendy again. I’ve been guzzling Gordon’s and Tonic (ha, sacrilege right!) for quite some years now and then suddenly the rest of the world seemed to catch on and now we can all get much nicer gins at the drop of a hat.
While I enjoy a G&T, I certainly don’t profess to be any kind of expert. It seems to be now there are so many out there, with so many different tonics and mixers and, indeed, so many different garnishes, that it’s virtually impossible to decide what to go for.
That’s why it’s probably a good idea to get yourself down to somewhere like a Gin Festival where you can try more than 100 gins from across the world, go to a few masterclasses and spend a bit of time learning about what’s out there, how it’s best served and – most importantly – what you like!
The Birmingham event, which was in the Market Hall at the Custard Factory, was more impressive than I’d expected. A little food section outside, along with a room for masterclasses from various distilleries. Then inside divided into the little stand where you swap cold hard cash for tokens (£5 per token, one token per G&T) plus, the most important bit, four different gin bars, A-D, divided into categories like UK-based gins, those from further afield and fruit-flavoured gins. Oh, and let’s not forget the gin cocktail bar, stands run by individual distillers and live music.
You get your own gin glass as part of your ticket, plus a Gin Explorer guide and then you’re simply let loose to work your way round the gins on offer. We started in the UK and I tried Birmingham-based Brockmans for the first time. Mr M went slightly further north with a ‘Tinker’.
For us pair of novices, the Gin Explorer guide was a godsend, giving tasting notes and flavour guidance for each gin on offer, as well as their provenance, making it a tiny bit easier to pick the next drink. A Fever Tree bar in the middle of the room also allowed you to top up your own drinks to taste and left it up to you whether to follow the suggestions of which tonic to pick to go with your gin.
Mr M found himself choosing ones describes as fruity, sweet or with berry flavours, as did I. We went completely off-piste with a Hoxton Gin, which has a lovely coconut flavour. Not to everyone’s taste apparently, but certainly enjoyed it.
We planned to make it into some of the masterclasses but were having far too much fun working our way round the room, chatting to distillers from across the UK and beyond and tasting all sorts of weird and wonderful gins. Before we knew it, it was time to go home – your tickets cover you for four-hour sessions, afternoon or evening, which is actually quite nice as it stops people getting too carried away. Trust me, four hours is plenty of time!
It was a great afternoon out and at around £15 for a ticket, it’s great value by the time you factor in the glass, the free tasters on the way round, and the all-round fun experience. We’re already planning our next one, masterclasses included, so we can carry on our gin education. Because hey, who said gin was only for the summer……
We were given two complimentary tickets for the Birmingham Gin Festival, plus some drinks tokens.