Spirited away: The Beauty of the ISA Beverage Festival

takes on the arduous task of visiting a beverage festival, all in the name of good journalism


The air was alive with excitement; the growing sense of anticipation was palpable. The crowds of people were here for one thing and one thing only. Free alcohol (well, a £5 ticket for unlimited taster sessions of spirits may as well be free). But in the end, the International Beverage festival turned out to be so much more than this. Rows upon rows of different international societies were present, each and every one buzzing with enthusiasm and passion about their nation’s favourite drinks, eagerly awaiting people to try their hand prepared cocktails and carefully laid out bottles.

After getting in, we decided that it was only fair (and in the spirit of journalism), that we should try each and every stall in turn. The actual variety of alcohol was overwhelming; there was something for everyone, whether you’re into whiskeys, traditional cask ales or more different flavours of vodka than you can shake a stick at. When the event had finished, I felt considerably more cultured (and definitely less sober than when I walked in).

For me, the Polish should’ve won, but looking back, that may just be the vodka talking

There were a few stalls which really stood above the others; the Malaysian society offered a powerful concoction known only as Michael Jackson. Why is it named thus, I hear you cry? It starts off with an exotic black bean that, after various liquids have been added, becomes a smooth, surprisingly pleasant white drink. Another firm favourite was the polish stall, whose bewildering array of vodkas amazed and intoxicated you in equal measure. Their fantastic enthusiasm to guide you through each and every one of them was also a very, very big plus.

GermanySome stalls offered some food as well, though mainly as an add on to the drinks on show. The Estonian society offered a traditional (and incredibly pungent) combination of a strong aniseed spirit followed by rye bread and horseradish. Alas, I had no clue what it was when trying it, and the sudden rush of fiery horseradish after mildly unpleasant spirit almost had me running for a toilet. Fortunately, the young lady running the stool was made of sterner stuff, and proudly boasted that it was a firm Estonian favourite, perfect after eating nothing but potatoes during the winter.

Everyone who went was free to score their personal favourites and ultimately a winner would be announced. In the end, the Lithuanian society rose to victory; their great range of spirits and beers had clinched them the win. They were closely followed by Malaysia, whose great set of cocktails (including a garish pink coconut drink which closely resembled something a doctor might give you for a rash), and after them the Polish came in at 3rd. For me, the Polish should’ve won, but looking back, that may just be the vodka talking.


  1. Brilliant write up, glad you had a good time!

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  2. ‘The Beauty…’ Is that the girl in the photo then? She is fiiiine.

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