Posts Tagged With: beer

By The Horns Christmas Do

Just a quick post on last Saturday’s open day at By the Horns.

Christmas jumpers and mince pies abounded in the small Wandsworth brewery, welcoming all to the warming embrace of their London craft beers. 

Their Christmas beer Jolly’s Revenge was very moreish – it’s an oatmeal brown ale spiced with chilli and ginger. It was deep and malty, with a lovely sweet-spiced flavour that was perfect for a cold afternoon. The Hopslinger Summit was everything an American-style IPA should be – tangy, citrusy hops at the front with a nice clean, but not too dry finish. And, as an extra, they had a brand new red rye Hopslinger that had the trademark rye spiciness, but also a sweet finish that balanced it very nicely.

My recollection grows hazy of the later hours of the evening as I think I was quaffing the beers a little too quickly for my constitution. And I was slightly tender the next morning. But it was worth it.

I do remember Alex telling me that they will be launching a definitive Hopslinger next year, rather than the monthly specials, which will be packed with a variety of hops to give it a complex but balanced flavour. I’m looking forward to that one.

Right, back to work now I guess.

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The Gunmakers Beer Fest

On the train on the way home now from a lovely evening at The Gunmakers, working my way through their list of beers from London breweries. 8 on at any one time, and I believe they’ll change them through the week. A lovely, relaxed atmosphere and lots of beer-related chat from the staff and customers made for a great evening.

Sticking to halves, me and a friend tried nearly everything on the menu, highlights being the By The Horns Diamond Geezer red ale, the Cronx Dry Hop Standard and the East London Brewery Quadrant stout. All delicious in their own way.
Definitely try to go down this week while you can, a great selection and a brilliant opportunity to try some interesting London brews.

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Rocky Head Launch

I had a lovely afternoon today (after waking up a teensy bit hungover from an evening at Craft) visiting my favourite beer shop, Drink of Fulham for the launch of Rocky Head Brewery.

The new London brewery is based in Southfields, south west London (and about a 5 min walk from my flat) and is the weekend hobby for the two brewers, Steve and Pete, who are wine merchants Monday to Friday.

They are currently only brewing a Pale Ale while they build up their reputation and profile but will expand to other brews in time. The Pale Ale is, I think, one of the nicest beers I have tasted. Loads of hoppy flavour, as you’d expect from a pale ale, but a nice smooth finish that doesn’t grip your tongue like other pales can. Very well balanced, it’s a really good beer with bags of flavour, and so good to see something a little different from a local microbrewery.

They hand bottle and label themselves, and stamp each one with a “Bottled On” date, making it feel very hand crafted. Their artisan approach to brewing means that while they try to make each batch the same, differences in hop yield, malts and the small quantity of beer brewed will result in slight variations in each individual brew, giving an interesting variation. Much like the wines with which they are both well acquainted.

The beer was matched with various Gujarati snacks from Shrila, the owner of Drink of Fulham, who had enough faith in the brewery to host the launch before even tasting the beer.

The only tough part was then choosing which beers to take away. So to ease the pain, I had a Rocky Head Pale Ale while I perused. And now, as I’m writing this, I’m drinking the beers I purchased earlier today. Nothing like writing about beer while you drink it.

I will follow this fledgling brewery closely, I think they have a bright future ahead of them. And I will also be back to Drink soon to stock up on some more of their pale ale, and I recommend you do too.

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Craft Brixton Opening

Beer. Lots of beer. That’s what comes to mind when I think of the Craft Beer Co., and their new bar in Brixton certainly has it’s fair share. Over 30 beers on tap (about 10 cask and about 20 keg) means that a trip to the bar is not as simple as “3 pints of Stella, please mate.”

But, if you ask me, that is a good thing. A very good thing. I arrived about half past 6, after a long day at work, having already decided to stick to halves so I could try more beers. The bar was quite busy, the little outside seating area already full of happy beer-lovers who somehow managed to get to Brixton on a Friday before 7. Don’t these people have jobs? Anyway, while waiting to be served and taking in the selection, I plumped for Magic Rock’s Craft Magic, brewed especially for the night. Then I thought to myself, “well, I’d usually order a pint, so why not get two halves!”. So I did. I went for a Darkstar Kiwi. The Craft Magic was good, a low ABV session ale and an easy drinker for the first of the day. The Kiwi was delicious, the light, fruty aroma of the kiwi balancing perfectly with the bitter hoppiness.

As I supped my halves at the table I managed to snag, trying to look nonchalant, drinking alone in a busy pub, waiting for my friends, I had a look around the bar. Very minimal, high tables with stools (that had pedals…) and not much else. The bar itself is a marvel, the cask pumps sitting atop the polished copper with a bar over the top for all the keg beers. Seemed a little strange to see staff pouring pints above their heads, but it’s a innovative way to use up the relatively small bar space.

The vibe was good, very busy and buzzy, but with all Craft pubs when they get busy they get quite loud and if you don’t have a seat you can feel a bit lost in the room and a bit in the way.

My friends joined and I sampled the Darkstar Belgian IPA (“Bruges in a glass”, so one of my friends proclaimed) and another beer brewed especially for the pub’s opening, the cranberry milk stout Crafty Jane from the Ilkley Brewery (like an old, warm country pub – smokey leather).

The evening progressed, the bar got busier and the waiting time for drinks got longer. But I guess that’s to be expected on the opening night, and a Friday to boot.

The real highlight beer of the evening for me was Thornbridge’s Chiron, a golden ale/blonde beer (so say’s the label) that is delicious, absolutely beautiful. A perfect balance of hoppiness, sweetness and dryness that makes it very drinkable and very moreish.
So, all in all, a very nice evening. And a great addition to Brixton and craft beer. That’s if you like beer. If not, well then why are you reading this? Honestly.

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Sambrook’s Brewery Bash 2012

I’m a little hungover today as I write this, and that’s because yesterday was Sambrooks’ 4th birthday. The weather was good at the brewery in Battersea – a little chilly but lovely and sunny – and people were already milling around outside, sitting on hay bales and sipping on ale when we arrived. We handed in our tickets, received a pint glass and 6 tokens and headed into the brewery. Our first stop was into the main room of the brewery – the Brewery Bar – to have the first pint of the day, where the Pumphouse Pale Ale, Lavender Hill Pale Ale (a summer special) and Wandle were available. We all went for the Pumphouse Pale Ale, a deliciously drinkable, light, hoppy, clean beer with bags of fresh flavour.

We stood outside near the food, supplied by The Ginger Pig, which smelt very enticing – huge sausage rolls (standard, pork and stilton and lamb merguez), sausage buns from the BBQ (made with Sambrook’s Junction ale) and quiche. Whilst we enjoyed the sunshine and the Pale Ale, we discusses the merit of halves over pints – the half measures we saw around us were very generous! So, we went back to the  Brewery Bar to try the Lavender Hill, which is made with honey for a slight sweetness but still has a clean, bitter finish. Once again, very tasty. We tried a couple of the sausage rolls while we drank, which were delicious and matched the beer wonderfully.

We decided to explore the other bars – there were three in total – and popped our head into the porter bar (not yet, we decided) before heading upstairs to the Boadicea Bar over looking the brewery, and with a great selection: Wandle, Junction, Lavender Hill, and Pumphouse (both cask and keg, interestingly). We all went for the keg Pumphouse which served to make the beer crisper and more aromatic. Great for a sunny day.

We ventured back outside just as the music was starting. Didn’t catch their name but they were really suited to the setting and the atmosphere – fiddle, double bass, acoustic guitar, banjo and snare drum, plus 5 harmonising vocals – and did some great country and bluegrass songs as well as some inventive covers.

I also tried the Junction (a nice, deep, rich ale) and the porter, which was very drinkable (I’m not usually a porter/stout fan, but this was very light and smooth), before going back to the 2 pale ales.

By the time last orders came, we were all well lubricated but used up our last tokens on a final pint as people started to disperse.

All in all, the vibe of the day was really good and a combination of great beer, good music, tasty food, excellent weather and friendly staff made for lots of happy drinkers. Congrats to Sambrooks!

Now, I’m off to start cooking a steak and ale stew in the hope it might make me feel better…

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Bibacity Calendar

A new page is up here. It’s a calendar of beer festivals, tastings, open days, openings etc, anything a London beer lover would be interested in.

Contact me if you know of any event I’ve missed.
Phil

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Hook Norton Brewery Tour

When I was last in the Cotswolds with my wife and in-laws, we visited the Hook Norton brewery for a tour. We had a packed schedule so we opted for the 9:30am tour, I think. It was early anyway, on a crisp, cold morning that we pulled into the car park and looked at the beautiful, tall and somewhat ramshackle building that is the home of Hooky beers, surrounded by beautiful rolling Cotswold hills.

Since it was early, we were the only ones on the tour. We were taken through the brewing process and shown all the original machinery that was used when the brewery was originally built – lots of red-painted iron wheels, gears and drive shafts.  It’s an old brewery that works on gravity, so the water is stored in a tank at the top of the building and is allowed to flow down through the stages under it’s own weight. The same with the grain, hoisted up top and then is guided to where it’s needed.

A very interesting thing is that they have 2 mash tuns and 2 hop backs – one old and one new so you can see the brewing process. In new breweries its all sealed stainless steel, self-cleaning vats. The old mash tun has a perforated copper floor made up of numbered pieces so it can be removed for cleaning and put back. And the cleaning is done by hand, which we saw. The brewery worker didn’t look like he was having the best time, but being knee deep in hot spent grain in a copper tun doesn’t sound like the most pleasant thing in the world. And the older hop back was, if my memory serves me correctly, quite open with a chimney over the top so you could see the wort boiling with the hops. Very enlightening.
They use modern cooling now, but still have the large copper pans at the very top of the building that were used to cool the wort before the yeast is added. The slatted walls offer beautiful views of the fields and hills that surround the brewery.
We then ventured briefly into the fermentaion room, smelling that wonderful sweet, yeasty aroma, and seeing the sticky foam on top of the vats.

Then, off to the tasting room! Unfortunately, I was driving. And also, it was just before 12pm. But still, we tried everything they had to offer! Great tutored tasting of their range: all the standards, plus a seasonal or two. Lovely beers, simple but very tasty and wonderfully easy to drink.

Definitely a tour to try, good mix of the old and the new to really show you the brewing process. The tours are around the £10 mark, but for us that included tasters, a “Hook Norton Champion Drinker” badge, and a pint glass. An absolute bargain, if you ask me.

There is a small brewing museum above the shop that is free, and the shop is very nice and worth a visit even if you don’t do the tour. But do do the tour. It’s excellent.

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The Falkland Arms, Oxfordshire

A couple of years ago, me and my wife went for a nice romantic weekend in the Cotswolds, and after a bit of searching found a beautiful little pub with rooms. It was The Falkland Arms, and we have since stayed there again, and are will be going for dinner and a few drinks in a few weeks’ time.

The pub itself is in a little village called Great Tew, nestled in the rolling hills of the Cotswolds. It is old, quaint and covered in ivy – a perfect country pub, if you ask me. It’s cosy interior is filled with all sorts of pub paraphernalia, and the roaring open fire on a cold evening is very welcoming. There are 4 hand pumps with a nice selection, and I think at least one featuring a Wadworth ale, as it’s a Wadworth pub.

The staff were very friendly, and showed us to our room upstairs – a small stone staircase leading to a creaky landing and into our room with a beautiful 4 poster bed, complete with curtains. Very cosy (again) and very romantic – uneven floor and lots of dark wood.

But back to the bar: very nice beers, great atmosphere (you may even spot a celeb or two) and a selection of country wines too, if you feel that way inclined. Oh, and the food…excellent. Ham hock and fish pie, so very good but so much – couldn’t finish them, though we tried. And  the breakfast the next morning, full English done wonderfully.

They have live folk music on a Sunday too, and we were lucky enough to catch some the last time we were there. A nice pint of beer, crackling fire, full pub and one man with a guitar – absolutely perfect for the setting.

If you’re ever nearby, stay for a night or two. Or go for dinner. Or just a drink. Wonderful English countryside pub that’s not to be missed.

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Noble Green Wines, Hampton Hill

I only found out about this place relatively recently, in the last 6 months or so, and have only visited it once as its a little out of London, but I will definitely be a regular here (my brother, who lives nearby, has been a few times…much to my jealousy).

It is primarily a wine shop, with most of the shop housing a wide selection from around the world. But when I went, I wasn’t interested in that. I went straight to the beer section – there’s a room to the side with an extensive range of bottles: ales, wheat, craft, Belgian, lagers. Definitely something for everyone.

The real standout for this shop, however, is the cask ale. 20-odd casks sitting in rows, all waiting to be tasted! Admittedly, not all of them are available as some are resting, but there’s always a good selection. The staff are very friendly and accommodating, happy to pour out tasters and give suggestions. They seem to be regular stockers of various Twickenham Ales brews, as that’s local to them, and when I was there they had at least 4 Dark Stars on, including their American Pale Ale and the seasonal Summer Meltdown, spiced with ginger – delicious!
They pour your chosen beer into plastic milk bottles (2, 4 or 8 pints), or 5, 10 and 20 litre kegs/boxes for a few of you (or if you’re a fast drinker), and they even do the full firkins for parties, etc, but I think they need some notice for that.
A wonderful shop, and the only place I know if in London that you can get cask ale to take away…anyone know of anywhere else that does this?

Find out everything you need to know here, and definitely go and visit them

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