Posts Tagged With: real ale

London Brewfiles

First off, I’m a big fan of a portmanteau and like to use them when I can. They save time.

So this is the start of what I hope will be a series – I’d like to do a “Brewfile” (that’s a brewery profile) on all the London brewers and interview them and get a more rounded picture of why they started, what they love about beer and brewing, their thoughts on this so called “craft” movement and where they see the future of their beer.

Keep an eye out for the first 2 in the series, Clarence & Fredericks from Croydon, and By The Horns in Tooting in the next few days.

Categories: Brewery | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

North London Beer Expedition

There are 2 beer shops that I have long heard about but had never visited as they are in north London, and I don’t usually have much business being in those parts. Which is unfortunate, given the crop of craft and real ale pubs up that way.

It was a lovely, sunny, autumnal day yesterday, so I decided to venture to the two hallowed beer shops of Kris Wines and Drinkers Paradise to see if they were up to all the hype I had read and heard about over the years.

On my way up north, I also popped in to St. Pancras station to have a look at Sourced Market, which I had seen listed as a stockist on the London Fields Brewery site. And very impressed I was too, a surprising selection for such a location: Camden, Moncada, London Fields, Beavertown, Windsor & Eton and Kernel from London, and a good range of real ales from around the country. The prices were a touch high, but not bad considering its location.

So on I went, up York road in the sunshine, past the now derelict York Road tube station, until I reached the parade of shops just before you get to Camden Road. And there, with its shutters down was Kris Wines. God damn it. Well, it was about 12:45pm, so I figured I’d walk to Drinkers Paradise and hope that Kris Wines would open up about 1pm.

Drinkers Paradise is a good little shop. Not blown away, but certainly a much better selection than your average off-licence. Possibly not worth a journey to go there specifically, I’d say, but pop in if you’re in the area. I got myself a Little Brew pale ale (a local Camden brewery), and Eistök pale ale (which I’m seeing around more and more).

So then I went back to Kris Wines and it was open! And, Lordy, what a shop. An overwhelming selection of beers from all over the world; a section of Belgian beers, a whole shelf devoted to Mikkeller, little nooks and crannies filled with craft beers. I could have spent hours and lots of money in there. But, I only had £6 on me (for reasons I won’t go into) and I had to carry what I bought down to Camden. So that limited me to 2 beers. One choice was the London Fields Love Not War because I have, as yet, not tried anything from them. The second choice was tougher and took me a good 15 mins to decide. I finally plumped for the Kernel Porter, as I seem to be exploring the darker beers at the moment (after trying the Sambrooks porter at their brewery bash – it’s opening up a whole new, roasted, toasted world to me!). Kris Wines is definitely worth the hype, and definitely worthy of a trip. Just make sure you take money and a means to carry your spoils, as it’s no fun having to choose only 2.

Then I strode off towards Camden to meet a few friends (with a brief stop to watch 6 middle-aged women trying to negotiate Camden lock with a narrow boat, whilst 2 guys from Amsterdam criticised their every move). The first stop was The Black Heart, as I had heard about their range of craft beers and real ales. The selection was pretty good (Camden, Darkstar, Moor, By The Horns, Brooklyn) but the setting wasn’t. You’re definitely in Camden. It’s also a venue upstairs and feels like it – a bit dingy, bad toilets and not great for a quiet afternoon drink. Still, we stayed to sample their wares, highlights being the Stiff
Upper Lip from By The Horns, and the Darkstar Revelation.

We wanted a bit of food so we ventured to the BrewDog just round the corner. The 5am Saint was very, very good. We ordered food – a pizza and a burger – which took nearly an hour to come. After asking a few times where the food was, the staff simply said it was on its way, not offering an apology. The food came, it was good, but as I’ve mentioned before, when that place gets busy it gets very loud. After the food we decided to call it a night, which was a shame as I didn’t get to try Hello My Name Is…Beastie which I’d heard a lot about. Perhaps I’ll have to pop back soon on a quieter night.

All in all, a lot of walking, a lot of beer, and a lot of discovery.

Categories: Beer, Craft Beer Stockist, Pub, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Beer, Pub | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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…

Categories: Beer, Brewery Open Day | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Drink of Fulham

I stumbled across this wonderful little place on Fulham Palace Road shortly after it opened a couple of years ago, enticed in by the quaint cafe/boutique feel of it – a big, black awning and a couple of tables out the front.

On entering, you are greeted by the wonderful sight of nearly floor-to-ceiling walls of beer. And although quite small, the selection of beers is truly excellent. Lots and lots of British beers and ciders, plus German, Czech, Belgian, French, American, Australian and a range of interesting world lagers too (China, Kenya, Laos, Morocco etc). There are a couple of fridges for most of the lagers and ciders, just in case you want to crack one open while you’re there, either to retire to a table outside or simply while you’re browsing the rest of their stock.

The other great thing about Drink of Fulham are the homemade curry pastes and other Gujarati treats – simply excellent. Made with a tomato and onion base, the spices are added in front of you so you can have it as hot as you like.
I always stock up on a few pastes when I make a beer run here.

The staff are very welcoming and friendly; I remember one time I was there while a man (a Canadian brewing Belgian beer) was giving a bottle of his brew to Shrila, the owner, to try. She promtly popped it open, shared it around the customers in the shop and then whipped out some tasty little snacks that went very well with the beer. Like I say, very welcoming and friendly.

AND, they also do monthly beer tasting events featuring home-cooked Gujurati cuisine.

The website is very well kept, with pretty much full listings of the beers they stock, along with details of upcoming events and the full curry paste and food menu.

An absolute gem of a shop, and definitely worth a trip.

Categories: Craft Beer Stockist | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

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Bibacity Map of London

New page on the blog here, long term goal of doing a beer drinker’s guide to London. Send updates and suggestions please.

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Walton-on-Thames Pub Crawl…ish

It was my dear dad’s 60th birthday last week, and on a recent trip to Walton-on-Thames he noted a glut of pubs all in close proximity to one another. So, he decided that we should do a crawl from the river into town in honour of his 60 years. I was hoping to get a variety of real ale on the way, and was also crossing my fingers that there might be some craft beer available at at least one of the pubs…

It was a beautiful, warm, sunny September day when we arrived at The Anglers, the outside bustling with afternoon drinkers. We went in to the comparatively quiet bar make our choices – my brother and I heading straight for the “Anglers Tackle” (claimed to be brewed exclusively for this pub, but a little research has shown it to be Sharps “Cornish Coaster”). A very easy drinker, light in flavour with a delicate hop edge, and slightly sweet on the tongue. Ideal for an afternoon in the sunshine, by a river. As, indeed, we were. If we were staying, this would have been a great session beer.

Good selection of other ales, lagers and bottles (including Brooklyn Lager and a few Belgians) meant everyone got what they wanted (Sol, Savannah and Peroni). So we went outside to enjoy our drinks while people wandered by with their dogs on the tow path, and boats glided down the river in front of us.

The next pub on our list was The Swan, about 20 paces from The Anglers. We walked through the large, sectioned garden, past 2 outside bars and into the pub proper and we were greeted by the wonderful green and yellow of Meantime’s London brews on tap. My brother and I went straight for the London Pale Ale which was deliciously crisp and cold, with a healthy and thirst-quenching  hoppiness and bitterness. While at the bar we also tried the Oxfordshire Ales Marshmellow, which was very nice, smooth and had a hint of, well, marshmallow. Suprisingly pleasant, and great for a more autumnal day. They also had 3 Youngs ales on tap, but we didn’t try those. My dad told the barman we were on a pub crawl, to which the barman remarked, “Most people end up staying here”.

We found a table outside and enjoyed probably the last of the very little sunshine that we’ve seen this summer, then promptly moved on to our next pub as we had 7 planned.

The Masons Arms looked pleasant from afar, like a little manor house. On entering, we were looked at by the 4 locals as if inquiring who we were. Not put off, we headed to the bar and I ordered a Doom Bar whilst I visited the loo. As my dad later commented, he’s smelt better toilets at a festival. I left, looking forward to a nice, clear, toffee, hoppy ale…but was sorely disappointed. Slightly cloudy, in poor condition and tasting, frankly, brown. The ladies chose sparkling water (much to the annoyance of the barman who had to go out back to get another bottle) and my dad had a Stella Artois. The choice was limited.
Needless to say, we didn’t stay long but we did absorb some more sunshine on their benches out the front.

The next pub was The Bear, but after a quick reccy we decided it was probably in the same category as the last pub so skipped it. Also skipped the wine bar, as it looked a bit poncy and dead. So, onto The George Inn. The worryingly light and sparse wood interior made it feel more like a barn than a pub, and the small selection of ales, lagers and bottles didn’t enthuse us any more. My brother and I went for a Shepherd Neame Late Red, which was actually pretty good, if not entirely appropriate for the day. Since it was a Shepherd Neame pub they had Oranjeboom on tap, which I think is always a nice refreshing lager. My wife, however, did not agree.

We found a table in the garden out the back and whilst supping our drinks discussed out next move. There was The Regent nearby, and whilst it being a Wetherspoons guaranteed a decent ale selection, the only outside space was 2 tables on the main road. So, on reflection, we decided to go back to The Swan. It seems the bartender was right.

We headed back to the river, found another table in the grassy area of the garden this time, and I plumped for the London Lager (well, all that walking made me parched). Excellently suited to the warm day, packed full of flavour but still with a refreshing hoppiness and citrus finish. We stayed there for another one too before the cab whisked us off to dinner. Well, why spoil a good thing, eh?
So, if you want to do a crawl in Walton, my advice is to stick to the 2 riverside gems:  The Anglers and The Swan.

Categories: Pub | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

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.

Categories: Brewery Tour | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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