The day started promisingly, but late. I took a stroll back to the Dean Swift for another drop of Kernel Citra. The same friendly barman greeted me and asked what I thought of the temperature, explaining that there had been cellar problems. It was just still that touch too warm, but tasty. The pub was busy with lunchtime drinkers and was very jolly, though why the music was quite so deafening is a mystery, though in fairness the mostly young customers seemed quite content to yell above it, which made for a livelier atmosphere than one might otherwise have anticipated at a quarter to two in the afternoon.
Then a walk to the Rake for a couple of quick halves and a quick chat to Glyn the manager,who was preparing for his Welsh Beer Festival. No problems with temperature or condition here, but I wasn't taken with the over sweet Williams Brothers Tayberry, nor with Dark Star M&M, which had rather too much peated malt for my taste, though if you like smoked beer, you'd have lapped this up.
I have heard good things about the improved beer range at the nearby Horniman at Heys, which is rather a nice place to have a drink. Modern, but with plenty of distinct drinking areas and the happy buzz of a dozen languages, I was greeted by a veritable array of handpumps, but was immediately attracted to two. Thornbridge Jaipur needs no further introduction and my half was fine, as was my White Shield, though unusually I'd say the beers complexity is shown off better in bottle. The cask version to my palate seems just a touch yeasty.
I like going to a new pub. That sense of mystery and anticipation never leaves me. I love looking at the dynamics of a place, at how it operates and what makes it tick. Thus I looked forward to our visit to Mason and Taylor, just a touch off Brick Lane and again, an easy walk from our gaff. Set on a busy corner on Bethnall Green Road, this offers a somewhat Janus like appearance, with a rather sophisticated looking exterior and a far more modern and eclectic interior. Inside it is rather narrow and fairly dimly lit, with large picture windows looking out on the street, a decent sized bar and a downstairs area which we didn't visit - the place was too busy for wandering about. The customers were mostly young - think mid twenties - and trendy. Not as trendy looking as the staff though, who were at first, until you worked out who was waiting on and who was a customer, pretty indistinguishable from the customers, but absolutely brilliant in their friendliness and helpfulness. The place was busy, busy when we walked in around 8 p.m., with a good mix of diners and drinkers, but a table was immediately found for us, we were asked if we were eating and if we wanted table service, or just wanted to order at the bar. We were attentively asked from time to time if we needed more drinks and generally made to feel welcome. Fantastic.
What of the beer? Plenty to go at and a good mix of keg and cask. Keg features Brooklyn Brewery, Camden, Westmalle, Chimay and more, all at pretty hefty prices. Cask offerings were Dark Star Hophead and (astonishingly) Pictish Little Gem on handpump, with Brodie's Citra on a cask on the bar - never a wise thing in my view and all the less so for a 3.1% beer. Bottles abound, with something for everyone and not too badly priced in the main. It was hard to discern what the favoured drinks were given the crowd at the bar. We tried the Hophead and the Pictish which were average and lacked the edge that perfect cask conditioning gives and were, predictably, slightly too warm.
Overall, even though we bumped up the average age of the crowd by quite a bit, we'll be back. We liked it. but will visit a bit earlier in the day and week to get a different perspective on the place.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer writer, beer reviewer and pursuer of all things good in beer. He lives in the North West of England and London. Despite his CAMRA membership, he does not limit himself to cask conditioned beer, though he believes that cask conditioning, when done correctly and appropriately, brings a quality to beer that is hard to equal by any other kind of presentation. He is a strong supporter of Northern methods of beer dispense and avidly detests poorly presented beer and dislikes pasteurisation. He regularly visits Germany, has conducted corporate British and German beer tastings for CAMRA at the Great British Beer Festival where he has worked for years on Biere Sans Frontieres and was Deputy Organiser at CAMRA's very successful National Winter Ales Festival in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 and at the Manchester Beer and Cider Festival from 2013 to date. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink. He also judges beer at both the International Beer Challenge and the World Beer Awards.
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