After a busy weekend in London, we wound down with a long walk on Bank Holiday Monday and for me, a determination that my last few pints of the weekend would be guaranteed to be good ones. Thus it was that we headed over Waterloo Bridge and into Maiden Lane for some non cask stout at the Porterhouse Brewing Company. As always I ordered Wrasslers 4X and as always the uncompromising bitterness delighted. We sat outside watching disappointed antipodeans gazing forlornly into the closed Australian.New Zealand/ South African shop opposite, with me wondering as I always do, whether I shouldn't have had a pint of Plain Porter first, but deciding the step down in flavour and gravity would be unwise. E wasn't nagged by any such doubts, sticking happily with Oyster Stout.
The RV1 bus leaves from just around the corner and goes, via Tower Bridge to Tower Gateway, a mere cockstride from our flat. Temptingly, it passes very near to several well known craft outlets and we nipped in to one and despite my promises to myself, I ordered cask, which was a bit warm and tired. "Listen to yourself " I said grimly, but letting myself off, as the search for top quality cask in London is usually experienced best in hope rather than expectation. E smugly said her (bloody expensive) Kernel was rather good.
Not wishing to be caught out twice, keg was acquired in the next and last pub. It was from Camden and was Pale. Nice enough, but not a patch on their late, lamented, cask Inner City Green . E had a half of Paulaner and as we sat outside people watching, she took her first sip and grimaced. "This is off" she said. I looked at it. It was a touch cloudy and smelt stale and cidery. It certainly tasted awful. Hmm. I took it back. The barman expressed surprise, poured himself a little and said "It's fine - that's how it's meant to taste, but I'll change it if you want." Now this of course implies that the customer is wrong, but in a nicer way. I asked him if he was sure that it was Paulaner Helles and was advised it was. "So that's meant to be cloudy and taste cidery?" He looked nonplussed. A colleague was called who confirmed it was fine and I was given a half of something else.
From our vantage point at the door, I could see we'd generated a discussion among the bar staff. When I went in for a refill, the original barman said "I think you might be right about that beer - we've taken it off." What I do wonder though is how many other poor sods had had off beer and said nothing and how it came to be off without anyone knowing. Don't they taste all the beers first? It isn't the first time I've had imported keg beer which has tasted stale. Is this common? It is certainly a dear do to buy in the first place and even worse when it isn't right. It also makes me wonder about some of the folks behind the bar in some of these destination craft places. Do they really know what they are talking about?
At least Sam Smith's Pure Brewed Lager doesn't suffer from staleness. I'll be mostly sticking to that in summer visits to the capital. Damn sight cheaper too.
Yes this is another London moan. I'll happily (unhappily) moan about bad beer anywhere though.
A bit of a CV. Tandleman is a veteran beer lover, local CAMRA Chairman and activist, beer author, 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. He admires good brewers wherever they are and has travelled extensively in pursuit of good beer to drink.
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