Somewhat perversely I suppose, I left London before the main piss up of Craft Beer Rising started on Friday of London Beer Week. I had arranged to go to London long before I had even thought about that and I couldn't stay on as I had an important CAMRA meeting on the Saturday. A pity as I think I'd have enjoyed it. Next time, I'll try and be there. Such is the business of my better half, that I like to come when she has
a little less to do, then I get the pleasure of taking her out for an
overpriced pint, but this time she had a little free time and I had access to a little free beer. Hooray.
Many readers will know that the vast Truman's Brewery in Brick Lane was more or less abandoned when the brewery closed in 1989. It is now home to many arty type projects and a hub of London Beer Week. Two pop up brewery led bars were of interest and I had an invitation, as a guest, to one. Sharps had a neat little pop up bar, open to the public, with a fair number of their lesser spotted ales on cask as well as, of course, Doom Bar. It was good to try Cornish Coaster, Atlantic, Wolf Rock and Special. All were pretty good actually, though hardly enhanced by being served in flimsy plastic glasses. The fun bit was an invitation to Sharp's Secret Bar, where spoonfuls of various foods were matched to Sharp's Connoisseurs range and boy did it work. This range of beers is excellent and I have to say that the Vintage Blend, described by the brewery as "Five
beers of diverse styles and vintages – a Trappist Dubbel, a sweet
barley wine, a Quadrupel fermented with yeast, a soured honey wheat beer
and a US dry-hopped double IPA – aged for one month and blended with a
base beer for truly unique results" was as stunning a beer as I've had in a long time. The experience was great fun and while I won't divulge details in case anyone gets a chance of going, if the opportunity ever arises, jump at it. We all trooped out with immense grins on our faces and you can't say fairer than that. It was interesting too to talk to Sharp's (surprisingly young) brewer Andrew Madden who was a really good sort. All in all it was a great afternoon out and you learn, if you hadn't already, that big brewers can brew bloody good beer.
Just around the corner was the Guinness PopUp. This was clearly aiming to promote their new lager Hop House 13. All the founts bar one were for this beer and much memorabilia and clothing was on sale. Along with my pack from London Beer week, I had a voucher for a free half, so I tried it. Not bad really, rather thin bodied and weedily bitter, it was certainly a little more tasty than many, but not likely to be my go to lager. Ever. Of much more interest was that they were selling one off beers from the Open Gate Brewery. I won't go into this Guinness experiment here, rather, I suggest you turn to the Beer Nut who wrote about it all in his blog in early December. Talking to the delightful guys behind the bar, they were sent a different beer three or four times and the current offering was Milk Stout. Now surprisingly to me at least, this 6.4% beer was served on plain old CO2, not nitrogen like Draught Guinness and it displayed all the negative qualities I associate with that kind of serve for ales and stouts, most notable of which was a fierce carbonic bite and the fact that the head lasted seconds. This rendered the beer into sugar water. Not great and annoyingly sold at £3 a half while the lager was £3 a pint. Bonus was the great staff and welcome, a free bag of the best pork scratchings I've had in along time and the fact that all the beer was served in proper glasses.
Last up in this little trio of reports was another invitation, this time by Goose Island. This was a closed event and we were offered three different bottled beers to go on with, Honkers, an English style Pale Ale, Goose Island IPA and a lighter wheat beer, 312. Now is that Goose Island IPA dumbed down? This was the talk and even though I have supped it at source, I couldn't say for sure, but the consensus, which I probably go along with, is that it has lost something in up-scaling it. Nonetheless all the beers were very enjoyable in the context. There was plenty nice seafoody stuff too and a chance to scoff rather a lot of Dungarvan Oysters which certainly wasn't a hardship. Slightly citric, salty sweet and a real treat, they were good to wash down with a swig of 312. Later on we were invited into a holy of holies where the Goose Island Innovation Brewer, Tim Faith, talked us through tastings of Goose Island Bourbon County in its "ordinary" and aged incarnations. All in all a good night too, though I preferred the straight Bourbon County by far. It was great too to hook up with the Beer Father, Justin Mason and @tabamatu Andy. Great company for a good night out at any time.
E and I also went to the Pilsner Urquell pop up which was more or less next door to the Guinness one. Rather dingy inside, Tankovna PU wasn't enhanced one bit by plastic glasses though E liked an old favourite of hers, Kozel, also served from a tank, but with the same reservations on plastic. Can't remember the prices though sadly.
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.
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