Before arriving in the United Kingdom I used to drink spirits. Rum and coke to be more precise. Shortly after landing on these shores it became apparent my budget didn’t allow for copious amounts of spirits, so I turned to lager.
The odd beer was consumed back in SA so it was the obvious choice. Real ale was something to be feared. Dark, warm and flat … disgusting!
Fast forward 10 years and I’m singing a different tune. The combination of my palate maturing and the rise of the craft beer industry I’ve become a bit of a beer snob.
Just the other night I was complaining about paying £4.30 for a pint of piss (ie. Carlsberg, in a plastic glass no less). I was at a gig and the selection of beverages was dire to say the least. It’s the most sober I’ve ever been at a rock gig.
Joining Whisky Squad has had a huge impact on how my palate has developed. It’s pushed boundaries and made me appreciate different flavours, not always pleasant mind you.
August 2011 I joined the boys from WS at the Annual CAMRA Great British Beer Festival. My mind was blown, and my love affair with real ale well and truly began.
We are very fortunate here in London to have a number of establishments offering extensive ranges, whether on tap or by the bottle.
Brew Dog, Euston Tap, The Cask, The Craft Beer Co, The Rake, The Draft House to name but a few. Pubs in general are upping their game and offering interesting alternatives to lager and the usual run of the mill ales. Much can be said of Whetherspoons but at around £2.40 for a pint of good ale you can’t go wrong, and their selection of guest ales is sometimes surprisingly good.
The number of microbreweries has increased significantly here in London over the last few years. I was fortunate to attend the London Brewers Alliance Beer Festival at Vinopolis last October, which showcased most of the breweries operating in the London area. Some had only been open a few weeks!
Coming up in 2 weeks time is one of my favourite festivals – The Wandsworth Beer Festival. Held at La Gothique twice a year, March and October (with a Halloween theme), offering around 100 beers and 20 ciders. A ticket to the preview night has been purchased which means £25 and all the beer I’d like to try. Fantastic!
What prompted this entry is Brew Dog in Camden. Fast becoming a regular spot to meet up “pre” pretty much anything. Not on the main strip so not filled with tourists but down a side street heading into a residential area of Camden. Offering around 10 of their own brews on tap, and around 6 guests, and fridges stocking a vast range of bottles from all over the world.
Not cheap but this isn’t a session drinking establishment as the liquid offered ranges from 5% 5am Saint, 9.2% Hardcore IPA (my fav!), 15% Paradox Jura … all the way to 32% Tactical Nucelar Penguin and 41% Sink the Bismark. Most are only served in halves or thirds, and the last 2 mentioned in 25ml pours, so as to promote responsible drinking.
A night at Brew Dog is less about throwing beer down your throat for the sake of getting drunk and more about trying interesting, delicious variations of this hoppy beverage.
I admit I’m like a kid in a candy store when I approach the bar. Luckily the bar staff are friendly and knowledgeable and happy to let you try a few before making a decision. Bottles are a little more tricky and I have had the misfortune of ending up with one that smelled and tasted like Marmite … eeeewwwww.
During the month of Movember I was thrilled to discover Byron Burgers (yes a chain, but some of the best burgers currently on offer here in London) had put craft beer on their menu. Flying Dog, Kernel, Sierra Nevada and Little Creatures could now be enjoyed while sinking your teeth into some meaty goodness. A dream come true for a carnivore like myself.
I fully intend to enjoy as much of this lovely beer as possible between now and my departure. A trip to the Great British Beer Festival 2012 is in the diary, along with any other beer festivals that may be happening in the London vicinity.