I was drowning in keg… (and loving it)

During my recent trip to London, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you will no doubt have seen my many messages about the beer I was drinking at the time. Or as one friend kindly put it “Stop filling my bloody timeline up with pictures of bloody beer!” (Edited, “polite” version…)

There was a reason for this albeit a personal one, I wanted to try to keep track of what I’d drunk and where, over a rather hectic pub crawl.

Anyway here’s that list give or take a few that I forgot about or can’t now find.

Quite a decent list but nothing over the top, lots of hops evident of course as is my preference especially on warm spring days. What surprised me when looking back though was the dominance of keg beers amongst my selections. I hadn’t set out to purposely target these beers, each choice was made as a spur of the moment decision based upon what was presented to me on each bar top.

Oddly though my two favourite beers of the three days were from different ends of the spectrum in terms of style, strength and serving method. Shoreditch Sunshine as found at the Southampton Arms was light quaffable session beer, fresh, fruity and extremely hoppy too. I went back for another which is odd for me on a beer pilgrimage, but it was just that good.

At the other end was the Mikkeller and Three Floyds collaboration, “BooGoop” barley wine. A rich and resinous sipper, full flavoured with bags of syrupy citrus fruits, a warming mouthfeel and dry bitter hop finish to boot.

One of those beers that you could just sit swirling around the mouth allowing the taste buds to pick out more and more flavours, if only I had the time..

As you can see though, I liked it, I liked it long time.

Reminiscing over though and back to the question, why was my shopping list dominated largely by beers served via keg lines, was it simply lack of choice? No, too much on offer for that surely??

I think the answer though, does lie in the above question albeit in reverse. The type of beer I chose is the sort of beer that I actively seek out in bottled form, rarities, stronger imports, big fat juicy American IPA’s and the like. Seeing them being served fresh on the bars is just too much of a draw for me, I get that Willie Wonka kid in a sweet shop grin on my chops and am sucked into the pure indulgence of it all.

Conversely, after only a couple of days though, I have to confess to finding myself soon longing for a normal pint, a quaffer, something equally tasty and refreshing to sup and sup again without fear of being pickled in my own alcoholic juices. This I found in a pint of Summer Wine Breweries Rouge Hop at the Euston Tap, the place where all London beer tours should start and end, it was my last taste of London and was beautiful..

So what is the point I’m so long windedly trying to make I hear you groan?

It’s this, I want more keg, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it many times again, not just imported keg but good, solid British keg of all strengths and styles too to sit in harmony with it’s foreign bedfellows. I don’t want it to replace real ale dispensed from the cask, I want it to exist everywhere in harmony, giving punters across the UK a real choice of what they want to drink and how it is served to them at that moment when stood in front of the polished bar top.

I drowned in keg in London because I never see it locally or anywhere else for that matter, unless I travel to other cities specifically to get it.

When I get there I enjoy it immensely, but must miss countless other lovely local beers in the process as I’m panic buying it like stamps, petrol or bread on New Years Eve, knowing that once I leave there’s no more to be had back home…

What makes a great beer city?

Following on from my post about the lack of availability of British keg beers other than the normal run of the mill bar toppers. Quite a few folks mentioned that they wouldn’t like to see the decline of cask ales in favour of keg. That is exactly how I feel, I don’t want to see one replacing the other, on the contrary they compliment each other, it’s great to see how one stacks up against the other and can be a welcome distraction when all across the bar is boring, bland or even too warm for the weather.

Take Magic Rock High Wire as an example. I was lucky enough to be at one of the first launch events last year, High Wire was there on cask and was an absolute stunner. However the next time I got to taste it other than in bottled form was at the meet the brewer event at Port Street Beer House, on keg, the environment was warm and humid the beer lightly chilled with that extra kick of carbonation and it just sang. I said then that I’d like to see that on bars across the country as a real alternative to mainstream continental beers.

It extends further than keg though as even the rising brewing stars of cask seem to be largely passing us by here in the Potteries. Take Buxton Brewery as a classic example, widely regarded as one of the UK’s most exciting newish breweries, SIBA award winners and only 20 miles away. To date Stoke beer festival aside I’ve seen their beer here once and heard about it again in the singular, why?

Take a look at the Tweet below from serial beer traveller @6TownsMart, he’s talking to @kempicus, head brewer from Buxton Brewery:

It’s bonkers, Axe Edge one of if not the best beer from Buxton gracing the walls of one of London’s finest beer pubs as their beer of the year, yet I’ve never seen it personally in Staffordshire (although rumour has it that it once graced the pumps of The Congress, CAMRA Staffs pub of the year 2011).

I mentioned in my last post “forward thinking beer centric cities”, what I meant by that was a city or town that really seems to embrace new and exciting beer. Places like Craft, Mr Foleys, Port Street and The Grove exist and brewers are queuing up to showcase their new beer launches there.

Stoke does not seem to want to fall into that category and in my opinion we are as far from it as supping space beer in capsulated form at the far side of Cygnus X1.

It seems though we are not alone, even in the UK’s much debated second city things are seemingly similar as detailed in this post from Otherton Ales, “Where is the Birmingham Tap“. I’d sort of decided not to post this until I read about the similar plight in Brum. What is most annoying about that, is we are a city of beer drinkers, we have some great breweries and fantastic pubs in and around the Stoke area, with Buxton, Macclesfield, Burton, Shropshire, Stone, Cheshire etc all no more than about 30 miles away.

So I ask again why, is it the publicans, the breweries or the general supply chain, there are a few exceptions to the rule who manage to get the odd gem, so clearly it is possible?

Surely it’s not because the drinkers of Stoke are not interested in trying anything new, perhaps the local CAMRA guys can shed some light on that?

Why does one area thrive, whilst another seems happy to plod along ordering what they have always ordered because it sells, how long can that last??

I look at places like Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle Upon Tyne and am at times green with envy, meet the brewer events, home brew and bottle share meets and Leeds even bagged the European Beer Bloggers conference.. I can hear the crescendo of local voices saying “sod bloody off and live there then“, (don’t be like that). Yes it’s a whinge but I only want those things here because I’ve experienced them first hand and believe me, they are good.

The Saggar Maker Public House, Burslem by Steven Birks

Sadly, locally in the Mother Town we have seen the sad demise of many good pubs in recent years (although I hasten to add we still have some excellent ones) many have closed their doors forever and we now have perhaps only a handful of places where you are guaranteed a decent pint of cask beer in pleasant surroundings.

Sadder still is the fact that by far the busiest pub in town is The Saggar Makers, owned by the Last Orders chain and there’s not a pint of real ale to be seen.

Is that how you want your local drinking town to turn out?

I know I certainly don’t and I’ll be doing everything I possibly can to highlight anything and everything new and exciting to my local publicans. After all I want them to thrive, to grow and maybe be the catalyst to drive more folks away from supermarkets and back into the pubs of The Potteries and a city near you.

The next charity fundraising idea..discuss?

Fresh from his success in the Charity Pub Crawl, Lee the manager of The Greyhound is already well ahead with plans for the next adventure…

23 MILFS, 5 Pubs, 1 Day, sounds better than the last one 😉

The just giving page is still open and will be for a while so please spare a few Pounds, Dollars, Shekels, Euros etc if you can. Details below:

Just Giving page has been set up for the walk. It can be accessed online at  http://www.justgiving.com/titanicgreyhound.  Alternatively, donations can be made in person at the Greyhound or by phone – text GHTB67 followed by £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10 (eg. GHTB67 £3) to 70070.

Cheers 😉

Back to back Belgians

I come to thinking the other day that I’d become distracted from my Belgian Beer Challenge. Not that I’ve gone short or been abstaining from a drop of the beery stuff, far from it in fact with some fabulous American and Danish beers in London, also a fine array from Kernel and Bristol Beer Factory amongst various others.

All have been great beers but I need to keep on top of the task and decided it was time to start exploring some of the goodies I sourced on the recent trip to Bruges.

The first beer of the night and beer challenge number 55 was Taras Boulba at 4.5%. Which is described as being an “Extra Hoppy Ale” brewed by Brasserie De La Senne. The brewery website also list this as being a blonde but the appearance in my glass at least made it look more like a wheat beer.

Mine poured a murky cloudy yellow with visible sediment freely floating around the glass. As I’d not had one before I can’t be sure whether that was just poor delivery by myself (I thought I’d poured it carefully) or whether that’s just the way it is, either way the appearance did not seem to affect it’s taste.

There’s not a great deal going on aroma wise here, maybe a little yeast and perhaps biscuit. Taste too at first was a little disappointing with it’s “Extra Hoppy” billing certainly sounding a little over optimistic in the current climate of uber hopped beer. Nevertheless it was still a very tasty refreshing brew, with more digestive biscuit and lemony citrus coming across nicely. The finish is very dry and bitter, maybe those extra hops are creeping in after all. It’s a good beer, I can imagine me drinking this on warmer days especially, just watch how you pour it..

For the more inquisitive amongst you who are wondering where the name Taras Boulba comes from or what it means, there is a description from the brewery that features on the Shenton Brothers webpage.

Next up was Bink Blonde from the Kerkom Brewery at 5.5% and beer number 56.

This one is definitely more like a blonde in appearance pouring a slightly hazy but bright yellow, complimented by a thick foamy white head with lovely citrus peel aromas.

Taste is quite full in the mouth, soft mellow malts with lemon, candied dried fruits and peel. The finish is dry and hoppy again but really smooth and without any hint of harshness in the throat.

Another great beer and worth putting on your “to Try” list.

The final beer for tasting tonight took me back to the beers of Brasserie De La Senne with their oddly named (see Shenton link again) Zinnebir, this took the challenge beers to a healthy 57 since Christmas. It’s another blonde ale coming in at 5.5%.

This one pours quite a deep shade of hazy orange topped off again with a thick white foam. It has quite a malty nose with hints of orange peel.

The taste is quite rich for a blonde beer, soft toffee with Seville orange marmalade mingling in the background. It has a real full on juicy mouthfeel that punches generously well above it’s weight.

Zinnebir is a delicious fruity ale and was most definitely the pick of the bunch on the night.

So there we have it, 57 beers done since Christmas is not bad going. I’ve got several more to go at so need to plan ahead, after all its my 60th soon…

P.S You may have noticed that I’ve made a few changes to the blog pages appearance, what do you think, easier on the eye, easy to navigate or better how it was??

https://twitter.com/#!/tdtm82/status/78556514071228417

https://twitter.com/#!/tdtm82/status/78562352286543872

https://twitter.com/#!/tdtm82/status/78566686428643328

https://twitter.com/#!/tdtm82/status/78568913822154752

https://twitter.com/#!/tdtm82/status/78570671764029440

It just has to be CASK

Earlier this week I managed to finally get down to that there London with Mrs H, one to attend a gig by the fabulous Fleet Foxes at the Hammersmith Apollo and two, to have a bit of a mad dash around some of the capitals buzzing craft beer scene’s finest.

We managed to get around only a few in the end, these were The Rake, The Market Porter, Euston Tap and Cask Pub & Kitchen.

Time was tight and we only had time for one or two drinks in each establishment and in truth I’d recommend every single one, but in particular one stood out for me on the day, this was CASK Pub and Kitchen in Pimlico.

From the outside CASK has the most unassuming look about it. The smallish entrance is situated at the base of a block of flats or apartments and gives almost nothing away with it’s subtle branding as to the delights that await you within. Inside the room opens out to a bright airy space, a large wooden floored seating area is home to a sea of simple dining tables and chairs, set in wooden panelled walls painted in pastel shades.

The bar sits at the back of the room and is where the real action is, it’s a beer drinkers paradise selling beers from all around the world. There are a selection of around 10 cask beers available at any one time, with a similar array of keg on the bar, this supplemented by the huge variety of bottled beers that are yours to drink in or take away. I could quite happily sit there all day and slowly make my way through the karaoke song sheet style beer menu, with the guidance of the helpful and well informed bar staff.

As for the kitchen part, I didn’t get a chance to sample any of the food, but what we saw being served looked good wholesome grub, the chunky chips in particular…

© Copyright PAUL FARMER and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

CASK also hold regular meet the brewer events, there were around six on their notice board when we visited, keep checking the website for details of upcoming events. They are located at 6 Charlwood Street, Pimlico, SW1V 2EE, closest underground station is Pimlico. Please take the time to pay them a visit I promise you won’t regret it..

I’d like to give a special heads up and thanks to 6TownsMart for his great blogpost on all of these pubs and more, we printed off his notes and used them as a handy guide of where to visit.

Check out his post here on the Pubs In Potteries website

Finally a mention to our starting and finishing venue Euston Tap, located at 190 Euston Road NW1 2EF (right outside Euston Station). They have a great beer selection to drink or take away, I did both of course and came away with a rather impressive looking Italian beer Baladin Elixir.
Euston Tap is another truly superb craft beer lovers bar, what I’d give for either of these to be my local…