Drinking Dens: The Craft Beer Company
What can I say about The Craft Beer Company that hasn’t already been said? Within four months of opening, RateBeer had them down as the 4th best beer bar in the world. When RateBeer published their Best Beer Bar list for 2011, Craft Beer Company and their sister pub Cask Pub & Kitchen were the only two UK bars on the list. Craft (as it’s known) has 37 beers on handpump and tap, plus a phone book-size menu of bottled beers (all available for takeaway), so it’s by far the best selection I’ve ever seen, anywhere (better even than Cask).
Other beer bars post lists of what beers they currently have on tap on Facebook and/or Twitter. Not so The Craft Beer Company, which can be frustrating at times – but the truth is, the beer lineup changes so often that it would probably take a full-time member of staff to update it (though if something extra-super-special comes along, bar manager Tom usually makes a note of it on his Twitter feed – as was the case with the cask-aged Thornbridge Bracia a couple of weeks ago, for example). You can go there by lunchtime and then come back in the evening, and between one-fourth and one-third of the beers might have changed – I’m not kidding. It’s all about variety here. The hand-pumps are reserved for cask ales from British craft brewers, and the taps mostly hold imports. Even though they change frequently, I have over the past couple of months noticed that there are a couple of favourites: you can usually find at least three Mikkellers, and New York-based brewer Southern Tier is also a common sight (if their Imperial cream stout Créme Brulée is on, that is in itself reason enough to head down to Craft). There’s also usually an offering from German brewer Rothaus (their Oktoberfest Märzen is incredibly smooth).
Staff is attentive, knowledgeable and friendly. You rarely have to wait long at the bar, even on Friday and Saturday nights when it gets very busy. They all know their stuff and are happy to give advice or provide further information about any of the beers/brewers on at the moment. If it’s not too busy they are also likely share information about their own favourites among what’s on, so if you’re overwhelmed by the selection you could do much worse than simply telling staff your general preferences and they’ll make a selection for you.
One major drawback compared to Cask Pub & Kitchen is that Craft does not have a kitchen. The pork pies they provide as bar snacks are excellent, but it has happened more than once that I’ve wished for something more substantial to go with my IPA/Stout/Belgian Quad. But this is a temple to beer and beer alone, and besides, who needs dinner anyway? Just have another stout and enjoy being at one of the best beer bars in the world. And the best thing of all? It’s my local 😉