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Craft Beer Company Anniversary Party Report

I did it again: I drank too much beer. But what could I do? It was the Craft Beer Company 1st Anniversary Weekend on June 30 – July 1. I go there so often it feels like the place has been around forever rather than for just one year – they’re already a London institution and a world beer lover destination. And as expected the lineup of beers was something special: a lot of it must have come from Copenhagen Beer Celebration as many rare beers from there made a repeat performance in London. Not that I mind one bit as I got to try a lot of the stuff I missed at CBC, as well as have more of beers I was convinced I would never have the chance to try again. And the evening ended with not one but two proper whales… Here are my unsystematic observations, sorted by brewery this time:

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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).

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Review: Thornbridge Pollard

My final brew while at the Meet the Brewer event at Craft earlier this week was Thornbridge‘s Pollard, their Coffee Milk Stout (at ABV 5.0). So far I’ve loved everything I’ve tried from Thornbridge, though it’s a relatively small selection – those Darbyshire beers are hard to get down south (except, of course, for their excellent Jaipur and Kipling offerings, available at a Waitrose near you)!

Pollard is one of those beers that does exactly what it says on the tin (bottle? cask?): the roast coffee and milky caramel are right there on the nose, and then stays on. This is very much like drinking a cold, sweet and slightly watery latte. There’s that lactose sweetness, a creamy undertow and subtly bitter and strong roast coffee notes. It is particularly impressive that Thornbridge manages to pack so many distinct, strong flavours considering the relatively low ABV (remember the days when 5.0 was considered a high ABV?) – I think Pollard stands up well to similar offerings in the Imperial range, like Southern Tier‘s excellent Creme BrulĂ©e Stout or the Jah*va.

My one gripe is perhaps that it doesn’t exactly do any more than it says on the tin – it is, in a way, a novelty beer, one you can have a pint of (or half, in my case) and enjoy but hardly something you’d want to drink again and again as it is ultimately one-dimensional. Still, that one dimension is pretty well crafted and this is an enjoyable beer, no doubt about it.

The verdict: 3/5.

Review: Mikkeller Red/White Christmas

While at The Craft Beer Company for the Meet the Brewer event the other day I also managed to sample some non-Camden Town beers. Craft is, literally, like a candy store for adults and I have zero willpower when it comes to temptation on tap. So, since there was a Mikkeller on tap that looked interesting…

Red/White Christmas is a blended beer: an Imperial Belgian Red Ale (is it just me or are beer style names sounding more and more like a Starbucks order? I’ll have an Imperial Mocha Skinny Stout, please) and a Belgian White Ale. There’s been a couple of beer blends coming from Mikkeller and his Danish colleagues/relatives recently – the last one I tried was the Yin & Yang Black & Tan (ABV 12.0) from Evil Twin, a blend of the Yin Imperial Stout and Yang Imperial IPA. That was, well, extreme, and while it was nice enough it bore little resemblance to the subtle refreshing blend of flavours that is a classic, normal-ABV Black & Tan.

Red/White Christmas is still an extreme beer (it weighs in at ABV 8.0) but I am happy to report that it is a lot more crowd-pleasing than its cousin. It pours very nicely, a light red, orange-but-not-quite-amber colour with some fizz but little head. The nose is a lot of Belgian caramel sweetness and a bit of yeast. The nose, however, did not at all prepare me for the very wine-like taste explosion that followed, with flavours ranging from fresh grape juice to oaky brandy. It has more than a little in common with that Mikkeller brett monster, Nelson Sauvignon (one of my all-time favourites) but as I said veers more toward brandy than wine, though the wine notes are there in the background. Plus, the Red/White Christmas also has a bit of a fruity hop kick at the end which reminds you that it is actually a beer.

The verdict: 4+/5.

Meet the Brewer: Camden Town Brewery

What better way to inaugurate this new London Beer blog than by reporting on an event at one of London’s premier beer bars featuring one of London’s most talked-about microbreweries? Camden Town Brewery has been around for just over one year (counting from the official opening in September of last year) and has quickly become successful – their beers are now available at some 60-70 pubs around the country, most of them in London (Exmouth Arms in Exmouth Market to name but one example – and remember, folks, it’s the street that’s named for the pub and not the other way around!). Alongside permanent brews Hells Lager, Pale Ale and Wheat, Camden Town also produces seasonal and limited-run beers – two of which were launched at yesterday’s event at The Craft Beer Company. They were Gentleman’s Wit, a witbier at ABV 4.3 spiced with bergamot (you know, the stuff that makes Earl Grey taste like Earl Grey) and lemon, and Bleeding Hops IPA, a darker IPA which at ABV 6.4 I guess could be classified as a Double IPA.

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