Archive for May, 2011

May 28, 2011

Beer Without Boundaries?

The votes are counted and the Pub Diaries Returning Officer (me) can reveal how polling panned out on the North of the River v. South of the River v. Beer Without Boundaries question.
Tied with 5 votes a piece (yes, voter turnout mirrored actual electoral apathy) were North of the River and South of the River. Beer Without Boundaries, the middle of the road compromise pulled in just short of 3 way split of the votes with 4 votes. So those results in full:
North of the River 35.71%
South of the River 35.71%
Beer Without Boundaries 28.57%
What does this result tell us? Debatably not much with about 75% of people abstaining to cast a vote (perhaps polls are not for Punks). Jeff at the Gunmakers did point out that it’s a flawed split with most of Central London being on the North side of the river. I agree, but splitting along grid references doesn’t have the same ring to it, unless I was to redraw the boundary and reframe this as an East v. West debate, but to be honest, as much as i’d like to paint a picture of a Beer Cold War, I think the comrades in the East would have it hands down. What it does perhaps show is that in the Capital, being Central doesn’t necessarily equate to having the greatest pubs. Lots of pubs yes. Lots of pubs like the Southampton Arms (as billed as LamBert Hymnal’s sanctuary) probably not. So plucky old South London was able to hold its own against the North.
Will this unresolved question be keeping me up at night? Probably not. I’m in the Beer Without Boundaries camp. And that doesn’t just go for which side of the river is best to drink. It goes for which side of the Watford Gap, which side of the Pennines, which side of the Atlantic. Good beer is good beer and a good pub is a good pub, no matter where it is and where it’s from.
May 27, 2011

The Charles Lamb: Bank Holiday, London Beer Festival

It seems to be a recurring theme. Great pub does beer festival, I have unbreakable plans. This time it’s The Charles Lamb in Islington, an old favourite between Upper Street and the Regents Canal.  It retains a local feel with friendly bar staff , good beer and great food.

This weekend sees their London Beer Festival kick off on Friday and in their own words meander through the weekend. This strikes a chord with me as i’ve always liked a meander. Many a time I’d find myself heading to Islington along Regents Canal and some how end up in The Charles Lamb, happily spending a few hours before continuing my meander. Plenty of meaty beer snacks are promised as well as the usual blackboard menu, so no worries of going hungry. The beer on offer is London at it’s best with Redemption, Camden Town, Windsor & Eton, Brodies, Meantime, Kernel and Fullers. Highlights include:

Redemption: Pale Ale, Trinity, Hopspur, Urban Dusk

Brodies: Hackney Red, Citra, California, Amarilla, 7 Hop IPA, Elia’s Muse (Charles Lamb collaboration)

Windsor and Eton: Knight of the Garter, Conquerer

Camden Town: Inner City Green, Caravan Porter, Hells, Pale Ale

Fullers: 1845, Honeydew

Meantime: London Stout, Famous Belgian

Kernel: Centenial Pale Ale, Imperial Marzen, Coffee IPA, Black IPA, Chinook Pale Ale,

So while i’m under canvas, firing up the trangia (and hopefully not the tent) spare a thought and raise a pint of Elia’s Muse for me.

The Charles Lamb, 16 Elia Street, Islington, N1 8DE

May 25, 2011

The Regent, 21 Chestnut Grove, Balham, SW12

When is a mixed grill not a mixed grill? I know for the more philosophically minded of you it’s not trees falling in forests but i’m not feeling much like Alain de Botton today. Besides I’m sure Alain would be interested in the answer. Which is. When it’s a Smorgasbord.

A recent lunch at The Regent in Balham is the cause of my chin scratching. I was lured to Balham by the promise of a mixed grill but on arrival the menu has no mention of said Mixed Grill. A few more passes and Lee points out the Smorgasbord with rib eye steak, Toulouse sausage, stuffed chicken and Sautéed new potatoes with red onion. A few dressed salad leaves with Parmesan top off the dish.

Now maybe I’m just being unduly picky but sticking assorted meat on a plank doesn’t necessarily make it a smorgasbord. It’s erm… A mixed grill on a plank. And while I’m on the undue pickiness salad as much as I love it has no place on a mixed grill, mixed grill on a plank or a meaty smorgasbord. It’s surplus to requirements.

Ok, now that’s out of my system i will say it was well worth the trip. Formerly the Balham Tup it’s had a bit of a face lift but the basic elements are still there with the big screens, the front bar now being more a dining room. It’s an improvement on the old Tup but slightly let down by a lack of choice at the bar for the Ale drinker with the only choices being Doom Bar and London Pride. Perhaps this will change with time. I will return, to sit and stew over other burning matters of pub philosophy.

The Regent, 21 Chestnut Grove, Balham, SW12 8JE

May 23, 2011

North v. South: You Decide!

Having recently written a Crafty Pint feature  on the London beer scene, it brought me back to previous posts hailing SE1, and indeed the South, as the place for all things beer. I’m now left pondering whether  North of the River is actually out in front. It’s keeping me up at nights and no end of counting sheep seems to help.

While the Dean Swift, Rake, Draft House et al are as ever excellent, recent visits to Katzenjammers were dismal. I won’t waste too much time on this, but table service should have an element of well service in it and eye contact in some form shows that you’re still awake. I may have to get my fix of proper Pretzel and Paulaner elsewhere from now on. Any suggestions on the proper Pretzel front appreciated. Now it’s not really that the South on declining. It’s just that the case for the North seems to be getting stronger.

In addition to all the usual suspects of the Euston Tap, Mason & Taylor, Jolly Butchers and Cask I seemed to have blanked EC1 out of my mind. Strange as it’s a place I lived, worked and drunk in throughout my formative London years. It counts amongst it’s great pubs, The Gunmakers with an always excellent beer selection and menu, The Peasant, Jerusalem Tavern, Three Kings, of course the Ye Olde Mitre. The Castle (just inside EC4) tucked away on Furnival Street has consistently good Ale on offer and recently the odd keg of Anchor. This would all be compelling enough in itself. The killer blow has to be the soon to open Craft Beer Co. on Leather Lane. Although sad to see the Clockhouse, a decent enough market pub, close its doors, the fact it will be reopened by the team behind Cask is enough to raise a cheer.

Now can you see my dilemna? In the interests of me getting some sleep I throw it open to you. North of the River v. South of the River… vote, discuss, let me get some sleep!

May 21, 2011

Q&A with Beer Diva, Kirrily Waldhorn

As Melbourne’s Good Beer Week wraps up we catch up with Australian Beer Diva, Kirrily Waldhorn.

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What’s most likely to be heard at your events?

I love tearing down the walls of misconception surrounding beer at my events, explaining how much more flavour will be enjoyed when beer is drunk from a glass, how to pour a beer correctly and why it is important… it’s flavour again of course; beer is not as fattening as everyone expects it to be and drinking from a glass will ensure beer is less bloating etc. Typically, the most common phrase I hear is, “wow, I didn’t know that about beer!”

Favourite place to enjoy a beer – locally, further afield?

With friends who I love to watch paw through my beer fridge with quizzical looks on their faces, which soon changes to delight once they experience a new flavour in a beer. That, or at one of the few great beer bars who actually pay attention to their beer drinkers and provide a diverse range of beer styles and flavours! I did spend some time in Belgium when I was younger, but this is definitely somewhere I would love to go back to… I have a very soft spot for Belgian Ales and their beer culture is wonderfully refined.

If you weren’t presenting, writing about beer etc?

That’s a tough one, maybe I would jump to the other side of the fence and start brewing, though I’m not sure I have the patience… I like instant gratification! My background is marketing so perhaps I would be working in that field, I just can’t imagine working on a product I would enjoy as much as beer though!

What’s your definition of a perfect pub?

The perfect pub first and foremost creates an environment which makes everyone feel welcome when they walk through their door. Then of course, the pub needs to offer a good, diverse selection of craft beers, catering to a range of tastes amongst their punters. They would offer beer in a range of glass sizes and shapes and the staff would know what they are selling. Great food is a must and even better is if the pub has made the effort to provide some insight towards which beers would work with each of the dishes on the menu. I’m not really asking for that much am I?

What’s your idea of Beer / Pub hell?

Beer hell is beer which hasn’t been looked after well, is old, is served freezing cold in a chilled glass!

Pub hell is a dark, dingy, smelly, dirty venue which doesn’t believe it needs to make an effort to retain its loyal customers or attract new customers. Everyday pub hell for me is a pub that offers 6 lagers, all tasting pretty much the same just with different badges. It is incredibly frustrating when most pubs make the effort to create a wine, spirit and cocktail list, but don’t do it for beer…

What was the last thing you got excited about – beer or otherwise?

I have been asked to MC the awards dinner for the Australian International Beer Awards, held in Melbourne in May this year… 600 of our greatest brewers, trade and media will be there and I can’t wait for the big night! To me it’s the Oscars of beer in Australia… though this notion is not necessarily the view of my friends!! It is an amazing honour though and cements the idea that beer really is for everyone!
Whats happening? Future projects, etc

Lots of great beery infused projects on the boil! I’ll be travelling around Australia a bit over the next few months, Perth for USA Craft Beer Week at Monk Restaurant, Melbourne for Awards and Good Beer Week, a couple of events planned in SA and then maybe a trip to Germany later in the year! The show we put on at The Sydney Opera House is gaining traction and it looks like we may be putting this on with a number of venues this year and to top it all off, I will be launching a new online beer site very soon!!

May 20, 2011

“Beer people are good people”

Beer people are good people, is I think how the saying goes…

I recently wrote a feature for Crafty Pint in Melbourne, for which this a thinly veiled and shameless plug. Intended as a snapshot of the London beer scene it was a first for me in both writing for someone other than myself and also putting myself out there a little more than Twitter. Dipping my toe in the beer so to speak, which i’m sure would be illegal in most pubs. The enthusiasm of those I contacted to comment on all things pub and beer is testament to the fact that beer people are indeed good people.

For those mentioned in the feature I thank you and for those who aren’t I’m sorry I couldn’t get your comment in – Glyn, I could have written a feature from yours alone (now there’s an idea!). It all helped shape the finished piece.

Anyway before this gets too much like an Oscar acceptance love in I’ll play out on the Crafty featured Beer Song by Elbow Skin… it’s a Conchordesque Classic!

May 13, 2011

Beer Confessional

Forgive me father for I have sinned. It’s been sometime since my last confession.

Father, I’ve neglected my blog. Not for a lack of anything to write about. I have travelled far and wide in the hunt for Pub related material. Walking Coast to Coast, enduring the best and worst of pubs along the way. I travelled to Islay, battled driving winds and drank Single Malt at 10am. The hardships I have endured. Putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard has proved difficult. I will rectify this but it isn’t the only sin for which I confess.

I can hardly bring myself to say this…. I’ll start from the beginning. The other night I arranged to meet the Captain and Cockles for a few pre-gig drinks. Twin Shadow playing a sold out Scala. Despite the Lexington being just up the road and a superior pre-gig watering hole the temptation of the Euston Tap and their erratic shuffling playlist was just too strong. In fact so strong that after the Camden Inner City Green, Saltaire Cascadian Black and Darkstar Over the Moon  I could have forgotten the gig completely and attempted to drink both chalkboards. But this isn’t the only sin for which I confess.

Father, I drank Red Stripe. From a can. I know it’s wrong, especially bearing in mind the visit to the Tap but it’s the paradox of gig going that you can have a great gig and venue but the bar is stocked with cans of Red Stripe and if particularly unlucky, Carling. Surely it should be they who confess! Perhaps on the other side of the Pearly Gates there is venue that has it all. Well stocked bar, well priced; a venue where people respect the support act, where they don’t talk about their loft conversion mid set. Perhaps this place doesn’t exist in heaven or on earth. The Luminaire came close but it’s closed. But I digress Father and this isn’t the only sin for which I confess.

Father, I allowed myself to be seduced by something sweet and Swedish. Kopparberg. Pear Cider. It’s like childhood Pear Drops and adolescent Cider drinking rolled into a plastic bottle. I really should not like it. But I do. But this isn’t the only sin for which I confess.

Father, I don’t seem to know when to call it a night. I allowed myself to enter Water Rats, a pub that never ceases to disappoint in the service stakes, when I really should have called it a night.  But, yes you guessed it, this isn’t the only sin I confess.

Father, i allowed myself to enter a House of Kebab which is very unlike your house. Grease stained walls and the ever present threat of drunken assault and e.coli aren’t enough to put me off steaming shavings of something loosely termed as meat, topped with a chilli sauce which could have come from the pits of hell.

Father, these are my confessions…

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