Archive for April, 2012

April 30, 2012

South East Rundown: Simon the Tanner, The Paxton, The Great Exhibition

In line with the edict passed down by English the other week I’m going to talk about pubs. Not just one pub but three; so apologies in advance if this comes across like Beer in the Evening. All in South East London and well worth a visit I’d be interested to hear your take on these and others – you know where to comment.

To start, an afterwork drink with English at Simon the Tanner in Borough. It’s a solid little pub which I’ve been meaning to visit since it reopened last year, but well, I’ve just been too lazy. It’s not going to drive the beer geeks wild but has a good selection on our visit (Windsor & Eton Treetops, Harviestoun Schiehallion, Black Isle Porter and Brooklyn Lager on the bar), music and a mixed crowd (I did warn you this could go a bit BITE). As an after work stop it ticks all the boxes and offers a change from the Rake which of late hasn’t been as much a draw.

Next up, The Paxton in Gipsy Hill, which isn’t exactly my local but it’s close enough when on this occasion the Rosendale (my actual local) had become a Monday evening crèche. Previously the Mansion, it’s had a Capital Pub Company makeover and has all their hallmarks in terms of good design and I’m happy to say a great burger. I’m sure that someone is itching to point out that The Paxton (as with others in the Capital Pub Co family) isn’t unknown to pram jams but at 7pm on a Monday night I just want a pint without watching junior being spoonfed. It maybe unrealistic but I can dream I suppose – either that or move.

Last in this quick rundown is the Great Exhibition in East Dulwich. Another refurb, having previously been the Crystal Palace Tavern, it has retained much of its character while opening up the two bars into one. There’s plenty of choice on the bar with Laine’s and Dark Star my favoured of this Sunday afternoon stop. There seems to be a lot going on in the way of a Gin Yard, good looking menu, weekend markets and other events, which with the opening of the new Draft House on Lordship Lane seems like a smart move to compete in this strong local market.

Simon The Tanner, 231 Long Lane, SE1 4PR

The Paxton, 255 Gipsy Road, Gipsy Hill, SE27 9QY

The Great Exhibition, 193 Crystal Palace Road, East Dulwich, SE22 9EP

April 29, 2012

The Occidental Barfly

A packet of cigarettes is pushed down the bar. “I do hate to see someone not smoking… it’s most disturbing to me”. The voice is a mid Atlantic muddle. An old ham doing a Victorian gentlemen. Nursing a single malt, his smoking paraphernalia neatly laid out in front of him I meet the Occidental Barfly. With his neatly trimmed moustache and horn rimmed glasses he’s a different class of Barfly to previous encounters but all the same a Barfly.

The offer of a smoke an opening to those bizarre conversations that only happen sat on a high stool. I decline, which draws a raised brow. Pre-empting the question of why a non smoker would be sat in a San Franciscan cigar bar I gesture to the empty stool beside me. I explain that my friend is the connoisseur. Yes, I actually use the word connoisseur. It just seems to fit and he nods accordingly. As the Connoisseur returns from the washroom, he shoots me the look. The look that says, it’s wrong to talk to strangers. He takes a seat and I know within seconds that he’s taken his measure and we’ve come to the same conclusion.

Having nothing but legs of Whisky streaking our glasses it’s the make or break point of the evening. In another mood it would be time to call it a night and leave the Barfly to clean his pipe. The mood is a drinking one and its two more generous Lagavulin’s as the Connoisseur lights his hourglass. While it slowly burns, there is no doubt that the Barfly will talk. It soon becomes clear that this will be a mainly one way conversation. The Ham has his audience and he his ready for the evening performance.

Conversation starts with the pleasantries. The Connoisseur, a Tasmanian, he is sure is from London whereas I, a Yorkshireman (with years in London), he is not too sure about. He informs us that he will need to listen to more of my “brogue” to be absolutely sure.

In between his monologues he pauses, brushes an unseen fleck from his pipe, cleans it further. Seizing on the break, the Connoisseur nods towards the pipe and asks “That a good one? You seem to keep it well”.

As if whispered from the pit, he’s found his line and we’re off. Holding it in front of him, as if evaluating it himself “This. Is what we call… a Good Smoker”, it’s my turn to shoot the look at the Connoisseur, as we embark on a lecture of that when recalled the next day will take in the main players in the pipe Market, Dutch computing manuals, the fact that he would only trust the Chinese with his money and see him deliver the killer line “Dude you’ve been smoking Dutch Cavendish in it”.

As the Connoisseur’s Hourglass burns to it’s end we drain the last drops of Whisky and head out. The Occidental Barfly turns back to face the bar orders a drink with a point and goes back to rubbing the imaginary fleck.

April 28, 2012

Q&A: Rich Norgate, Graphic Designer

The Q&A returns to a look at the creatives of the beer world as we hear from Rich Norgate. He brought us some of the best branding of the last few years, with his work for hometown brewery Magic Rock.

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Blurb…

Graphic Desinger part mountain bike guide from the North of England.

Design ethos…

Considered and colourful.

First beer experience…

Me and a good friend used to make home brew because we looked too young to get served in pubs. I can honestly say it was horrible but we weren’t really interested in the taste. All I can say is it served a vital purpose in growing up.

Best beer find of the last year…

Has to be Black IPA’s, if you’ve not tried one I urge you to order one next time your at the bar.

Does alcohol have any place in the creative process…

Maybe when coming up with a new name for a beer. The office at Magic Rock is always good for this.

What sounds are to be heard in the studio…

Youth Lagoon, The War On Drugs, Chris Clark & Panda Bear to name a few.

If I wasn’t a designer I’d be…

Possibly a professional downhill mountain biker (in my dreams!).

Before I was designing I was…

Trying to succeed in the academic world, I managed to get my GCSE’s.

Favourite thing about what I do…

The fun you have, it’s rare I moan about going to work. This is hugely important.

Pub heaven…

Good friends, good beer and the odd pork pie thrown in for good measure.

Pub hell…

Just Carling on tap

Favourite local pub…

The Grove in Huddersfield

What makes for a great beer logo, packaging, pumpclip…

Something that engages the customer and makes them pick your beer because of how the label looks. You choose with your eyes first.

Branding I admire…

I have always been a fan of Odell’s beer packing, the imagination they capture in their labels are fantastic. In terms of other branding it doesn’t get much better than the Fedex logo, just have a look and see if you can spot the arrow.

What’s on the horizon…

This summer I will be climbing Mont Blanc, whilst on the creative side I’m working on a re-brand for Great Heck and The Element hair salon in Leeds. I’ve also just landed a full-time job and as ever I will always be working on my ‘the Magic’.

April 26, 2012

Powder Keg Diplomacy, 147 St Johns Hill, Battersea,SW11 1TQ

Faux Victorian vibe with a subversive edge has the makings in my mind of an epic pub failure. I am not generally one for themes or gimmicks, as I find they often fall short of their intention or have limited shelf life. Looking at the website for Powderkeg Diplomacy in Battersea I was already half way to a judgement but my interest had been grabbed by their beer list and positively beer soaked Tweeting.

The all important first impression is being greeted by a barman in a top hat, the furry fella below and his mate, a boozy Racoon. I don’t think there’s many places that can top that?

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The beer selection which originally hooked me in doesn’t disappoint with Bristol Beer Factory and Rooster on the bar and a great bottled selection.

Our first visit is fleeting, with reservations at Bens Canteen across the road but I’m sold in this short 15 minutes. We head back after lunch to a busier Sunday afternoon crowd. We are seated by a waitress and given the beer list. It’s well stocked and thoughtfully divided, the Trade Winds selection including Mountain Goat and Bear Republic being my tip.

Anywhere that I can get a fix of Bear Republic and boozy Racoons is OK in my book and proves that I should abandon my preconceptions when the beer is calling.

Powder Keg Diplomacy, 147 St Johns Hill, Battersea, SW11 1TQ

April 22, 2012

Crown & Anchor, 246 Brixton Road, SW9 6AQ

I was the subject of an intervention recently. English sat me down, placed a pint in front of me and laid the bare facts out. There’s been too much frippery of late. Too much fluff, or to be more accurate: Popcorn. In pretty cups. I was taken to task on the lack of pubs talked about here and in particular the lack of London pubs. It seems English doesn’t care to know what’s happening in Perth.

Now I could have said it wasn’t a problem. I could have got angry. I could even have told him to write his own blog; which he’s talked of writing, has a half decent name for, but to date hasn’t put finger to keyboard on (hands up who wants English to write his own blog?). I didn’t do any of it. Instead I took it on board, gave it some thought and went to the pub – in fact I went to 10.

Where better to start than just round the corner from the intervention and the newly reopened Crown & Anchor.

Copyright: Urban75

Brixton and Stockwell have long needed an injection of craft beer. They have boozers of note but none that has ever delivered as a destination solely for the beer. From the owners of the Jolly Butchers comes the answer with the refurbished Crown & Anchor.

I’m often accused of a dourness bordering on being sullen. A street artist once asked me to smile and when I obliged said it was cruel and twisted, which in recent years has meant that I don’t smile as often as people would want. As I walk into the Crown & Anchor I’m beaming like the Milky Bar Kid, without any hint of the crooked or cruel. A pub that can do this has to be good right? It’s a large open space, with 20+ beers on tap and packed out. It’s the opening day and the mix is locals and others. As I stand at the bar there’s confusion all around as people can’t make the decision of what to have. Choice like this hasn’t been seen in these parts. Bar staff advise the bemused punters and it makes for a great atmosphere of people trying something new, both pub and beer wise.

Copyright: Urban 75

What I particularly loved was the local feel. Gentrification has become a dirty word as often it’s for the benefit of outsiders and excludes or at worst forces out the locals. As I look round the bar there’s an old man shuffling through. He takes a seat and looks out with a look of shock and happiness combined. My guess is that he’s been drinking in this pub since he was old enough. Back in the 50s his kids may have come here as one of the first rock n roll joints in the UK. As he sits inside others peer open mouthed through the window.

Stepping outside to make a call I look down the road and see what a surprise it would be. The guy smoking next to me explains that it used to be a “right old kip” and hopes it will do ok. He points out it’s between tubes and isn’t sure how it will go for custom. I tell him that they’ll come for the beer. He thinks a moment smiles and gives me an approving nod.

Crown & Anchor, 246 Brixton Road, London, SW9 6AQ

Pictures courtesy of Urban 75

April 18, 2012

Q&A: Kelly Ryan

I think that this weeks Q&A will be a firm favourite across the beer world, as we catch up with possibly the busiest man in beer. Formerly of Thornbridge, Fyne Ales and Epic; and now moving onto new prospects, we hear from Kelly Ryan.

 

Your brewing ethos…

Passion, Pride, Fun, Flavour, Quality

Beer epiphany…

I don’t think I’ve had just one beer epiphany, but sitting in a Flavour Chemistry class with my old professor, Jean-Pierre Dufour (who was instrumental in the development of the brewing division of the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium) here in NZ and tasting through Duvel, Chimay Red, Chimay White and Chimay Blue was definitely a big part of it. JP was ridiculously passionate and taught me loads about beer, brewing and fermentation science. It was his palate, however, that never ceased to amaze me. He inspired me to taste everything I could and to describe as much as I could. I still remember that first sip of Duvel. The effervescence and that Champagne-like mousse coupled with the delicate spice of the yeast. So damn good!

Best beer find of the last year…

Anchorage Love Buzz Saison – A heady mix of peppery goodness, the delightful tartness of the Saison yeast, a hint of Brettanomyces for good measure all tied together with an undercurrent of light oakiness from the French oak Pinot Noir barrels that it’s aged in. An elegant and fascinating beer and the type that should be served up to beer and wine lovers alike.

Sounds heard in the brewery…

If I’m mucking about doing trial brews, it could be anything from some good NZ reggae (Katchafire), Fat Freddy’s Drop (NZ Reggae/Dub/Jazz/Roots) or something a bit more out there like some crazy industrial Skinny Puppy or KMFDM or even some Tool, A Perfect Circle or Pink Floyd. A bit of everything really! The Beatles often pop up on the playlist.

If I wasn’t brewing I’d be…

Dead! Either that or teaching brewing :)

Before I was brewing I was…

A student on the road to being a brewer… I was studying Microbiology and Food Science degrees and got into a trainee brewer programme with a big brewery straight out of university. It was meant to be!

Favourite thing about what I do …

I think it’s probably similar to most brewers… I love recipe development. Envisaging a beer and a culmination of flavours and aromas. That mixing together of diverse and interesting ingredients and that point when it all comes to fruition and you taste the finished product. I love that.

Greatest brewing achievement to date…

A tough question! I enjoy the fact that people have had enjoyment out of what I do for a living. The odd award here and there is always exciting as well.

Things you miss about the UK…

This could be a long list! I miss being able to go to a local market or supermarket and get incredible cheeses for a decent price. I miss the snow. I miss foraging. I miss the pub we used to run and live in, The Coach and Horses in Dronfield. I miss Mark Taylor’s incredible food (the ex-chef of the Coach). I miss Loch Fyne up in Scotland where I started my UK brewing experience. I miss the Peak District. I miss our great friends. I miss the huge choice of beers that are available in the pubs of Sheffield. I miss Thornbridge Kipling. I miss the friendliness of the Yorkshire and Derbyshire folk.

What could we learn from NZ…

Be more proud of your local fare. It’s fantastic. I think the cuisine of the UK is awesome, so many interesting dishes and flavours beyond the usual roast meat and fish n’ chips.

Which brewers do you look up to…

Thornbridge (of course!), Dark Star, Hawkshead, Brewdog, Lovibonds, Fyne Ales, William Bros, Fullers, Adnams, Sharp’s, Brooklyn (US), Odell (US), Dogfish Head (US), Sierra Nevada (US), Russian River (US) Sprig and Fern (NZ), Feral (AUS), De Molen (NED), Birrificio Italiano (ITA)… in fact this list could go on forever!

Pub heaven…

That’s easy! The Coach and Horses in Dronfield. Surrounding by the hum of conversation by the locals and sitting down to a leg of rabbit done in a cider and mustard sauce and matched with a bottle of Maredsous 10 from the fridge. It would have to be snowing just a bit as well.

Pub hell…

A cold, empty pub with nothing good on tap, a menu from a freezer bag and bar staff that spend all their time on their phones and glare at you icily when you order a drink.

Favourite local pub…

I’ve just moved from Auckland and am currently working out of a great craft beer pub in Hamilton called House on Hood. A good beer selection on tap and friendly staff, so it’s an easy one!

Favourite non local pub…

I’m a big fan of The Malthouse in Wellington. Awesome beer selection, knowledgeable staff and it’s nice and relaxed. The pizzas are pretty tasty as well!

What advice would you give any aspiring brewer…

Work hard, be prepared to start at the bottom, work even harder, clean everything that you can see or reach in the brewery and then work hard some more. When you’re not working hard, read everything you can on brewing, expand your horizons and taste as many foods and beverages as you can, build up your palate and your understanding of flavour and aroma combinations and never be afraid to innovate. Have fun along the way and talk to as many brewers as you can!

What’s on the horizon…

In New Zealand, usually the ocean (see what I did there!). Doing some brewery consultancy work at the moment which sees my go from NZ to Canada to NZ to Fiji, then off to judge at the World Beer Cup in San Diego and check out the awesome Craft Brewer’s Conference there. After that it’s back to NZ to install and commission a new brewpub in Hamilton that I’m going to be plying my trade as a head brewer. Exciting times ahead!!

Finally, can you tell us a joke about beer…

Did you hear about that brewer who didn’t like Brettanomyces in his beer? He said it tasted Orval! Yeah, I’m pretty crap at beer jokes.

April 16, 2012

My Belgian Triple

From my last few posts you’d know that I spent Easter in Belgium. I realised this morning that i’d not made any comments about the beers I’d most enjoyed apart from the odd Tweet amidst the bottles. One of the first things our hosts did as we arrived was ask when we wanted to go to the beer shop. At this point they didn’t know of my love of beer – just Lou’s – and I knew at this point the weekend was going to be a success.

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First up is the two Blonds. Wolf 7 from Lupus Brewery and Omer from Bockor Brewery. I’m not inclined usually to a Blond (in beer or in life). These two were new to me, a favourite of our host and probably the preferred by the table if the empties were anything to go by. I hope to see them in London soon.

Prearis Quadruple from De Proef Brewery. Possibly the most surprising of the three. Dark, malty and with a little sweetness, it’s potent at 10% but not too thick for my tastes. It was crowned best hobby beer of Belgium in 2011 and now brewed by De Proef a contract brewer. The thought that a hobby beer club can produce this is a real eye opener.

It’s only a small selection. Here are a few that are worth a picture.

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As a footnote, if you find yourself in Kortrijk, without the benefit of a Belgian family to provide amazing hospitality, head to Gains Bar a great spot with outdoor seating and an amazing beer list.

April 13, 2012

The Kernel goes to Kortrijk: The Verdict

I last wrote about the trepidation of taking beer to the Belgians; and more specifically Kernel IPA. Who wouldn’t like a bottle of anything from The Kernel?

After a short intro of The Kernel by Lou, where she talked about the origins of the brewery, the brewer, the beer and the brown paper labels (she is slightly obsessive about paper) the appreciation began.

The bottle was held, label read, held to the light. There were positive nods. A knot in my stomach unravelled. Glassware selected the beer was opened, poured, held to the light, nosed and eventually tasted. The verdict? A smile. A nod. Another sip. Another smile. Another nod. Mission accomplished.

It seems that I’ve set the bar quite high. When I next see “the Belgians” it will be on home turf in London. What to introduce next?

April 6, 2012

The Kernel goes to Kortrijk

What do you buy Belgians for Easter? This was my dilemma of the week. Heading to Kortrijk for the weekend and a meeting with Lou’s Belgian family I’m left scratching my head. I consult the Belgians I know and I feel they are left scratching their heads too.

Chocolate is their answer, then hesitation, before I’m told “but not your English chocolate”. Taking chocolate to Belgium wherever I get it from just doesn’t seem right. A few coffees, a bit of surfing the web and lots more head scratching and I have my plan. I’ll take coals to Newcastle. Or in in this case beer to Belgium; more precisely Kernel to Kortrijk. I’ll be presenting this to my hosts and hoping that they approve.

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It seems apt, as on first meeting Lou’s mum I went to The Kernel to buy a selection. Something to give a little taster of what makes me tick. Buying direct from Evin O’Riordan he advised to “go big” and not shy away from offering up beers that would test the palate. It’s perhaps different with 7 Belgians and I’ve got a clutch of India Pale Ale and Pale Ale of different hop batches. This time it wasn’t direct but from Oddbins at London Bridge. Special mention to them for tweeting me a list of what they had in stock. That really is social media done well in my book.

I’m strangely nervous about the reaction I’ll receive. I mean, an Englishman turns up in West Flanders trying go bring something new in respects to beer. This could be a spectacular coup or a crushing failure. What’s your bet? All will be revealed next week.

April 2, 2012

Cannonball Run Returns: Hop Shoot Festival

 

There’s less than a month until the inaugral London Hop Shoot Festival and if you haven’t heard of it yet you’re in for a treat. This isn’t just another beer festival. It’s a collision of town, country, social media and hops with the spirit of Cannonball Run thrown in for good measure.

The Draft House team in action

The weekend of 27th April will see an assorted group of hop heads picking Kentish grown hops on the farm of Chris Lilliwhite. Crop picked and bagged they will divide the harvest and head back to London. From Trafalgar Square the race to get the hops onto the table then begins as teams from venues signed up race to serve up the first dishes. You can follow the build up and action throughout the festival on Twitter through @londonhop and #londonhopfest.

Possible venues participating are from across London so if you’re in the Capital you are unlikely to be disappointed. They include:

The Draft House (Battersea, Clapham & London Bridge), Old Red Cow (Smithfield), The Clifton (St Johns Wood), Crown & Anchor (Chiswick), White Swan (Twickenham), The Botanist (Kew), Ben’s Canteen (St John’s Hill), The Bull (Highgate), The Euston Flyer (Euston), The Victoria (Bayswater), Duke’s Brew & Que (Hackney), Horseshoe (Hampstead)

It’s another innovative initiative from the beer and food community of London and I for one can’t wait to see what’s served up.

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