Archive for ‘blog’

March 1, 2011

Proud of British Beer

I’m all for championing British brewers and those at the other end of the chain who sell it to me. So the release of the SIBA Proud of British Beer film was something that piqued my interest. The 5 minute film I assume is to act as a rallying call for support of producers, suppliers and retailers. Great you might think? Well not quite. The idea I support. The execution I find lacking. Taking the much copied Greg Koch template of I am a Craft Brewer falls flat. I enjoyed the original. It’s what our American cousins do well. I enjoyed I am a Craft Beer Drinker homage. By the time I got to the I am a… Homebrewer, Canadian Craft Brewer, Ontario Craft Brewer it was getting old and this was 8 months ago! So it’s a shame that a nation known the world over for innovation couldn’t come up with something original, that didn’t rely on stiff collars, upper lips and even stiffer dialouge. I don’t want to see a re-hash of something that’s been copied to the point of parody. I’m just thankful that the budget didn’t allow them to shoe horn a couple of Sptifires in for good measure. Anyway, see what you think…


Perhaps you think it’s spot on and I’m off the mark? It will doubtless appeal to some but wouldn’t an original offering actually have been more effective, interesting and relevant?

February 26, 2011

Q&A with The Crafty Pint

The Crafty Pint is one of my go too sites for the lowdown on the Aussie Craft Beer scene. I caught up with Crafty ‘s James to get the lowdown on his view of beery Heaven and Hell.

Favourite place to enjoy a Crafty Pint? 

In the UK a Bass from the jug at my folks’ local.

In Australia pretty much any Barbie, anywhere with the right people and a well-stocked Esky.

Can you define the perfect pub?

Good beer selection that’s well looked after and understood by everyone from owner to bar staff – ideally with a bit of rotation and some craziness in the fridge – plus good music (but not so loud you can’t talk), comfy chairs (but not necessarily sofas – can be too relaxing for proper beer enjoyment) and a well conceived beer garden. Food optional if everything else is up to scratch.

What’s your idea of Beer or Pub hell?

In the UK, Yates’s (do they still exist?). Possibly the very definition of hell full stop. Shit beer (and wine), clueless staff, bonehead security, dickheads slamming Jagerbomb’s to a backdrop of extremely loud R ‘n’ B and flashing disco lights at 5.30pm on a Wednesday. At least that’s how I remember them!

In Oz, sadly, the most common format: TAB (sports betting), pokie room (gambling machines), monochromatic beer selection, design based on the Woodall Service Station canteen. Thankfully, times appear to be a-changin’.

What’s most likely to be heard while writing Crafty?

Currently, John Grant’s Queen of Denmark is getting a good run with The Lemonhead’s It’s A Shame About Ray; but usually it’s iPod on shuffle, with the Flaming Lips, Alabama 3, Super Furry Animals, Paul Kelly and Aphex Twin having the greatest probability of appearing.

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

This message from a Mountain Goat brewer: “Just bottled 400 cases of IPA. Tasting great.” Hopefully, he’s mislabeled a few for the staffies pile.

Whats happening?

Taking The Crafty Pint interstate one step at a time. Persuading the mainstream media to give what’s happening with Aussie craft beer more column inches. Getting more Aussies to wake up to what they could be drinking rather than what they’ve been forced to drink for so long. More hand pumps and quality real ales in Aussie beer bars. And working out how to lose weight while doing what I do.

If you weren’t writing The Crafty Pint?

I’d be writing about something else with a fatter wallet and a slimmer gut.

Get your daily top up at www.craftypint.com

February 15, 2011

Freo Three: Little Creatures, Fremantle, WA

A visit to Perth without venturing to Fremantle and Little Creatures would, could or should be grounds for deportation. Their citrus packed Pale Ale became my go to beer throughout my time in WA and the chance to visit the mothership was one that I wasn’t going to miss. Established on the site of an old Crocodile farm the brewery has gone from strength to strength. Yes, I said Crocodile farm. Lou, Col and Elise told me of the Crocodile farm they once visited on the site as children. Only a week later they told me of the “Drop Bears”. A marsupial that drops from low hanging trees, biting and and scratching the unlucky sod below. They exist purely in fiction, to torment tourists and in particular Poms.  I looked up into the trees for a matter of seconds, but that’s a minute long enough for its still to be brought up. I’m pretty sure that the Freo Crocs did exist unless that’s all an elaborate conspiracy as well. It’s quoted on the Little Creatures site so I thinks it’s a safe bet that they did exist. Anyway, what is left is a great experience for the beer lover and foodie alike. For the Beer Geek in us all you have the breweries inner working around you and plenty of space to enjoy the finished product, great food and in the heat of WA.

On a weekday afternoon it was busy with a mix of locals, and tourists alike. Service initially was slow but the promise of a cold Pale Ale, a light sea breeze and Lou’s favourite White Rabbit and that can be easily forgiven. I am reminded of a Sunday afternoon at the Brooklyn Brewery with English, which I always thought would take some topping. As the food is served I think it has. It would be easy to have the great setting and beer and fail on the food but the food ranks up there with the beer. The Chilli Squid I could eat all afternoon and writing this from a cold London my mouth is watering with the thought. If there is a perfect chip it’s at Little Creatures and then there is the wood fired Lamb pizza… I should stop before I drool too much!

 

Croc Free Sand Pit

Little Creatures, 40 Mews Road, Fremantle WA 6160

February 3, 2011

Freo Three: Sail & Anchor, 64 South Tce, Fremantle, WA

Before I had even reached Western Australia I’d had Craft Beer recommendations from friends in Perth and via Twitter. Out in front was a visit to Fremantle and in particular the Sail & Anchor, so it seems fitting that’s its my first Aussie post.

Many see Fremantle as a part of the Perth sprawl but it’s got its own character beyond the mix of colonial and industrial architecture. Freo has a feel and pace different to Perth. Perhaps the presence of 3 great Craft Beer destinations has something to do with it? As much as I loved Little Creatures and The Monk (keep your eyes peeled for these posts soon), the Sail & Anchor spoke more about how you can take an appreciation of Craft Beer and the Aussie pub and put them together to create something great.

Firstly it’s a proper pub. Looking around on a busy Saturday, it’s a real mix of drinkers, all enjoying the 43 taps, 25+ beers and 3 bars. We  head up to the first floor and the wrap around balcony where we are meeting friends. Its my last day in Australia and as we sit in the warm afternoon heat with the sound of the buskers below i’m thinking of ways to not get on the plane. A great pub with great beer (which I confess I took a note of and subsequently lost) will do that to you.

It doesn’t stop there as with Iron Brew and Febrewary, the Sail & Anchor shows that it’s is run by beer lovers for beer lovers. Febrewary offering punters the chance to travel the world in 28 days, with a mix of imports and Local Breweries’ international-styled beers. Iron Brew steps beyond celebrating commercial brewers and tips its hat to the humble homebrewer; pitched as an Australia wide search… to find an amateur brewer game enough to clone brew an old school Sail & Anchor brew, the Iron Brew English Strong Ale. The concept of Iron Brew fires my imagination and sat in the departure lounge has me looking for homebrew recommendations. An Iron Brew fermenting as far a field as South East London.

Sail & Anchor, 64 South Terrace, Fremantle, Western Australia, 6160

February 1, 2011

#Meateasy, Goldsmiths Tavern, 316 New Cross Road, London SE14

I’ve come to the Meatwagon late. In fact so late that it’s been stolen. The South London burger wagon that became a food cult was stolen in December and it looked like I’d never get to taste the meaty goodness I’d heard so much about. I was just going to have to live with it. At least until the birth of the #Meateasy. This pop up venture above the Goldsmiths Tavern in New Cross is looking to raise funds for a new Meatwagon. This is their second chance and my meaty redemption.

It’s just English who responds to my #Meateasy invitation and like me I think he’s considering his choice days in advance. As we arrive at Goldsmiths Tavern we know we’re in the right place but all the same its not giving us any clues. The barmaid, looking the two suits up and down, has the answer: Meateasy? Thru-the-back-turn left-thru-the-door-up-the-fire-escape. She’s obviously said this a few times over the last few weeks. Peering into the back and a darkened dancefloor it looks unlikely to lead anywhere but we obediently make our way to the back. And this is how I find myself stood on a dark dancefloor in New Cross, with English; as Rhythm is a Dancer pumps through the speakers. It’s a bizarre moment to say the least. Then to the left, a chink of light and we’ve either found it, or the bogs. It’s raining as we ascend the fire escape from the beer garden. A family pass us on the stairs and straight faced tell us that it’s not too busy. I don’t get my hopes up as the meatwagon queues were legendary. My caution is well placed as we are greeted with a smile, given a raffle ticket and told that we will order in around two hours. There’s no question of leaving – we have tickets and we have a bar – what else do we need?

The room is busy with expectant punters sat, stood and perched; the kitchen looks to be working at full capacity and the front of house staff are screaming. Raffle ticket numbers to call people into the order queue and names for those about to be served. As time passes voices start to strain and the loud hailer comes out. At the bar its as hectic with a choice of cocktails and Meantime London Lager and Union. At £3.50 a bottle its not going to be the cheapest of nights but then they hardly need to push cheap beer to pull the punters and to be fair the atmosphere is better than any bar in Central London which would charge the same or more.

As food leaves the open kitchen necks are strained, usually followed by ohhh I might have that, or that, ohh no that. We hardly notice the wait, which is pretty much the 2 hours predicted, though coming later seems to be the best tactic for a shorter wait. Before long our numbers are called and we are in the queue having to make choices. Not everything at the #Meateasy is easy! With the French Dip and Philly Cheese Steak sold out I opt for the Dead Hippy as much for the name as for the fact that it’s what Big Macs should taste like with its double patty and special sauce. Onion Rings, Fries and Buffalo wings accompany – I mean it would be wrong not to wouldn’t it. I can honestly say that I could have closed my eyes and been in Brooklyn. Its the best burger experience i’ve had in the UK and perhaps anywhere.

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions

The Goldsmith Tavern is due a Capital Pub Company makover shortly and #Meateasy is open now until March. My advice is to get in while you can. When the Meatwagon returns a fleet may be needed to satisfy fans old and new.

Pics courtesy of Tehbus

#Meateasy, Goldsmiths Tavern 316 New Cross Rd,  London SE14 6AF

January 24, 2011

The Bear Freehouse, Camberwell New Road, SE5

Until now I’ve only seen Camberwell from the top deck; a view of pigeons picking at takeaway leftovers and pound shops. I will admit it wasn’t at the top of the list for a Sunday lunch but when given a Twitter recommendation by an aptly named Pub Geek (@thepubgeek) it would be bad form not to give it a go.

Arriving at 12:45 the pub was already close to full. The Bear don’t take bookings so it’s advisable to get in early to claim your table and mark your territory with the Sunday paper and a pint. While Lou and I wait for the others we take a menu and commence salivation. There’s a good choice of about 5 starters of soups, soused herring and game which although tempting make way for the Sunday classic, a Bloody Mary. A usual go to for a kickstart after a heavy Saturday night it delivers a good hit of spicy warmth, which prepares me for the main.

I find it very difficult to resist a roast on a Sunday menu and even more difficult to resist Pork Belly, whenever offered. This is no exception and I’m not disappointed. There’s the right balance of meat to fat and the long thin crackling is brittle with just the right amount of bite; without the tooth picking stickiness you sometimes encounter. The veg could be slightly warmer but the roast potato is perfectly crisp outside and fluffy within. A well balanced portion ensures that dessert is an option without unnotching the belt.

Service at The Bear is friendly and laid back.  The absence of a booking system means that you can take time to enjoy a leisurely lunch. Which is what Sunday lunch is about, is it not? A great find, thanks to the power of Twitter and the Pub Geek.

296a Camberwell New Road, London, SE5 0RP

January 21, 2011

Ale Festival (27th-30th Jan): Duke of Wellington, 119 Balls Pond Road, Dalston, N1

Those who read my recent post on Mason & Taylor would have also read about their sister pub The Duke of Wellington in Dalston. Though being CAMRA“North London Pub Of The Season” Spring 2010 you may already have had the pleasure. It has as yet been unfeatured and I felt it about time to put this right and do a good deed in the process, with a mention of their forthcoming Winter Ale Festival.

As yet I’ve only had a chance to get to one of the Duke’s Festivals as they always seem to fall when I’m out of town or otherwise engaged; and this one is no exception! So if there’s a chance that I can’t make it I can hopefully live vicariously through you. Go on. You know it makes sense. With Burns Night on the 25th January the festival will exclusively feature brewers from North of the Border. Expect to sample:

Fyne Ales (Jarl, Highlander, Vital Spark),

Brewdog (Alpha Dog, Rip Tide, 5am Saint),

Harviestoun (Bitter & Twisted, Schiehallion),

Williams Brothers (7 giraffes, Midnight Sun),

Cairngorm (Trade Winds, Black Gold),

Kelburn (Cart Blanche, Dark Moor),

Tryst (Blathan, Raj IPA),

To name but a few!

It’s sure to be a cracking event as the list above proves; so get yourself down and have a half for me.

Duke of Wellington, 119 Balls Pond Road, Dalston, N1 4BL

January 19, 2011

Bib Gourmand: Canton Arms, South Lambeth Road, SW8

Yesterday my Twitter feed became positively gourmet as this years Michelin announcement was made. It’s a time when the culinary elite hold their breaths to see whether they are ascending or descending the ranks.

Little you would say to do with the humble boozer? Well not quite true. Entering the 2011 Michelin Guide was a firm favourite. The Canton Arms in Stockwell. Yes, Stockwell. It has earned inclusion as a Bib Gourmand, denoting quality food, service and value.

Since my early visits and my posts in reverence of what they can do with a slice of bread and a Toastie Machine – think Foie Gras or Haggis – I’ve returned regularly. Now and again service hasn’t been quite as expected but even so I’ve always walked away well fed, well watered and happy (and eager) to return. It’s good to see the Michelin Inspectors recognise this small piece of South Lambeth Road and makes me wonder if they tried the Toastie.

Canton Arms, 177 South Lambeth Road, Stockwell, SW8 1XP

January 16, 2011

Euston Tap, Euston Road, NW1

Faced with a dark January evening, monotonous drizzle and waves of commuters my patience is quickly waning. I’m heading to the most eagerly awaited addition on the London Craft Beer scene, the Euston Tap and telling myself it will all be worth it. Having watched English cover all sides of the Euston concourse in search of a working cash machine we head out of the station in the wrong direction and towards King Cross. I’m close to breaking at this point. Craft beer, craft beer, craft beer is the mantra in my head willing me forward. Finally, after the interventention of google maps we are heading the right way. A neon sign glows up ahead of us like a craft beer beacon.

Housed in a a remnant of the original station, the Portland stone lodge bears no resemblance to the 60s concrete blight of the modern Euston. The view as you enter through the double doors is of a bar top clear of pumps. Taking a cue from across the pond beer is dispensed from a wall of taps set into a copper backingl; the blackboards flanking each side are almost overwhelming with a choice on tap of 25+ beers and much much more in the fridge. It’s difficult to know where to start. Working through the blackboards we start light with Camden Town Brewery Pale Ale and Mahrs Pils before moving to Erdinger Urweisse.

The downstairs horseshoe space is compact and you could be forgiven for missing the original narrow spiral staircase leading to the upstairs seating. A tad precarious after a few pints perhaps but pint holders are available. Upstairs is a litlle sparse but is perhaps a work in progress and lets face it – we are not here for the decor.

As the evening progresses as does the thirst for something new which leads us from the lighter starters to the heftier and to my mind superior Thornbridge Raven and Bristol Beer Factory Ultimate Stout. With only a small dent made in the ever changing list there is no chance of getting bored with whats on offer and now I know where it is there’ll be no need for google maps or the mantra as “craft beer” just doesn’t come close to describing whats on offer. Another landmark on the London craft beer map.

Euston Tap, West Lodge, 190 Euston Road, NW1 2EF

January 12, 2011

Mason & Taylor, Bethnal Green Road, E1

I have eagerly awaited a visit to Mason & Taylor since hearing that the folks behind The Duke of Wellington were opening on Bethnal Green Road. The Duke in Dalston was at one time just around the corner and quickly became a firm favourite. It has it all. Great staff, great beer, great food. It is as you may have guessed Great.

I was willing Mason & Taylor to be on a par with the Duke as I don’t live around the corner from the latter anymore but I do work nearby Bethnal Green Road. A first attempted visit had been thwrated by their Christmas Party but undetered and in fact more eager I headed to Mason & Taylor the next day. I won’t leave you hanging. It is in fact also… Great. The décor is stripped back concrete and canteen chairs. It bucks the trend of filling the space with kitch which more often than not looks like an explosion in an Oxfam shop. The staff are, as with The Duke, efficient, friendly and knowledgeable. The food is small plates for sharing; a British tapas I suppose. The York ham with poached duck egg and parsley sauce and a rarebit were my particular favourites. As for the beer there is a wide choice with around 12 ales and beers on draught as well as a seasonal bottled list. I had my first pint of Brodies, Redemption and Wandle at The Duke and Mason & Taylor continue the trend with an introduction to the Camden Town Brewery and their American style, Camden Pale Ale and the helles style Camden Hells Lager. Judging by the empties which soon pile up you can say it went down well.

In my post on the Owl and the Pussycat I pondered if it would only ever be a fallback. On the form of Mason & Taylor I don’t see that a fallback would even be needed.

Mason & Taylor, 51-55 Bethnal Green Road, E1 6LA

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