Posts tagged ‘beers’

September 12, 2012

Hiatus, Ham, Hackney & Hopster

So It’s been a while since my last post but as is the way, life takes over and something has to give. Namely this. I’ve always hated posts full of fake apology – as if my absence from the blogging space would weigh too heavily on anyones mind – but i’ll just say that preparing to get wed, planning months of travel, leaving your job, moving home and hemisphere all at the same time isn’t a recipe for having time on your hands.

That’s not to say that i’ve not had any chance to indulge, just that i’ve not had the time or mental capacity to string a sentence together. So as I ease myself back in after the short hiatas i’ll just list some of the highlights, which I may expand on in the coming weeks.

copyright: Friends of Ham

Friends of Ham, Leeds

If you follow on Twitter (@thepubdiaries) you may have seen a flurry of Ham related activity as I recently turned porcine fanboy. My visit to Friends of Ham, was much anticipated (bt me, not them). For months there had been talk of its opening and I watched at a distance through social media. The name intrigued me, the logo enticed me and when I finally got to visit the space and the people in it beguiled me. A craft beer bar, come charcuterie where Cheers style everyone knows your name (but maybe that’s @lordofthebeers fault for pre-tweeting my arrival). Quite simply the best bar i’ve been to in years.

Cock Tavern, Hackney

In between the planning, packing and honing wedding playlists, I have been doing more and more freelance writing. Pots of espresso at 5am have become the norm as I juggle deadlines (lets just say i’d never get a job in the circus) and try and remember what the hell i’m writing about. Many of these have been for View London and as much as I love to find a new pub to add to the beer drinkers equivalent of the Knowledge it can start to wear slightly. Until the assignment is the Cock Tavern in Hackney. It’s up there with Friends of Ham, which is why i’ve put the two together and you can read all about it here. It’s places like this that reinvigorate me and make me realise why I do what I do.

London Fields Brewery, Hackney

I am a late comer to the charms of this East London brewer, but have fallen for them in a big way. When I discussed the beer list for the wedding I wanted some relatively cheap bottles of well known beer for the guzzlers amongst the guest list. Asahi was the choice. We then had a mix of Meantime and the other usual suspects. It still didn’t grab me and while I was tempted to just let it go, Clerkenwell Kitchen’s manager Ciaran came through with a suggestion of London Fields. It fitted the bill in terms of being locally sourced and with a craft angle. There’s nothing better than looking round and seeing people eskew their normal habits, holding a big bottle of Hackney Hopster or Love Not War (apt for the event I thought) and more importantly enjoying it.

June 8, 2012

Nelson Sauvin, the spontaneously combusting Detective…

The beer world to some is fragmented – whether it’s the Keg Crusaders versus the CAMRA Faithful, the Brewdog backlash (an almost monthly occurrence it seems) or arguments of what Craft Beer actually is. Strip all this back and there is one thing that unites – we all love beer and we all love hops.

Hops to put it simply – are cool. Sat in a session at European Beer Bloggers Conference ’12 (if it’s your first time here – yes we have conferences!) I didn’t realise how cool – but then should I actually say cool? Or should I say hops are hot?  Bearing in mind their ability to spontaneously combust? Whether it’s hot or cool I think you get the point – hopefully.

For me the joy of hops goes beyond the obvious matter of taste – it goes to words – the reason why I write.

Amarillo, Bravo, Chinook, Sorachi Ace,  Challenger, Apollo, Opal, Saaz, Nelson Sauvin – they could be a phonetic alphabet of beer, a military arsenal, character in a pulp novel or an indie band. They intrigue me, beguile me and are often part my undoing.

So the simple question is this. Tell me your favourite hop, whether it’s a taste thing or as random as looking in the Racing Post and picking by name alone – whether your a seasoned beer drinker or not – use the comments below, Twitter @thepubdiaries, email or carrier pigeon and let’s see what we get.

May 30, 2012

Beer and Bunting: The Alternative Jubilee

As the bunting is strung up and Londoners prepare for public transport meltdown, Pub Diaries is here to tell you beer drinking proles what else is happening in the capital this weekend. If your idea of a good day isn’t watching Her Maj’s booze cruise putter down the Thames here are a few alternatives which may float your boat.

Saturday 2nd June – The Euston Tap, Lager Party

A day of Punk and Hotdogs awaits at the Euston Tap’s Lager Party. Czech Pilsner, Bavarian Helles, local boys Camden and their Black Friday await. For fans of self styled beer punks Brewdog there will be an exclusive supply of Growler, a Citra infused lager. We’re told that they’ll be using the UK’s only Randall beer infuser.

Sunday 3rd June 13:00, The White Hart – Stoke Newington Literary Festival – Pete Brown’s Beer & Music Matching

Billed as Pete and his iPod I’m thinking this could go either way. After seeing him tweet Eurovision on Saturday night I’m hoping that I’m not subjected to an afternoon of Boom Bang a Bang. At £4 for a beer flight and the opportunity to hear the beery bard I’m willing to take the risk. Tickets are selling out so get in while you can!

All Weekend, The Cavendish, Stockwell

I’ve always been a fan of The Cav and they know how to throw a party. They’ll have events from Friday onward. Balkan Bebop, Burlesque, BBQ, Bingo and other letters of the alphabet.

Know of other events going on? Pop it in the comments… God Save The Queen

May 30, 2012

Q&A: Greg Avola, Untappd

The Q&A comes this week from Greg Avola, the NYC based coder and beer geek behind Untappd


Living in the craft beer haven of New York City, I’m the backend developer for Untappd. After experiencing Rare Vos for the first time, I instantly fell in love with craft beer. While some people enjoy reading books or watching movies, my passion is to coding.

Your ethos…

Passionate, Funny, Controlled, Outgoing, Humble

Beer epiphany…

The truth of the matter is that I, nor my co-founder Tim Mather, were ever in to beer before Untappd was made. We saw a potential with the social media industry to connect the dots on something that is very socially, but never had that represented in a social network. I first tried Rare Vos about 2 years ago and fell in love with Belgian and craft beer. Once I did that – I never looked back.

Best beer find of the last year…

My favorite beer is Pliny the Elder and I had a chance to have it draft when I was last in San Francisco, CA. It’s an amazing beer that tastes 100% different on tap than in the bottle.

What sounds are to be heard as you work…

Typically I listen to a lot of techno music when I’m working on Untappd. When coding, I like the repetition of the beats which helps me code better, believe it or not. Most of the time I use Spotify to deliver that music.

If I wasn’t coding I’d be…

Great question – because coding is my hobby and my passion. If I’m not coding, I’m most likely sleeping, eating or hanging out with family. I would say I code about 75% of the time.

Before I was coding I was…

I was in school studying how to code and build computers. I used to build a lot of custom computers for friends and family and was really into all the technology specifications of motherboards, video cards, and hard drives.

Favourite thing about what I do…

My favorite thing about what I did is the ability to help people solve problems. Nothing gives me greater joy to hear feedback from a user about how they used and liked the service. At the end of the day, we’re not really saving lives, but we are making lives easier for some people and that’s what it’s all about.

Brewers you look up to…

For me – it’s Shane Welch from SIxpoint in New York. I think his vision and direction for the brewery and industry as a whole is very fresh and new. He has passion for beer and making a quality product is something that I strive for in my work with Untappd.

The app I wish I’d come up with…

I think the logical answer is Instagram, because I love photography and the app allows anyone to fill that void. Of course the fact that it was just bought for 1 billion dollars helps too.

Pub heaven…

A pub that has a great beer selection with tie integration with Untappd, meaning that when someone check-ins to a beer at that bar, their face would appear next to the beer. That would be an great interactive element for a beer list.

Pub hell…

My biggest peev is incorrect beer names, as it causes people to create beers on Untappd. For example if a bar calls Nugget Necter, Troeges Necter Red, that causes issues with your Database.

Favourite local pub…

It’s a tough one but I would have to say The Pony Bar in NYC. $5 craft beers all day / night long is something you can’t beat.

Favourite non local pub…

The Stone Bistro Gardens in CA was my favorite in the country so far. Amazing beer, food and views.

Advice any aspiring brewer / app developer / tech startup…

Never give up and keep pushing yourself. Users want to be part of something that they feel part of, so always interact with your users and make sure they feel welcome. I love meeting Untappd users because I want to thank them for being part of the community.

What’s on the horizon…

We have a lot of great stuff coming up soon as we try to make Untappd the best product for beer and bar discovery. We also want to focus our efforts on making a better recommendation engine. If I told you – where would the fun be in that?




May 24, 2012

Q&A: Tom Byng of Byron

We mix beer and burgers this week as we have a chat with London’s true Burger King, Tom Byng.


What is the Byng – Byron ethos…

Do a simple thing properly

First beer experience…

Nicking a couple of Double Diamonds out of my Dad’s fridge as a 10 year old and drinking them with my brother behind a bush in the garden. Terrible beer, but it tasted pretty good at the time.

Best beer find of the last year…

SKA beers, we managed to get True Blonde and Steel Toe Stout on to our latest list pretty much exclusive to us

What sounds are to be heard in the office…

I spend quite a lot of time in the restaurants so the sizzling of grills, bubbling of fryers and gentle tapping of ketchup bottles is ever present. In a nice way obviously.

If I wasn’t running Byron I’d be…

About 10kg lighter for sure

Before Byron…

I had a couple of restaurants in Notting Hill for 10 years. The rents doubled so I sold up and started Byron

Favourite thing about what I do…

Getting paid to eat burgers and drink beer is tough to beat.

What drew you to Camden Town Brewery to brew Byron Pale…

Camden not only supply Hells but act as a quasi consultant for the whole list. We have a great relationship, so having them brew our own beer was a no brainer. We wouldn’t have had anybody else do it to be honest.
What have you learnt from working with CTB and vice versa… They’ve pretty much taught us everything we know. We started out as enthusiasts with a relatively low knowledge base and in a year they’ve turned us into something approaching experts. From their perspective, they certainly know a lot more about hamburgers than a year ago! I think also having a big volume customer has been a good test for them in terms of how they set up their infrastructure to support growth.

Greatest achievement to date…

Byron Pale Ale becoming our top seller within 2 weeks of launch. For it to outsell Peroni in a chain restaurant environment was as satisfying as it was unexpected. For Byron generally I think we’ve been instrumental in instigating the burger revolution which has swept London in the last 5 years, the result being that if you like hamburgers there is a now plenty of quality options available irrespective of taste and budget

Brewers I look up to…

Camden Town Brewery, Kernel and Brewdog in the UK. Sierra Nevada, Bear Republic and Lagunitas in the US

Pub heaven…

Big range of craft beer on tap and in bottles with some decent food coming out of the kitchen

Pub hell…


Favourite local pub…

Anglesea Arms, Wingate Rd, W6

Favourite non local pub…

Craft Beer Co, Hatton Garden

Advice for an aspiring startup…

If you’re not shitting yourself you’re not being brave enough. Back yourself and go for it.

What’s on the horizon…

We have 5 more restaurants to open this year (including our first out of London in Oxford), a new burger van for street food events, a full summer festival season for our Shack, a Chilli Queen burger special for the Jubilee and a new beer list for September.

Next week the Q&A takes a techie turn with Greg Avola, the beer brain behine Untappd

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.

March 31, 2012

How do you open yours?

I’ve got the simple but essential task of bottle opening pretty much covered. With the magnetic opener stuck to the fridge door, the keyring opener for when i’m out and about and the top of the corkscrew when there’s wine and beer to opened i’ve got all bases covered.


There’s even the Aidan Moffat, Little Beer Song opener for when I want an Indie serenade to accompany the hiss and metallic clunk. Should disaster strike however I needn’t panic as I’ve had instruction in improvised techniques the Kiwi way.

June 6, 2011

Old Red Cow, 71-73 Long Lane, Smithfield, EC1A 9EJ

I stuck another pin in the London craft beer map on Friday. Heading to Farringdon via Barbican I stopped by the Old Red Cow on Long Lane. It’s been a while since I’ve last been in and the first since it joined the Dean Swift as a Local Beer House.

Smithfield and the surrounding area has always been one of my favourite places in London. As I’ve alluded to in past posts it’s where I spent my first years in London and still somewhere I can wile away a few hours at the Barbican or just a walk through the old neighbourhood. I usually head up St John Street to the Peasant or across to Clerkenwell Green. With 3 handpumps on the bar and 10 wall mounted taps behind the bar the old haunts have definite competition.



From the board we went for the Camden Town Pale Ale, a perfect start on a hot City day and already a firm favourite. The find of the day was the Redemption Trinity from the handpull. If there’s a beer for a Summer session this is it. Just 3% ABV, Golden in colour, I could just sit and watch the early evening light through it. That is if it wasn’t so damn tasty with its smack of Citrus and Hops. A lazy description perhaps but I’d just encourage you to taste it for yourself.

Old Red Cow, 71-73 Long Lane, Smithfield, EC1A 9EJ

Excelent pub photography courtesy of

June 2, 2011

The Search Continues… Country Pubs

Last weekend was spent camping Thameside. Lou and I headed for Rushey Lock in Oxfordshire for a Bank Holiday of grey skies and occasional rain. Well it wouldn’t be proper camping otherwise, would it? The plan for the weekend was no plan. Just a few days of reading, wandering down the Thames and of course the odd pub. The Lock Keeper gave us the lay of the land which mainly consisted of his pub tips. Directions are easy on the river our choices being 4 miles one way and 1 mile the other.

First up was the Swan at Radcot. A large union flag flies riverside and the garden is taken up with ducks and geese. If the picture needed to be anymore British an E-Type Jag revs at the lights. The pub itself doesn’t live up to the promise. The interior lacks the warmth expected with prominent flatscreen tv, set dining tables and an uninspiring choice at the bar. Lou asks about the Rev. James. “It’s a strong dark ale.” There is a definite full stop. No more information will be shared, no further questions asked, just an unblinking stare that comes with years of practice.


Sat in the near empty garden we watch the boats pass and the geese chase the ducks. A YouTube classic in the making, but it only raises a brief smile. A group arrive and sit on the nearest table to us, despite there being an entire garden to choose from. As they salute and shout ahoy to each passing barge, guffawing each time, it’s a sure sign that there will be no second pint.

We make our way back towards Rushey Lock, saying hello to those who we pass. It raises barely a grunt from most. Lou reminds me we’re not up North and such things are not wise. She may be an Aussie, but she certainly understands the North / South divide.  The Trout at Tadpole Bridge is our second attempt at capturing the perfect country pub, which when right delivers more than great beer. It’s about local character and a  real sense of where you are. With roses around the door and a Chocolate Labrador stretched out on the stone floor this is immediately more appealing; as is the beer choice. Starting with Butts’ Barbus Barbus we settle into the small bar area. As with the Swan much of the pub Is taken up with the restaurant. Most country pubs wouldn’t survive without a strong food trade and in the case of the Trout this would seem to be it’s focus. The bar, as pleasant as it is, seems like a mere waiting area. Evening service starts at 7pm and at 6pm on a Bank Holiday Sunday we are among only a handful of punters. Service seems oddly schizophrenic with a warm welcome to some and the bare minimum for others.

The menu looks good but we have we food back at the Lock. What is required is something to soak up the beer. We ask for chips. The answer is firmly no. Chips are only served as a side. It is also 6.30pm and we are reminded the kitchen is closed until 7pm. A kind of no and even if we did the kitchens closed, so unlucky and unlucky again. We have a second round, this time of the Ramsbury Bitter which is the surprise of the day. With a smokey ashen taste it’s unexpected but more than welcome to take our minds off food. Orders start to be taken and we decide to go with the local cheese board. Now this would seem simple enough but I’m again told the kitchen opens at 7pm. Thoughts of Michael Douglas in Falling Down spring to mind but I keep the rage under wraps. It’s 6.50pm and orders are being taken in the restauarnt. Added to which it’s a cheese board. Hardly the most taxing of dishes to prepare. I persevere and with a sullen shrug I’m told to choose a selection of 3. There’s no mention on the board that the selection is limited and when raised I get a stare that says it all. A few years practice and it’ll be spot on. The Oxford Blue, Single Gloucester and Bath Soft are served on slate, the edges look like they’ve been cut well before ordering and it suffers as cheese boards always seem to from a severe lack of oatcake. That is unless you want to load half a wedge of blue onto each one.

We leave a little more satisfied than the Swan, thanks wholly to the beer, but still not having found the Country Pub I’ve been craving. It’s proof that bricks and mortar, roses around the door and an idyllic location don’t guarantee a great pub.  So back to the Lock to singe some more grass and uncork a bottle of Lagavulin 16 year old, hoping that in the absence of TV we will be treated to more of the simple joy of watching a goose chase a duck.


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


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