Great British Ale Festival: Peasant, 240 St. John Street, Clerkenwell, EC1V 4PH

I must have angered the Beer Gods. Yet another Beer Festival that I am unable to enjoy. Visiting the Peasant in Clerkenwell last night the set up had begun for their Great British Ale Festival. It runs from tonight until the 4th of April, but all  I could do was eye the racked beer and flick through the laminated brewery logo’s or as I think I termed them “Beery Porn”, I mean they’re laminated after all.

If the list below wasn’t reason enough they are also starting with a Hog Roast. Ales on offer are:

Castle Rock Brewery – Harvest Pale Ale (3.8%), Nottinghamshire
(2010 CAMRA Supreme Champion Beer of Britain)*

Hopdaemon Brewery – Incubus Bitter (4.0%), Kent

Oakham Ales Brewery – Engine Chaos (4.1%), Cambridgshire

Wells and Young’s – Banana Bread (5.2%), Bedford

Kelburn Brewery – Red Smiddy (4.1%), Renfewshire, Sotland
(SIBA Bronze Award in Best Bitter category)*

Salopian Brewery – Darwin’s Origin (4.3%), Shropshire

Crouch Vale Brewery – Yakima Gold (4.2%) and Santiam Amber (4.3%), Essex

Truman’s Brewery – Runner, (4.2%), East London

Meantime Brewery – Pale Ale (4.2%), Greenwich, London

Fat Cat Brewery – Meow Mild (4.3%), Suffolk

Hadrian & Border Brewery – Secret Kingdom (4.3%), Newcastle

Hop Back Brewery – Entire Stout (4.5%), Wiltshire
( 2011 CAMRA Winter Supreme Champion Beer of Britain)*

Dark Star Brewery – Golden Gate (4.5%) and Festival (5.0%), Sussex

Red Fox Brewery – Wily Old Fox (5.3%), Essex

RCH Brewery – Double Header (5.3%), Somerset

Thornbridge Brewery – Jaipur IPA (5.9%)
(Derbyshire SIBA Bronze in Supreme Beer category & Gold at Brewing Industry International 2011)

AllGates Brewery – Mad Monk (7.1%), Lancashire (SIBA Champion)

Peasant, 240 St. John Street, Clerkenwell, EC1V 4PH

Great British Ale Festival: Peasant, 240 St. John Street, Clerkenwell, EC1V 4PH

Victoria Inn, Choumert Road, Peckham Rye, SE15

Bowie’s Moonage Daydream playing as you walk through the door of a pub for the first time. It’s possibly the best hello you’ll ever get. This was my mine from the Victoria Inn on Choumert Road in Peckham; and after the hello there’s the conversation opener, a pint of Atlantic IPA, Sharp’s Spring seasonal ale. A very good start.

The Victoria is Capital Pub Company through and through, with familiar design touches that make the experience relaxed and comfortably familiar, without the feel of an indentikit chain. The previous incarnation, the Wishing Well was immortalised in Last Orders and i’m sure Pub purists lament the loss of such a solid boozer. But, things move on and if that pub  woo’s me with Gimme Shelter by the Stones, then I think it may be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Victoria Inn, 72-79 Choumert Road, Peckham Rye SE15 4AR

Victoria Inn, Choumert Road, Peckham Rye, SE15

Ganapati, Holly Grove, Peckham Rye, SE15

It’s been sometime since I had a Saturday night curry and even longer since I had a beer that I actually felt matched the meal. Minutes from Peckham Rye station you’ll find Ganapati specialising in South Indian. It’s not the standard Bangladeshi or Pakistani that I grew up eating as a kid. Yes, I know that’s because it’s actually Indian. With South Indian I always think of vegetarian dosa’s and fish dishes but Ganapati has a menu to suit veggies and carnivores alike.

The knowledgeable staff are always able to provide a helping hand. Our choice usually begins with street food starters of  Mysore Bonda (spicy potato balls) and Parippu Vadai (spiced patties of chana dal) followed by a Banana Leaf Thali (assorted selection of curries, dhals).  We opt for the normal starters but are drawn to the Tuna Kodampuli Curry. There’s something about seeing the word Hot that draws me in and it meets with both Lou and the waitresses seal of approval. The large tuna cuts, smokey tamarind flavour and a pleasant amount of heat is a winner.

The meal is made all the better by the choice of the Meantime India Pale Ale. I expect that a bigger smack of hops would detract from the food but this was well balanced and a real compliment to the smokey heat of the dish. At 750ml, corked and wired in a champagne style bottle it’s a very good alternative to a bottle of wine and as it’s my shout cheaper than Champagne and a lot more impressive than a couple of bottles of Cobra and some tap water. Who said romance was dead?

Ganapati, 38 Holly Grove, Peckham Rye,  SE15 5DF

Ganapati, Holly Grove, Peckham Rye, SE15

Zeitgeist @ Jolly Gardeners, 49-51 Black Prince Road, SE11

I’ve been wanting to visit Zeitgeist for quite a while now. Self proclaimed as London’s first German Gastro pub and boasting 16 draught beers the attraction is obvious. Heading from Waterloo we cut through Lambeth back streets and estates. English is leading the way, confident that we’re heading in the right direction. With the intervention of Google Maps we find ourselves on Black Prince Road and ahead of us is this most unlikely of German pubs. A grand old Lambeth boozer with none of the Bavarian Beerhall tat and dirndl clad barmaids that can usually be expected. It’s a busy Thursday night and the crowd is younger than the VH1 Classic’s playing on the big screens would suggest. I’m not a fan of TV’s in pubs but this serves as an impromptu quiz as we take a tour through the 80’s  “The Stranglers…. see I told you

Starting with a dark Krombacher, we move to a Kostrizter, which again is dark though less carbonated and more to my taste. We move to a Kölsch to accompany food the Kolsch Art Schnitzel (Cologne style). The scnitzel is wrapped around black pudding, topped with onion  and sided with mash. I mean what else would you want? The solitary straggle of frisee is uneccesary and taking up space for mash, onions or some kind of pickled veg, but this is a small point in what was a very nice dish.

We move on from Zeitgesit towards the Black Dog with the slow amble when you’ve been well fed and watered. It will won’t be long until i’m back as by my reckoning im only about a quarter of a way through the taps and there is the lure of the yet untried Currywurst.

Zeitgeist @ Jolly Gardners, 49-51 Black Prince Rd, SE11 6AB

Zeitgeist @ Jolly Gardeners, 49-51 Black Prince Road, SE11

Whisky Galore!

Whisky until recently brought to mind the harshest of blends half inched from the drinks cabinet and downed neat with 10 B&H on a damp Pennine hillside. It’s no wonder that with these adolescent memories Whisky was a pleasure that had passed me by. Until an impromptu tasting of Islay Single Malts with Meister and O started me on a road which I only expected to end in appreciation (and slight inebriation) not Islay itself. But that’s exactly where I’m headed. The sleeper to Glasgow is booked and the Ferry awaits; as do the likes of Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Bruichladdich and Ardbeg. I have a few weeks to wait but in the meantime I’m revisiting the Ealing classic, Whisky Galore, accompanied of course by a generous dram of Laphroaig.

Whisky Galore!

Tiger Tiger, Murray Street, Perth

Tiger Tiger is another Little C Gem. On a Friday afternoon the mix of custom wouldn’t be seen back home in the likes of Hoxton or Bethnal Green. It would be wall to wall skinny jeans but this crowd is the hip, those heading for a hip-op and everything inbetween. When I’d tell people that I was spending a month in Australia the question would be where first? I’d say Perth and WA. Then the’d ask where after that? General confusion would ensue when I said nowhere else. Perth is supposedly the most isolated city in the world and it’s not hard to imagine a cultural and creative vacumn as a result. Tiger Tiger goes some way to disprove this idea. More than just a coffeeshop or bar Tiger Tiger hosts music sets, Cigar Tasting, Tiger Tales and has an artist in residence.

Located in a Laneway location off Murray Street in the CBD it was a great place to catch up, watch the comings and goings in the Laneway, listen to an acoustic set and enjoy a few longnecks of Coopers Pale Ale.

Tiger Tiger, 329 Murray Street, Perth,WA 6000

Tiger Tiger, Murray Street, Perth

Pint of the unusual

The 17th March would once be ringed in the calendar, as would the 18th March, as a warning not to plan anything too taxing. Back then my Guinness consumption was high and it was pretty much all I drank. It was the better option of few, it was consistent and it was reliable. I realised this year that things have changed. I spent St Patricks Day in transit and faced with Murphys in the airport bar I chose De Koninck. On my return home, faced with the option of the beat of the bodhran, a bowl of stew and soda bread and a pint of Guinness, I opted for a bottle of red and pizza at Franco Manca

I find myself wondering what’s changed. It’s not just about St Patricks Day and the whole Plastic Paddy ghastliness (and lets face it, that’s what you’ll get in many pubs). I rarely drink Guinness anymore. Yes, It’s still a good fallback but it’s not my go to drink of choice. In fact I think the point is now that I don’t have a “pint of the usual”. I have my styles and that’s what guides me these days. It makes the pub experience that much better. The process of selection, the chance to try something new and to take recomendation is all an added part of the experience which you simply don’t get with having a usual which you know will be on any bar. So with this in mind I don’t need to be carried along on a wave of marketting to celebrate International Guinness Day. It just doesn’t mean as much to me anymore. I am after all only a Plastic Paddy. Perhaps what I need is a new date to ring in the calendar which celebrates “a pint of the unusual“… Any suggestions?

Pint of the unusual

Q&A with Yan Pilkington (and the Taps)

The Pub Diaries Q&A strand to date has been focused on Australia and the States with Matt from the Sail & Anchor in Fremantle, James from The Crafty Pint in Melbourne and Stevie C in NYC. I thought I’d bring it home this week with Yan Pilkington of Pivovar and the Taps (which if he was ever going to form a band would surely be a great name). For the uninitiated you can read more about the Euston Tap here; Sheffield Tap here and the soon to come York Tap here.

What’s most likely to be heard in the bar?

The general sounds you pick up on are customers talking to each other about beers they are trying and suggestions of what should be sampled next.

Favourite place to enjoy a beer?

The Sheffield Tap, when i am local. The problem with having such a good pub nearby is that you take it for granted. However i do like to travel further afield to sample pubs i’ve heard about. This puts what you take for granted into prospective.

If I weren’t selling beer I’d be?

Easy I would be buying and producing beer.

What’s your definition of a perfect pub?

Good beer, and being surrounded by people you would happily share a drink with.

What’s your idea of Beer / Pub hell?

I hate going into pub that ticks all the boxes from outside, and then does nothing but disappoint from the inside, usually beer past its best and
bland choice.

What was the last thing you got excited about?

I get excited about every new beer I try, not that am a beer ticker. I always enjoy returning to a favourite brew.

Whats happening?

Perhaps one more tap! (which turns out to be the York Tap… though hopefully more will come)

Q&A with Yan Pilkington (and the Taps)

399, 399 William Street, Northbridge, Perth

If Meister is my guide to the WA pub scene then Little Clare is my guide to the smaller gems of Perth. If there’s an out of the way   establishment which could slip effortlessly into Bethnal Green then its most likely on her radar. That’s how Lou and I find ourselves in 399, for lunch with LC. After huge pubs offering TABs, dining rooms, hotel rooms and Bottle Shops there’s no better place to catch up than the the cool surrounds of 399. The soundtrack is Ella (and friends); perfect for a weekday afternoon when the mercury is pushing 38c and I am literally melting.

Taking a booth our waitress come barmaid takes us through the board of Small Eats. It’s a difficult choice but we settle on: pretty much everything and she sets about whipping them up in the small kitchen area. Is there no limit to this girls job description? I’m told that the menu changes day to day so freshness is a given and it certainly doesn’t disappoint the Small Eats are perfectly sized and presented, a real antedote to the Goliath portions that I’ve had in most pubs in Oz.

Everything with 399 hit the mark. The service, the food, the design, even down to the Billy Connolly recording in the toilet. Simply put I‘m smitten with 399 and our fleeting visit is all too short.

399 William Street, Northbridge, Perth, WA 6000

399, 399 William Street, Northbridge, Perth

We Are All Tickers

For those who frequent the beer blogging space as regular punters you will have probably have read the recent posts by Zak Avery, PeteBrown and Martyn Cornell. They speak of the classifications we place upon ourselves, the hierarchy we build and the attitudes that we have to other drinkers based on that imposed hierachy. It’s easy to dismiss as a bunch of (mainly) blokes labelling and putting in boxes the world that they see around them. I am no psycolologist but I’d see this as a way to control and make sense of the world. I did dismiss it all for a second as a bit wanky (a bit like that last sentence). I’ve been doing that quite a bit of late (dismissing things) and as someone who reads, writes and thinks about pubs, beer, drinking, methods and etiquette of blogging and social media I have no right in regarding something as wanky. So, I took a deep breath, purged my mind of negative thought and read on and it brought me to the realisation that I am in fact a slightly obsessive (but not as obsessive as some) Ticker with a leaning towards the Crafterati. Thankfully I think I caught the Extremophile tendencies just in time.

I kind of knew the last two points but didn’t have anything to term them as, but the first came as a bit of a shock. I’m not sure why because i’ve always been slightly obsessive. As a teenager the 3 disc CD single was invented for me by record company execs who knew I and those like me could not sleep at night without buying that 3rd disc of Menswear remixes (yes… I am ashamed…Menswear). So why would beer be any different? I’ve been dismissive of Tickers on many an occasion as to be quite honest at their most extreme it’s just easy. Easy I suppose is really just Lazy. My eureka moment came in the Rake, a meeting place of Tickers, Crafterati, Extremophiles and regular punters who sit unaware. Stood alone at the bar next to me a stereotypical Ticker in appearance and manner. Notebook in hand he squinted at the pump clips and scribbled away. He drew some odd looks from other punters and I could hear the odd bit of derision from a group behind me. Now I wasn’t about to take issue with this but I did realise: I too was stood at the bar alone, I too was squinting at the clips, I too was taking a keen interest in what was on and where as I didn’t have a notepad and don’t write down every beer I drink, I do take pictures of pump clips on my iPhone as a reference, I do have beer apps such as untappd and Hoptopia. Perhaps we’re not that far removed. I could in fact be classed as an iTicker or Ticker 2.0.

One of many


We Are All Tickers