Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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Amateur Drinker leaves the smoke

After a month in which the country managed tear itself apart in a dispute, almost, but obviously not quite as, vicious and confrontational as craft versus keg at a CAMRA meeting, this column will concentrate on the beer.

It is to be regretted though that some others in the industry did not remember this, as childish beer mats in well-known pub-chains on one side, or tweets from an excellent Northern brewer worrying about the effects of a fall in sterling on their exports (sic) from the other confirm.

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Beer Kat was a most welcome addition. This was a terrific idea, transforming a derelict, run-down pub on the Holloway Road by inviting a succession of brewers to do full pub takeovers. They have combined this with music and food, as well as special events, most notably Hops, Burns & Black’s Chilli Karaoke.

 

The pub is a good size so there are over 10 taps upstairs and downstairs and they chose a great run of breweries, who all entered into the spirit, and also used the opportunity to launch new beers.

First up was Beavertown, surely the best choice to launch with, given their popularity and visibility in London. They debuted Notorious, a blood orange DIPA (slightly confusingly this is a collaboration with Boneyard and not a pumped-up version of the Bloody ‘Ell), which was excellent, juicy and fruity and you really had to remind yourself that it was 9.1% ABV!

Siren came next, and gave us two new DIPA’s: the Tidal Wave, the wittingly named elder brother to their normal Soundwave IPA and the Hillbilly Tropical Fruit IPA, which I really enjoyed.

Finally, there was a Bristol takeover, although practically this meant Bristol Beer Factory and Wiper & True in a supporting role to the main act of Moor. Paying homage to Star Wars, of which Justin Hawke is a huge fan, the latter were Guardian of Peace, an IPA, and Agent of Evil, a black IPA.

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So far Beer Kat has been a tremendous success and I sincerely hope that it becomes a permanent fixture.

The best single event came at Beavertown who laid on a fantastic spread for the launch of the Tempus project, their 1st attempt to age beers in wooden barrels to capture wild yeast and bacteria. They have developed a ‘wild’ space on the other side of the industrial estate, away from the sanitised world of their normal operations, where they are stored.

After a tour of the brewery, we tasted four beers: Phobos and Deimos, respectively a Madeira and Sherry barrel-aged weizen dopplebock with Oskar Blues, and in partnership with Founders we tried Brux and Clausseni. These were all matched with selected cheeses from Neal’s Yard. This was an excellent evening, extremely well-organised and with very generous measures. The beers were all superb, with my favourite the Madeira-aged Deimos.

I love Ibiza, and have visited it multiple times a year for over a decade. Ibosim, which have been gypsy-brewing on the mainland with their bottles available for a couple of years, have just opened a brew-pub in Port des Torrent, and will actually be brewing on the Island from later in the year.

The bar has a very good vibe and three owners are extremely friendly and enthusiastic. Given that they are just starting, their beers are clearly not yet on the level of some of the ones I mention in this column, but they would never claim that they were, and everyone has to start somewhere (the mighty oak of Beavertown was but an acorn in the back of Duke’s four years ago).

Two beers, however, really captured the concept of location: the Summer Ale was great for drinking in the sun, whilst the Garrova Carob Porter was very good and used the fruit of the Carob tree, which grows wild throughout the island.

I would strongly recommend visiting if you are on holiday and although Port des Torrent itself is fairly unexciting, there is an excellent seafood restaurant, Can Pujol, just round the corner.

Moreover they are always interested in collaborations so if any UK brewers fancy a busman’s holiday! They were telling me that apparently a senior Beavertown brewer was on vacation recently, met them by chance at a farmers’ market and then popped in to give some much welcome advice! Ibosim are doing more than anyone to improve the quality of beer in Ibiza and the owners are passionate and friendly: I really hope that the brewery thrives.

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Hawkshead re-brewed their Key Lime Tau, a superb collaboration with Crooked Stave from last year’s Rainbow Project. This is a great beer so why does it need the ludicrous marketing of a special launch at selected venues only on “International Tau Day”, which I had never heard of, and doesn’t even make sense if you write dates in a logical day/month/year order as we do in this country?

Craft Beer Co. celebrated birthdays at two different branches: Covent Garden was lucky enough to receive a special cask version of Siren’s Caribbean stout, with added birthday cake, for their 2nd. Other notable beers included Farmers reserve citrus, a sour blond with yuzu & blood orange, Alesmith double red IPA, and Magic rock Grand Mariner bearded lady imperial stout.

A few weeks later Clerkenwell had a Sour Special for their 5th birthday: High Water Central Valley Breakfast Sour and, predictably, the Kernel Damson London Sour were the highlights.

The Bottle Shop had a couple of interesting tap takeovers: Allvine (enjoyed the Karassas Allvine, Kerasus cherry and Framboos) and To Øl (Gose to Hollywood, Velvet are Blue sour blueberry saison, Friends with Benefits APA and Roses Are Brett an amber saison with raspberries).

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Things always get blurry at The Bottle Shop

They also hosted the launch of version 4 & 5 of Cloudwater’s DIPA. Version 4 was better than version 5; they also came with a brewery recommendation to blend them in a 2:1 ratio in order to enhance the flavour although I did wonder why they didn’t just do the blending themselves!

The beers were excellent, but I didn’t like the artificially small production (only 2 kegs to London?) in order to create a fabricated event: This meant there were queues outside at 5pm on a Friday, which may have pleased their marketing department, but seemed unnecessary to me: why not just make more of the beer?

Finally, a mention for FourPure who are probably the most improved brewery of the year so far. They have really upped their game: the JuiceBox Citrus IPA is very good, but the Shape Shifter is even better, a delicious West Coast IPA.

Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t.