London Beer City week obviously dominates this month’s correspondence. The opening and closing events provided a perfect illustration of this year’s main theme: the exponential rise in demand for quality beer, and the response to the capacity constraints this produces.
It is slightly churlish to criticise the Opening party held at Five Points as they were extremely generous in the small, pre-booked brewer tasting sessions, which were completely free. Moreover, the sun came out and with many familiar faces it was potentially a great party.
However, in the face of huge demand, logistically it was a disaster. They did not have a token system so each purchase required change, and there were only three separate pouring points.
On top of this the quality of the beers were extremely varied and too many were advertised: this meant that like Akerlof’s lemons in the used car market, lower quality beers stayed on longer whilst everyone waited for certain brews which promptly sold out- the Beavertown Pineapple Phantom went in 20 minutes.
It was sad that Mother Kelly’s and the King’s Arms, great venues though they are, filled up with people who left the party due to the queues.
However, the same people also produced the closing event, LCBF, which was fantastic. 2016 is the fourth and I can proudly say I have attended each festival. This year was noticeably the busiest, but the layout and the free-pour system meant that queues were not an issue.
Overall it was a fantastic party. I loved Sori Delirious, a DIPA, Buxton/Omnipollo Chocolate Ice Cream Brown Ale and Omnipollo Noa Pecan Mud Cake, an imperial stout. However, on a gorgeous day the go-to beers were lighter.
They included: To-Øl’s Roses are Brett raspberry saison; Omnipollo’s Bianca Mango Lassi Gose soft serve, especially as it was topped with a soft serve ice cream; and Sierra Nevade Otra Vez, which may not have been technically the best but its sour citrus flavours and low APV (4.5%) were perfect in the sun.
The only small gripe I had was about the time. The event was advertised as being 1200-1700. However, they opened 15 minutes late, but stopped serving at 1645 sharp with no drinking up beyond 1700. If they are going to be as efficient at the back-end, then it should also open on the dot. [Amateur Drinker is a stickler for timings – ed]
Overall LCBF was superb but as demand goes ever higher it will likely have to evolve with more sessions or a bigger venue.
Other notable Beer City events saw CBC host three separate week-long tap takeovers: Tiny Rebel in WC1; Magic Rock in N1; and the centrepiece a rebranding of the Clerkenwell pub as “The Thornbridge Arms” and stocking 38 (19 keg, 19 cask) different beers over the course of the event.
The Thursday night saw a special, imported cans event at The King’s Arms in Bethnal Green. There was a lot of very interesting, reasonably priced beer. I especially enjoyed Tailgate grapefruit IPA, Maui Big Swell IPA, Hardywood Capital Trail pale ale, and probably the best of the lot, DC Brau On the Wings of Armageddon, a DIPA.
GBBF was the same as always, and it is almost certain that if someone is reading a beer blog, then they have attended the event themselves. It is another debate whether this familiarity is a good thing or if the craft brewers should be allowed in, and on keg.
The first stop as always was ‘Bieres sans Frontieres’, which bizarrely is allowed to serve keg! The Antos lager was an excellent example of the style, the Permon cheery lager a fun beer that didn’t quite work, the Boon Oude Kriek predictably good, but the outstanding beer was Aecht Schlenkerla Rauchbier Märzen, a glorious smoked beer from Brauerei Heller in Bamberg, Bavaria. And this coming from someone who is not always huge fan of that particular style.
Then we went to the American bottle bar, which is excellent. We were there on the first day so the selection was still very good. However, I thought it was bad form to allow people to buy bottles for take-away when volumes are limited and rather predictably I heard reports from friends who went later in the week that lots were sold out. The Empire Slo Mo’ IPA and Deschutes Hop Slice IPA were just OK, Brewski Mangofeber DIPA superb but my favourite was the Gigantic Pipe Wrench IPA , aged in gin barrels and tasting of citrus and juniper.
Finally, I find the American cask bar a bit hit-and-miss as it is a style they don’t normally concentrate on and I’m not sure it travels under proper conditions. I did enjoy the Noble Ale Works Galaxy Showers DIPA though.
Beavertown’s second Tempus event was another resounding success. We sat down to a table set up as a continental breakfast with croissants and fruits. They then served barrel aged Spresso, an imperial stout, out of an American Diner-style coffee pourer, which was a nice touch, and a fantastic beer.
This was followed by BA versions of their Sour Power, a Farmhouse Red, Appellation, an apple saison – appropriately using Calvados barrels – and finally Lord Smog Almighty, another imperial stout. As with the first Tempus event this was magnificent – well organised, great beers and generously matched food
Northern Monk TTO at the King’s Arms. With one exception it was all pales and IPA’s. The peach and apricot Midsummer was good but I didn’t like the Mango Lassi Heathen, which was too overpowering: I wanted a beer not a fruit-juice.
Mother Kelly’s hosted their third annual Sour Weekender. I quite liked the new Siren mint, orange and lime Tschuss but I was in a definite minority. As always through, and at the risk of repeating myself, the Kernel London Damson Sour was head and shoulders above anything else: it really is a wonderful beer.
Regular readers know that the Old Fountain is my local so I was delighted to see that they have added a further six keg taps. The only drawback is that they have had to change the information on their black- board, which was always gloriously London-centric, with the geography of the brewer being precise postal districts for the capital, large towns for the rest of England and then countries, so Hammerton, Manchester and USA were all given similar prominence!
They also hosted a meet the brewer with Andy Parker and Elusive, which was a fun evening. The Thai Yum Wit had a real spicy kick, but the showstopper was the Level Up Red Ale, superb in both keg and cask.
As always, there are a few BottleShop events to mention: A Denmark evening featured Mikkeller (my better half loves the “Hallo, Ich bin Berliner” weisse cherry, myself the Lambic-style SpontanLingonberry) and WarPigs (Real Estate Mongol APA). Magic Rock brought familiar beers but no less welcome for that, and then finally Dugges, (with Tropic Thunder, a sour fruit ale for my partner while surprisingly I actually preferred their High Five! IPA to the Parallex collaboration with Omnipollo & Edge).
I made my first visit to Mason and Co., and unfortunately was not impressed. On the way home I popped into the aforementioned Old Fountain. They were charging three quid for a third of the Cloudwater DIPA 6, as opposed to £5.85 for a half at Mason, which means that a bar on a canal in Hackney is 30% more expensive (£11.70/pint as opposed to £9) than one on the edge of the world’s financial centre, which is ludicrous given their respective rents.
Moreover, two weeks after a Cloudwater TTO for Beer City week, six of those beers were still on and therefore not as fresh as should be.
And finally, the FT reports that Robert Parker has just released his first Saki ratings with the predictable effects of the lemming-like rushes to suppliers and explosive jumps in price, which have occurred in wine for many years. Let’s just pray he stays away from beer.
Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t.