Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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As this column covers The Christmas Lunch Month, it seems appropriate to dedicate it to the poet Gavin Ewart, the all-time legend of Lunch With The FT: “The combination led to some memorable encounters, most notably a liquid lunch of biblical proportions at the Cafe Royal between Nigel Spacey, a Cambridge don and freelance FT writer, and Gavin Ewart, the 79-year-old poet.

The next day, Spivey received a call from Mrs Ewart, saying that her husband had returned home happier than she had seen him in years, before adding: “The second thing and you are not to feel bad about this, is that he died this morning.”

Onto the beers…Stirbergets, from Gothenburg, have been generating a lot of excitement and rave reviews so it was great to see them at The Bottle Shop. Two IPA’s, the Amazing Haze and the GBG Beer Week special, were stunning, and more than justified the hype.

The same venue saw the official launch, from Burning Sky, of the 2016 Cuvee, the Saison Reserve and their first ever Imperial Stout. It is testimony to the quality of this Sussex brewery that so many of the great and good of the London scene were in attendance and the beers showed why, ably demonstrating their trademark subtlety.

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Goose Island opened their Vintage Ale House in Balham. This is a food-based venture, with a tapas bar vibe, and indeed served an excellent Cubano sandwich, that Jon Favreau would have been proud of.

The draught range was not particularly inspiring, but they have a fantastic cellar of wild, sour bottled beers, most notably Madame Rose (Kriek-esque), and the tart, berry Juliet as well as Lolita (think Framboise). There is much to commend here and it is clearly backed by the parent company’s immense power. However, I think the concept needs tweaking slightly: I don’t think casual diners, used to wine, will be experimental enough to jump into 750ml bottles of sour beer, while the keg offerings need improvement for the serious drinker (are they allowed to take guest beers?).

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The Thinker at the Vintage Ale House

Overall, though, this is a courageous and interesting idea. They clearly want to roll it out and, with a couple of minor changes it would be an excellent addition to any neighbourhood.

Moor are one of my favourite brewers, but as their popularity has deservedly risen, I increasingly find it hard to find their beers on keg in London (I can’t remember when I last saw Old Freddy Walker), and so I was delighted to discover their Tap Takeover of Bermondsey’s Eebria, especially as they were bringing the last keg of JJJ, which I have been searching for a while now.

The beer was delicious, although with a dangerously hidden ABV. They also brought a wonderful spiced porter, but unfortunately your correspondent had rather too much JJJ to be able to adequately note its name [This is the first admittance we’ve heard of Amateur Drinker over-consuming so he must have been bad – Ed

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Source: Beer Guide London

A quick word about Eebria. The staff were passionate and knowledgeable and it is clearly a serious player in the beer world, so why on earth did they serve us with plastic cups?

The King’s Arms played a small part in Bierre del Ducato’s Rivelazioni Acide event, offering Frambozschella, a raspberry sour and Beersel Morning, a blend of Ducatos Saison and 18-month old Beersel Lambic. Northern Monk also brought down exceptional one-off beers for a Tap Takeover. I loved the blueberry black IPA, particularly as it is a style that I often find disappointing.

However, the list was unbalanced, particularly for a Wednesday night, as the other 5 beers consisted of 3 DIPA (the best was Double Heathan) and 2 imperial porters from their Patrons Project range (I preferred the coffee 1.01 to the smoked honey 2.01).

And finally, 2 days after they had received the most coveted and prestigious award of all (http://beerinsider.com/amateur-drinker-awards-for-2016/), the pub celebrated 2016 by putting on a fantastic list for New Year’s Eve: Modern Times Fruitlands, Alpine Duet IPA, Cloudwater’s V10 DIPA and Brooklyn Black Ops Imperial Stout were 4 amongst equals.

The Old Fountain invited Beerbliotek (Not Guilty an OJ IPA, and Eternal Darkness, an imperial stout their best) to take over the blackboards, before ending the month with a lovely Xmas Charity Event.

The list of brewers donating beer was a Who’s Who of London, whilst the Raffle saw prizes of fabulous wines, whiskeys and a signed Lionel Messi shirt. I won a bottle of women’s perfume. Interestingly, there has been a clear rise in more discerning beer drinkers, as they desperately need to order more of the stemmed half-pint glasses.

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More of these glasses please.

December saw the launch of Affinity, which has a great pedigree and started brightly. However, going forward, let’s hope they spend more time on brewing and less on naming beers from sixth form politics, especially, as they are now small business owners, and so are part of the class, that the politician that their Red IPA commemorates, despises.

Brewdog Clerkenwell entertained Magic Rock (mainly old favourites, but good to try the Wayniac collaboration with Cigar City for the first time), on the same day as the bi-annual London Brewers’ market event at Spitalfields. A couple of weeks later it was good to see the location acknowledged as the Ten Dollar Shake and Brimful Of Masha were included in their Birthday Bash.

Finally, I hope 2017 brings everyone the beer of their dreams…

Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t because you’re not committed enough