Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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October saw PunchDrink run a depressing article about how Other Half had become a sign of status symbol of conspicuous consumption on Wall St. (https://punchdrink.com/articles/how-other-half-brewery-become-official-beer-wall-street-finance/). I think the only one of my readers who would not be aghast at this development is the Editor, who might have a slight smirk at his prescience having written about this very topic earlier this year.

The relative mispricing between Finback & Other Half in the article is eerily reminiscent of the notorious story of the Chateau Lafite in China:  For some mysterious, long-forgotten reason (an unverifiable theory is that it was because it is easiest to pronounce) Lafite became regarded in China as being superior to the other 1st growths.

For centuries, globally, these wines had been regarded as roughly similar and priced accordingly. Add the cultural mix of Face and Gift-giving to the world’s most populous country and the result was that by 2011, when the phenomenon peaked, Lafite was around three times more expensive than the others! (http://www.jancisrobinson.com/articles/the-legend-of-lafit) Wine or beer, Bankers or Party Officials, either of the world’s two great super-powers, human nature is the same.

Brewdog’s annual CollabFest was the best yet: The beers were pouring from lunch-time, so crowds were eased, whilst the quality seemed a lot better this year. I visited Clerkenwell, and although their home offering (w/Siren), Cookie Dough, a white stout was a bit too sweet, they did bring round free cookies so fair play! My highlights were Das Ist Techno Sex (Glasgow, Up Front), a passion-fruit and key lime gose, Are You Taking the Peche (Norwich, Deya), a slightly sweet peach IPA, Risk: Cherry Stone (Soho, Urban Farmhouse, again far and away, the best that Redchurch do), a sour. And finally A Guy Called Fudge (Gothenburg, Mikrofonbryggeriet), an IPA. There were a few misses, but that’s to be expected with experimental, ‘festival-beers’.

…neither could I

Beer Merchants announced that they will be opening a tap-room in Hackney Wick, alongside a “dedicated barrel-aged sour beer blender”. This is welcome news, but they have come up with a bizarre method of funding it: customers are invited to ‘invest’ £x but they are “not offering equity, but for every £1 you invest in the bar, we’ll give you £2 to spend at the Tap” Frankly, it is not an investment then, but a combination of a supermarket “Buy 1, Get 1 Free” promotion, that is as old as retailing itself, and invoice discounting.

The same day, Brewdog declared that 2018 will see a new, 8,500 square feet Brewpub at the corner of Great Tower Street and Mark Lane.

Their Shepherd’s Bush branch hosted Siren, and again insisted on their ludicrous Friday 18:00 embargo. That this was utterly superfluous was shown when I visited the next lunch-time and nothing had run out! I enjoyed Hard Rollin’, a superb IPA with Dry & Bitter, and Deuce, a blonde ale with strawberries & cream. Summer Citra Gin Party was a DIPA, which they claimed was 8.5%, but it was way boozier than that: apparently they had aged it in gin barrels and lost control.

Siren’s big guns

Anyway, I won’t tell the Revenue if they don’t. (In 2015, and again the next year, they brewed Ginspired,  a G&T IPA with Magic Rock, that was much more restrained, and better). Fresh Cream, was a huge bourbon BA imperial milk stout with added chilli, although even with the added spice, I found it a little too sweet for my tastes. Draugen (a collab with Dugges), an imperial smoked porter with Islay smoked malt, was on the other end of the spectrum!

Partizan are doubling their capacity by moving around the corner, to 34 Raymouth Rd. Their former home will be occupied by Affinity, previously in Tottenham, and newcomer, Spartan, further increasing venues for the Bermondsey Beer Mile. They held a closing party, with brews from themselves and friends, including Kernel, who originally gave them their first piece of kit, way back in 2012.

That afternoon, Bottle Shop unfortunately had to cancel Left Hand’s Nitro Milk Stout re-launch, due to the remnants of a hurricane holding up the transit. Predictably, there were some great events at the Bottle Shop Arch in October though: Belgian rarities (Oud Beerse Oude Viart Lambiek and Verzet Kameradski Balsamico, a hybrid of an imperial stout and an Oud Bruin) were matched with cheese from Raw Cheese Power.

Heretically, I don’t enjoy the cheese and beer match as much as most, as I can feel bloated, and can’t stop thinking of the calories, but here the acidity of the beers rally cut through the fattiness of the cheese. Two breweries were poured for the first time in the UK: the aforementioned Finback (Origin, a DIPA, and All Caps, with Fuerst Wiacek, were both good but Whale Farm, a NEDIPA with Alefarm , was the clear stand-out). They were flown over so super fresh, whilst Belgium’s L’Ermitage’s notables were Theoreme de l’Empereur, a Belgian Ale, and Noire du Midi, a porter.

Somewhat bizarrely, I attended two separate official bar launches in North London, graced by the mayors of respectively Haringey and Enfield. The first was for Bohem’s renovated tap-room, for which I must again express an interest (as an investor), whilst the latter for Little Green Dragon Ales. This micro-pub, a labour of love for Richard Reeve, is a tribute to the Green Dragon, a Winchmore Hill pub from the early 18th century until 2014, when developers overcame a local campaign and converted it into flats. It is cask-only at the moment, with a fantastic, friendly atmosphere. I most enjoyed drinking Five Points Brickfield Brown ale.

Thankfully, in that I don’t expect our cousins across the pond to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night, I didn’t attend any Halloween events in 2017. Moreover, Beavertown ceased making Stingy Jack, their spiced pumpkin ale. Apparently they were left with a load of unsold stock in 2016. Actually, as pumpkin beers go, I didn’t find this too bad, but that’s a pretty low bar.

Tottenham’s finest held a week-long Coming Home TTO, back where it all began, at Duke’s BBQ. This culminated in a pre-launch of Humuloid, the new NE DIPA elder brother of Lupoloid, and proved to be an excellent rendition of the style.

I managed to order two bottles of the latest Tommie Sjef, Salie, a wild ale with sage, and Liefste, one refermented with chardonnay grapes. Successfully delivered, they are already pencilled in for the festive season.

BrewDog Camden showcased four Californian beers: Almanac Farmer’s Reserve, and three from Lost Abbey: Gift Of The Magi, a Belgian strong ale, Red Barn Ale, a sasion, and the frightening, but utterly magnificent, Deliverance, a blend of bourbon BA imperial stout and brandy BA barley wine!

De Molen took over the original Mother Kelly’s, including  21 Grams Cryo Hop, a DIPA that will steal your soul (geddit?) and Vuur & Vlam (Fire & Flames), an IPA. I enjoyed Moor’s JJJ, a TPIA, on tap at the Old Fountain, but found it a bit too strong this year, although whether that is a different brew or because I am getting older is open to question.

Finally, it was good to see that Duration (Derek Bates, ex-BBNo) get the go-ahead for a family farmhouse brewery in Norfolk. Look forward to trying their beers in 2018…

Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t. If you see this man and are tempted to buy him a drink think of the consequences.