November saw a tsunami of ticket-releases, as MBCC, Extravaganza, Beavertown’s 6th Birthday and LCBF all came the market. Roll on 2018!
The best event last month was Darker Days IV, Matt Curtis’s annual, seasonal, celebration of darker styles, at The Duke’s Head. This year, he paired Burning Sky with food from, Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen. Tom Dobson, brewer, spoke informatively about each beer. Flanders Red ale, and Cherry Monolith, another wild, were highlights. Finally, we ended with a bourbon BA imperial stout, apparently the only bottles sold into London.
Prior to the dinner, I managed to pop into GNRT for a Magic Rock TTO. The Cherry Cola Berliner Weisse apparently tasted authentic, in which case I’m glad I’ve never touched the soft drink, as the beer was horribly, sickly sweet. Mexicanao Berryade, a raspberry and lemon gose, was very good, but the stand-out was an old classic, High Wire on cask.
More ludicrous capital market shenanigans from Brewdog: In a story that was so staggeringly stupid, that I initially thought it was Daily Mash satire, a company asked rational investors to part with money as they were “becoming the first company to allow you to gift shares in
Brewdog to your dog”. https://www.brewdog.com/lowdown/blog/equity-for-pups. This isn’t quite as stupid as the infamous prospectus for “a company for carrying out an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is” during the South Sea Bubble, but then again that was in 1720, and is in all financial history books.
Fullers and friends, six collaborations between the London brewery and craft brewers, were only available in bottles and sold exclusively in Waitrose. After basically camping outside my local Barbican branch, I finally managed to get four cases.
Overall they were interesting, especially for £2 each in a supermarket. My favourite was Moor Rebirth ESB. Based upon the original recipe from 1971 (which I was absolutely shocked at: I would have bet the ranch on pre-WW2, and would have been far less surprised if it had been 19th century) ,a complex bitter, closely followed by Thornbridge Flora & The Griffin, a red rye
The only disappointment was Four Pure Galleon lager which was thin and weak. Hardknott Pea Souper, a smoked porter , was not bad, but I think they reined this in a bit too much for the supermarket crowd as I’d have liked a little more smoke I’ve kept a couple back to age.
Marble Matariki saison, was refreshing although it would have been better in the summer rather than November. Cloudwater NEIPA I think they’ve tried too hard to appeal to both camps of traditional and the ultra modern NEIPA style, so it fell between two stools a bit. Either have a Fuller’s cask or a Cloudwater NEIPA, and if you personally don’t like either style then that’s your choice.
I attended the free Brooklyn Ghost tasting at 40ft with Garrett Oliver, which caused such a storm on Twitter. It was primarily a PR event, to promote their acquisition of London Fields although I was one of the lucky few (less than 20% I’d guess), who had got a ticket in the public free-for-all. The argument was over whether good journalism could come from a PR event, after Garret made some knowingly controversial comments about NEIPA, which brought further publicity.
The host was as charismatic as always, and the measures were very generous, especially considering the high ABV: he correctly warned us we would be smashed. Special mention for Black Ops, the famous imperial stout, Cloaking Device, an imperial porter, and Hand and Seal, a stunning barley wine
After lavishing fully-deserved praise on Beavertown’s Extravaganza, it is only fair to say that the Afterburner party was a bit of a mess. The collaborations from the event were served at a ticketed tap-room. However, the ticket price was trivial, with drinks having to be paid for by card. This was a terrible idea and meant the logistics were awful with 35-40 minute queues. Obviously this self-fulfilled, as it necessitated getting multiple drinks when you finally got to the front and then promptly re-joining the back. To their credit, although also an acknowledgment of how bad it was, they did come round with free cans of Neck Oil.
The wholesaler Honest Brew will allocate up to £50,000 a year to be spent on capex with a small independent brewery who is already their customer. The first recipient is Verdant, who get £20,000 for new tanks. Although they billed it as an investment fund, it isn’t: Honest won’t take equity, but it is an interest free loan, which is paid back in stock. Essentially all they have done is pre-pay, reversing the normal working capital relationship.
Bottleshop now has 16 taps, although this includes Prosecco , which I don’t count! The standout beer recently was: Wicked Weed Montmaretto, a magnificent barrel-aged cheery & Amaretto sour. Other TTO’s were Marble, with The Castle of Udolpho, a boozy, dark ruby winter ale, and the always excellent Dobber IPA, Rodenbach, Caractere Rouge, and Alexander, and Cloudwater, in which Paul Jones made a guest appearance. Speyside BA imperial chocolate stout, the Christmas Cake imperial stout, in collaboration with To Øl, which was their last ever cask beer, after they discontinued that method a year ago. They have obviously been on a Busman’s holiday to the US recently as there have been a wave of collabs with American brewers. The best were Lipids & Proteins IPA w/Modern Times, and Catch My Eye, a pale w/Jester King.
Heineken have been searching for a UK craft brewer acquisition for a while. They have now found one and will be taking a minority stake in Brixton Brewery, which will enable them to move to a new 15,000 square foot site half a mile away. More welcome was the news that West Berkshire Brewery would now be brewing Yeastie Boys in the UK.
A personal drunken highlight was an evening with the author Graeme Macrae Burnet at Waterstones Tottenham Court Road where I drank Meantime (I know, sorry) for the first time in years, to promote his new novel “The Accident on the A35”. All of his books, based on a very general theme of unreliable narration’, are fantastic and I will go my grave maintaining that “His Bloody Project” should have walked last year’s Booker.
Five Points had an excellent cask TTO at the Old Fountain, the highlight of which was the fantastic Green Hop. Northern Monk brought their regulars to the House of Hammerton.
Burnt Mill, from Suffolk, are new to me and I enjoyed Green Path and Eastville, both IPA, in can and keg at both Bottleshop and The Prince.
Finally, this article (http://www.chicagotribune.com/dining/drink/beer/ct-food-craft-beer-pastry-stout-20171115-story,amp.html) was the first time that I came across the term ‘pastry stout’, to describe overly sugary imperial stouts that “taste more like dessert than beer. It clearly makes an excellent point, as I have heard the term repeatedly since then!
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.