Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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Writing November’s round-up it seemed that Cloudwater had a finger in every pie as they opened a London tap-room, announced a new festival and re-launched cask. The new bar is in Enid Street, Bermondsey between Moor and Brew By Numbers.

Cloudwater has upped the ante, clearly spending a great deal of money, so that it looks and feels much more like a ‘proper bar’ than many of the BBM venues. Regrettably that investment included speakers in the toilets, which were stolen on the first Friday night.

Each different beer is nicely grouped into core, seasonal and collaborations categories. Slightly strangely, though, it is the price, £4, that stays constant whilst the size of the measures varies, according to ABV and style.

Unsurprisingly, the quality has been fantastic on every visit. Cloudwater made its name with DIPA’s, but I have long felt that sours were their most underrated, and interesting, style, so it is particularly pleasing to have drunk so many different examples already.

For the consumer, this is a fantastic addition to London’s beer scene. However, there are caveats, including the effect on small London brewers, for whom tap-rooms and/or managed bars are a life-blood. Within 12 months, other UK (Moor initially, Verdant, all be it in partnership with Pressure Drop and now Cloudwater) and foreign craft (Mikkeller) have all launched in London.

Cloudwater London Tap Room. (credit: Beer Guide London)

In addition Siren has crowdfunded to do just this and I can guarantee Magic Rock or Northern Monk have thought about it. Obviously, this is going to be reducing sales at local brewers’ tap-rooms, and ultimately putting pressure on their finances.

As a brief aside, it is interesting to speculate if the response might include individuals, or more likely a partnership or collective, possibly linked to London Brewers’ Alliance launching a bar in Manchester and Bristol? Whether this occurs or not, the text-book answer is that small London brewers will have to upgrade their performances or go to the wall, and it is legitimate to argue that this competitive pressure is what drives improved consumer products.

However, as I wrote in July’s blog, regarding Wicked Weed, (http://beerinsider.com/around-town-with-amateur-drinker-34/), “in food and drink, variety is the spice of life.” There is an obvious danger that, much like the modern High Street, we end up with a standardised UK beer scene in which every major UK town or a city has a Brewdog, a Moor, a Cloudwater, possibly an LBA, and a Mikkeller. The beer quality will be far greater than 10 years ago but the variety and local flavour will not be lost.

Indeed, and far more heinously, November also saw New Zealand’s Pan Head announcing a Druid Street tap-room to be run by Four Pure. They are both owned by Kirin so we will now have a macro-beer bar in Bermondsey. This is Starbucks or McDonald’s, but more dishonestly: How many of the BBM tourist or stag/hen crowd will know which are local and which are macro?

Fantastic Omnipollo TTO at The King’s Arms. It was a school-night, but when I arrived at 16:30, the pub was already completely rammed, with a very well-fuelled party atmosphere, and most kegs kicked that evening. The double peach candy popcorn sour and, in collaboration with Tired Hands, a Pina Colada Milkshake IPA were both on the famous soft serve. Maz pale ale and zodiac IPA on tap.

But the real stars were four imperial stouts:  Agamemnon, with  coconut and maple syrup, Yellow Belly with Buxton, which features in December’s round-up for vastly more boring reasons, Brush w/J Wakefield and I Wanna Be Your Dog with Brewdog, which was barrel-aged in whisky.

The only beer that didn’t really work was the Scelerisque, a valrhona bourbon chocolate sauce stout. This smelt, looked and tasted like chocolate sauce. Following the famous Duck Test, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck and quacks like a duck? Minor quibbling as the Scelerisque would be perfectly acceptable as a Festival Beer. Overall, this was a great evening.

King’s Arms, Bethnal Green

Later in the month, Against the Grain visited the same pub for a MTB with their co-owner Adam Watson. Kentucky Common, with Cloudwater and El Gingero, a bourbon BA oatmeal stout with ginger and orange in collaboration with Magic Rock, were stand-outs.

Cloudwater moved back into cask and held the London Launch, on Remembrance Sunday, at The Wenlock Arms, an appropriate choice as the pub is justifiably renowned for the quality and care of its cask. The Pale and DDH Pale were good, but the Brown Ale and India Porter were both absolutely superb.

The Bottle Shop Arch hosted a De Molen Borefts Festival after-party including  Said & Done, a Bowmore BA nutty caramel stout, Fair Fest, a Tonka Quad and Juicy Loesie , an apple barley wine. These were very strong beers! The Bruery TTO at The Arch had 11 Pipers Piping, a Scotch Ale, a Blackcurrant Tart of Darkness, their BA sour stout, and Mash and Coconut, a Barley Wine, although they bill it as an Imperial Brown Ale.

Cloudwater’s final influence was to announce a new Festival, “Family and Friends and Beer” for the first weekend in March. There is a clear gap in the market with the demise of Beaver-Ex, which they have stepped into. The line-up looks great and I have booked. Unfortunately, November also saw tickets go on sale for 2019’s LCBF & MBCC so there is a clear seasonal hit to beer-lovers’ liquidity!

Last, but not least, Thanksgiving saw a Siren TTO at The Sutton Arms in EC1. I know that their sudden ubiquity, and sometime low quality made them very unfashionable but I do like the Brut IPA’s from Siren.

In Memoriam George Nazer.

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.