Around Town with Amateur Drinker

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Apologies for the delayed arrival of this latest monthly review of beer proceedings in the capital but I got waylaid with a rather heavy workload. Anyway, here we go:

It is fair to say that The Kernel is in the vanguard of the London scene: they were among the first of the new wave of brewers, they are at the epicentre of the borough now most associated with beer, and it was their taproom that first experienced the problems of excessive crowds and regrettably had to close in response. So it no surprise to report that they are now leading the way among the brewers with ticketed events.

They did a horizontal tasting using six different versions of their single-hop pale ale each brewed using an identical recipe, but with the single hop changing each time. The hops used were all from the 2015 harvest in the North-western United States: Amarillo, Cascade, Chinook, Citra, Mosaic, and Simcoe.

I thought this was an absolutely brilliant idea as personally I have never experienced anything like this in the beer world. It was very interesting to compare the differences. For what it’s worth I found the Amarillo had the most depth while I would choose the Citra for easier summer drinking, if that season ever arrives this year.

Hopefully this will again serve as a pointer for the other brewers: ticketed to reduce unpleasant crowds and also out-of-the box thinking in its concept.

Its second ticketed night was a charity do, organised by Mark Dredge for a children’s hospital, which received all the ticket revenue, with the brewers donating the beer for free. This was a fun evening for a worthy cause so thanks to everyone involved. I enjoyed the Chorlton Sour and the Vocation Life and Death IPA but the highlight was an advance pouring of the third version of Cloudwater’s DIPA a day before the official release and it duly lasted about an hour!

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Cloudwater DIPA v3

There have been a plethora of British double IPA’s brewed recently: I have to say that whilst the well-hyped Cloudwater and Magic Rock Human Cannonball were certainly not bad, I think the best of the bunch is the Brew By Numbers 55/01, which I mentioned last month.

Another notable launch was Magic Rock’s triple IPA Unhuman Cannonball, which debuted initially at Craft Beer Co, N1. This has become an annual event and last year a strongly enforced 7 o’clock start led to queues outside round the block. Thankfully, this year Craft Beer Co sensibly moved the timing forward to 4pm, which massively reduced the logjam so hat’s off for that. The beer was excellent as well!

A second annual beer to appear was Beavertown Bloody ‘Ell introduced initially at their tap-room. Personally I think that each version has got more subtle and a bit less in your face orange. There’s nothing wrong with 2016 but I preferred the more aggressive 2015 vintage.

The King’s Arms continued its recent good run hosting Michigan’s Founder’s. Rubaeus is probably my girlfriend’s favourite beer and I loved Project Pam, a black IPA appearing for the first time in the UK, Backwoods Bastard Scotch Ale aged for a year in bourbon barrels and Kentucky Breakfast Stout an Imperial Stout brewed with coffee and chocolate all of which had been aged in bourbon barrels.

BottleShop hosted The Kernel, with the highlight three limited edition Corny Kegs, apparently similar to those used by homebrewers, and which they use for experimental one-off beers. The London Sour Cascara was superb, but the beer of the night was an absolutely stunning raspberry version of their imperial brown stout. Indeed it was slightly unfortunate that Cloudwater took over the same taps the next night as although it showcased they are now very good (Table beer juniper), they are not quite yet at the top table where The Kernel sits.

Easter in London is now marked by two annual beer festivals. Firstly, Craft Beer 100 in Clapham, which I have already praised for the introduction of third measures and must admit, that contrary to my fears, the Thursday afternoon session was not too crowded.

Overall this event was good but certainly not great: I was not at all impressed with the selection outside (indeed my half of Electric Live Wire APA ended up watering the plants after one sip) whilst although the beers inside, at the Keg Bar, were excellent (the very refreshing High water Central Valley breakfast sour, Almanac Ginger Gose and Alesmith Vietnamese speedway stout the top picks) they were too expensive.

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Brodie’s King William IV pub

Secondly, there was Brodie’s Bunny Basher at its own King William IV pub in Leyton. This is a normal pub, with cheaper commercial beers and Sky Sports alongside the craft range, which is something I always like to see. Unfortunately, for this event that meant that most of the beers in the 44-strong list were not actually available on one of the 7 or 8 taps pouring! Still, it was a good afternoon and I did enjoy the Chunky Monkey chocolate stout as well their sour specialities.

BottleShop had an incredible Scandinavian tap takeover with beers from Omnipollo (notably their Noa Pecan Mud Cake Imperial Stout and the Buxton collaboration Cloudberry Ice Cream IPA), ToOl (Gose to Hollywood) and Mikkeller (Nelson Sauvignon).

Although it would be fair to say that they do not exactly have significant overheads for creature comforts, the prices that the BottleShop charge for beers of this quality is truly fantastic for the (amateur or any other kind) drinker. And it was clear that most of London’s beer community agreed as there was a great deal of familiar faces!

It was Spitalfields brewer market who took on the hair of the dog role the next day. Anspach and Hobday’s dry hopped sour a welcome alternative to grapefruit juice for breakfast. Moor took over the BottleShop, showcased how consistently excellent their beers are.

Having done Thursday nights with all of the top London names, BrewDog at Clerkenwell moved out to the Home Counties and invited Siren. This saw the famous Caribbean chocolate cake on nitro for the first time, the debut of Cinco Muertes, a ginger and lemon brown ale, and my initial taste of the new Peligrosos IPA. This branch of the corporate behemoth has really hit the ground running and shown what excellent local management.

Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t.