Gorgeous Brewery stepped into The Bull in Highgate to replace the London Brewing Company and has installed a significantly more serious brewing operation in this North London outpost.
On my previous visit some years ago when Dan Fox had taken on the dishevelled pub the small brewery was positioned in the kitchen but under its new owners – Rob Laub and sister Sam – the brew-kit has its own dedicated space out the back of the pub. It is also much bigger at five-barrels. To give the brewery some pulling power it also has a recently installed bar that sits alongside the brewing kit to create a proper brewery tap.
This modern shiny space, which opens out onto a sizeable garden that has been given a full overhaul, is open during the summer months. This modern clean-lined area is in contrast to the more traditional interior of the pub. What is constant across the two bars though is the in-house beer that makes up 50% of total ale sales at The Bull.
On my visit the head brewer Reuben Moore and his assistant Joe Conlan ran me through the eight brews on offer on draught that includes five on cask and three keg beers. There was also a bottle conditioned milk stout.
They were all brewed to approachable ABV’s as Moore says this reflects local tastes: “We can’t be doing imperial stouts and things like that as we need to be able to sell them to the locals.”
This supports the argument that it is not trying to play at the edgier – dare we say polarising – end of the craft beer market. This is further indicated by its sales being split evenly between cask and keg. This is helped by the demand for its cask products by local real ale boozers.
Initially the output was only available in The Bull but since taking a stand at Craft Beer Rising in February the brewery has been selling into the free trade. A Tap Take Over at The Rake in Borough Market also helped its promotional drive. This channel now accounts for around 50% of Gorgeous’ beer sales.
On my visit its keg offering definitely packed more of a punch but even these were very approachable brews. None of the output is going to polarise opinions. The pick was the Goofyhoof Pacific Pale Ale (4.6%) and Greaseball American Pale Ale (5.4%). There was certainly no holding back on the hop mixes that certainly bumps up the cost of production but enabled complexity within what are relatively modest ABVs.
The beers are complimented by the food offering that straddles classics like fish & chips and burgers to slightly more outlandish fare including rare grilled ox heart with salsa verde, halloumi fries, and the winner for me was lobster and salmon scotch egg. As part of The Bull Pub’s ‘Wings Wednesday’ a half kilo bucket of wings with a selection of sauces is a mere £5.
The North London brewing scene is certainly pretty vibrant right now and Gorgeous Brewery is now firmly in the firmament. It also has the big advantage of being a brewpub with its guaranteed channel to market. Expect to see even more of this in the future as the market gets increasingly competitive.
Glynn Davis, editor, Beer Insider