Thoughts from Amateur Drinker

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In a month of festivals, tap-takeovers and most importantly great beers, the best news is that Fridays will never be the same again as The Bottle Shop began opening in the evening. Not only will be this be a brilliant venue to start the weekend, but hopefully it will also reduce some of the capacity pressures on Saturday.

The launch party set an incredibly high standard with a wonderful list including nitro-pouring Alpha State Vanilla Mocha Vengeance and Pizza Port Kook Double IPA.

Later on they hosted a screening of the Original Gravity film, a short but enjoyable documentary on the London brewing scene. This was followed by a panel discussion on “The Future of London Beer “, which featured better panellists, and was a lot more illuminating than Question TIme ever is. Moreover, the BBC doesn’t serve the freshest ever Green Flash IPA the UK has yet seen nor Vietnamese Coffee Speedway Stout!

Probably the event of the period came with Bethnal Green’s The King’s Arms hosting Rodenbach. This saw a short talk from their brewmaster Rudi Ghequire, and then a superb tap-list, including the very rare Vintage 2013 and the gorgeous Caractere Rouge. As a bonus, there was still some of Forest Road’s Work IPA left over from the previous evening’s launch.

BrewDog Clerkenwell has continued its excellent series of London-brewery tap takeovers. First up was Weird Beard, of which the standout was the Tequila barrel-aged Imperial Stout Sadako. This was on the same night as Mother Kelly’s hosted the Swiss brewery Brasserie des Franches-Montagnes (BFM), so it would have been rude not to pop in there first, where I enjoyed their raspberry Saison. A fortnight later, Brew By Numbers were the guests and launched their Lemongrass Grisette. This has been a very clever set of themed events to launch the new venue.

Craft Beer Rising made its annual appearance. This was fun, although the title is somewhat misleading. BeaverTown were the only one of the top five UK craft brewers there and in general the selections were quite middle of the road. Even so, the event was ticketed and yet sold out over four separate sessions, which is something our friends in Tottenham should take note of.

Lervig’s pours were the most adventurous although not everything worked (I wasn’t a huge fan of the Money stout) but the Pop That Cherry was great fun. Brew By Numbers introduced their new double IPA. It was excellent and I thought it was a nice touch to name it 55/01 as the normal IPA was 05. I certainly look forward to the 555/01!

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In general the most interesting beers were at the EuroBoozer stand, including Founders Raebus and Schremser Vienna lager. Special mention also to the Ilkley white chocolate stout.

Lervig took over The Fox on Kingsland Road. There was an interesting selection and the prices were extremely reasonable. However, they did not serve in thirds, which is absurd when the list includes the 3 bean imperial stout at 13%. Stillwater Artisinal saw my first trek to the King & Co. in Clapham. Good to see another local staying just that, but also taking an effort over the beer-list. Partizan visited Craft Beer Company, Clerkenwell, and I finally got to try the Negroni Saison, albeit in a bottle. It was good but I’d probably rather just have a beer and a cocktail! I did enjoy their Lemon and Thyme Saison though.

A couple of noteworthy beers were Lord Sorachi, basically Sorachi Ace on steroids, at the Earl of Essex, and Cloudwater’s Sevilla Sour, which was very rare but I found it in bottles at The Bottle Shop and on keg at the King’s Arms.

It is fair to say that last year’s Cloudwater launch was high on hype and low on quality. However, they have made great strides since and I have enjoyed both their winter and double IPA’s, but the Sevilla Sour was more unique, a wonderful collaboration between Europe’s sunniest and wettest cities!

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Finally, Craft Beer Company promoted their bi-annual 100 event in Clapham. They have been widely criticised (including by me) in the past for not serving third-measures, which is a particular issue when there are many different beers to try, especially when many are over 10% ABV.

Admirably they have listened to the punters and widely advertised that this would now change because of customer feedback. Given that spirit, I therefore contacted them about not ticketing the event, just weeks after the BeaverTown issue. They deserve further credit for replying almost immediately and at length.

However, I don’t consider their response to be logical: they emailed me on Wednesday Mar 2, which was 22 days before the festival begins and wrote: “We could not at this late stage introduce a ticket structure. It would not work. There isn’t the time.” This is a pathetic response: for instance the previous Friday had seen Britain’s two best-supported football clubs drawn against each other in Europe for the first time. The 1st leg was ticketed and policed 13 days later.

Is Craft Beer Company really now claiming that their festival is bigger than United versus Liverpool? Have they sold TV rights? On a serious note, given that they operate in a much more residential area, there is a real risk that the authorities will just shut the whole event down if the same numbers of people appear again this year.

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