Around Town with Amateur Drinker

Apologies for the lateness of this column for which, like everything else that went wrong in the country recently, I will blame on the unseasonably adverse weather! It’s also a bit shorter than normal, but if anyone complains – and let’s face it they may well cheer – then the month was legitimately quiet!

The BottleShop Arch, which acquired a new celebrity, Amber the cat, started the year with an absolute bang: Melvin kegs and cans were air freighted over for a TTO. The beers, from Alpine, Wyoming, were truly sensational with Hubert MPA, Melvin IPA and 2×4 DIPA being my personal favourite.

This really showed the benefits of ColdChain, both in preserving the freshness, and, also, crucially, persuading the very top US brewers that quality control is paramount enough to risk their brand and personal pride by exporting.

A Cloudwater TTO included some rare cellared and barrel-aged delights: Red wine barrel-aged kettle sour raspberry and blueberry, bourbon BA Loral and Ardi, BA apricot Hopfenweisse, and Mont Saleve Pompettes, a wild ale with Brasserie du Mont Saleve.

The beers were as excellent as one would expect. Moreover, as a big fan of Private Eye’s Pseuds Corner, it was great to see Cloudwater produce a wonderful entry, in a Tweet, in which they self-indulgently spoke about how they knew that people drank their beer for their values. Which leads to a wonderful new euphemism “Sorry Officer, I just loved a company’s values so much, and had to show it”!

Unsurprisingly, January was a month of notable imperial stouts: I had Founders CBS, Canadian Breakfast Stout, the maple syrup barrel-aged imperial stout at Earl of Essex, Cinna Mo, Idjit and Coffee Vanilla Black, at the Dugges Winter Showcase at the Arch and the re-release of Buxton/Omnipollo Yellow Belly, 2014 Rainbow Project, and usually regarded as the best ever beer from that wonderful concept-event.

Bloomberg announced ( that Bob Bob Ricard are introducing a new pricing model, based on the airline industry, with different menu prices, depending on the time and day on which a customer is dining.

Price differentiation, which IT advances have made very much easier as opposed to when I studied the subject in economics many moons ago, is now familiar to all from the travel industry. If successful in restaurants I can easily see it moving into pubs, and, I think, for most readers of this column it would really improve our experience with the Friday night, and even worse Xmas crowd, seeing prices go up and those of us enjoying the pub on a Monday in January enjoying reductions.

Seriously, it would really benefit pubs, which are sub-optimal both when they are too busy and when they are too quiet. Plus, the pricing and hence beer list would be electronic so could be displayed online, solving one of my favourite bugbears.

Brewdog Soho

Brewdog also had a couple of interesting events, but yet again suffered from the ridiculously stupid, “No pouring until 18:00”. This was particularly absurd at the Stillwater TTO in EC1, when the January date meant there was almost no one else in the bar. The SuperHop, a  Norwegian Wood, a tart, berry sour with Amundsen and Cellar Door, a saison, were all delicious.

Shepherd’s Bush hosted Marble, on a Friday, and by 19:15 it was so unpleasantly busy (15 minute plus queue for service) that we left. This was a real pity as the beers were fantastic: Damage Plan IPA, Uppe Hela Natten, a macchiato porter, Decadence, an imperial stout, the famous Barley Wine, The Castle of Udolpho, a BA Old Ale, two BA (bourbon and pinot noir) versions of Gale’s Old Ale, and A-Tomic, a sour red.

The timing issue meant pushing the beer nerds into the same time-slot as the after-office crowd and thereby both getting in each other’s way. The competition for stupidest decision by Brewdog head office is an incredibly competitive one, but the rigid 18:00 start must be up there.

They also announced a new branch, Seven Dials, on Shaftesbury Avenue, in the former Polpo Ape & Bird restaurant and very close to their Soho bar.

I did the ‘Arry Redknapp gag last year ( but January transfer action was hot in 2018 as well: James Kemp, head brewer at Marble, and possibly responsible for so much of their recent revival, since he went there in January (again!) 2016, joining Yeatise Boys, and being replaced by Joe Ince, who moves up internally.

John Keeling, chairman, London Brewers Alliance

In addition, Paul Spraget left Four Pure to take the reins at Orbit. Finally, some excellent news for the London Brewers Alliance, as John Keeling takes over as Chairman, and announced that Fuller’s is to host London Brewers’ Alliance Festival on June 23 with 40 London brewers.


Green Flash announced that they were pulling distribution from 32 US states and cutting 15% of their workforce to concentrate on core markets.  They had been in all 52 states, but had become over-stretched and were unable to compete properly with local alternatives.

Burns Night was celebrated at The Old Fountain.  Earlier in the month, they had Five Points Derailed Porter, on cask. This is a seasonal version of their basic Railway Porter, aged on Brettanomyces wild yeast for a minimum of nine months, which is a superb, earthy and roasty, and probably the best beer I have had from them.

Deviant & Dandy launch evening

Deviant and Dandy held their opening party in Hackney. The most noteworthy beer was CCCP, a Crazy Chocolate Chartreuse Porter that really tasted like the famous French liquor.

Finally, I was wondering if anyone knew what was happening with the Farringdon Tap and whether the project was still going ahead?

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.