Around Town with Amateur Drinker

March was a strange month as there was nothing exceptional to rave about or anything especially bad to complain about. It is almost certainly a one-off, but if it’s a trend due to a maturing industry, it will certainly make blogging a lot harder!

The biggest news came when Brewdog swooped on Draft House’s chain of London bars, which was a shock, especially given the proximity of certain branches.  Apparently they are going to keep the brands completely separate, even to the extent that DH won’t be stocking any of Brewdog’s beer.

This rather begs the question of why they bought the chain, especially given the obvious economic advantages of pouring your own, that have led to the expansion of tap-rooms and brewers such as Five Points buying their own pubs.

Draft House was an early, and, therefore, an important player in the scene, but it’s fair to say they lost their way a bit recently as high-end standards have risen and good beer has become almost ubiquitous.

Craft Beer Co EC1 hosted a 5th birthday party for Siren, which was appropriate, as this was where the brewery first launched, in the Jurassic craft beer days of 2013. I was particularly looking forward to the promised return of Limoncello, a lemon DIPA brewed with Mikkeller and Hill Farmstead.

I absolutely loved this beer in the summer of 2014, when I was first getting into the scene, and even sought out its occasional elder brother, barrel aged version Whisky Sour TIPA. They discontinued it, I think because the then-head-brewer Ryan went home to the States, and I have mourned the loss ever since.

Ryan Witter-Merithew so much to thank for

I don’t know whether my expectations were too high, or my tastes have evolved, or the citrus IPA universe has massively expanded, or the recipe has changed, but it was just good, rather than sensational. I certainly remember it as being a lot more lemony. Maiden is Siren’s Solera-style American Barley Wine, in which this year’s brew is combined with last year’s beer, and so on, so that the average age is always increasing and there is an ever decreasing piece of the original in the present release. Some famous sherry’s made this way even claim to go back centuries. 2018 saw the release of Maiden 2017. These are great beers, but not necessarily suited to an afternoon in the pub!

Camra’s London Drinker Beer & Cider Festival, at Camden Centre in Bidborough Street, has been one of the capital’s longest running festivals. Unfortunately 2018 will be the last as the venue is closing. Fuller’s Vintage Ale, the undoubted highlight!

London Drinker beer & cider festival (RIP): last we’ll see of this lot

To make the official opening of their new SE1 bar, Moor hosted Arrogant Sour on Tour, an away fixture for Alessandro Belli’s Reggio Emilia festival. Although they advertised the start as 17:00, the sours weren’t poured until Alessandro turned up, after 18:00, which was annoying. The sours were then good, but too expensive at £5/third. Moor’s Old Freddy Walker on cask is always a delight, and the special Sloe version was sensational.

Bottleshop flew Interboro over from Brooklyn. Mad Fat Fluid IPA , Mad Fat Fresh IPA (w/Civil Society Brewing), Mad Fat Mofo DIPA (w/ Sand City) all benefited from that freshness, but I wasn’t a huge fan of Panther Like a Panther, a porter, one of three beers of that name brewed with musicians Run The Jewels.

Omnipollo Week saw old favourites such as Zodiak IPA and Nebuchadnezzar DIPA early on and then the notorious Noa Soft Serve. A bastion of many festivals, this is the Pecan Mud Stout served by what can loosely be described as a Slush Puppy machine. Here, they went full-on 1980’s-cocktails and optionally garnished in with marshmallows and Cross Town Doughnuts.  Andrew “pastry stout” Morgan drinking one was truly a sight to behold!

Denver’s Great Divide had been scheduled for February but eventually turned up for this blog. Hercules DIPA andTitan DIPA for the classicists amongst us, although the experimental Samurai Rice Ale didn’t really work. Brasserie Trose Dames, from Ste-Croix, Switzerland specialize in sour and wild ales. Unfortunately, in a harbinger of life after April 2019, these were delayed at customs.

Five Points was the latest company to raise capital on CrowdCube.  Good brewery but I strongly recommend that anyone who is tempted to invest, in this or any other company using this platform to be very careful.  Crowdfunding is not pretty.

Anspach & Hobday celebrated its birthday by pouring a Single Hop IPA direct from the tank at their Bermondsey home, which was obviously as fresh as can be, and excellent. They also had a very famous guest, which certainly brought in the crowds: 3 Floyds Zombie Dust, arguably the most renowned Pale Ale in the world. I had only had it at festivals, which is a different type of tasting experience, so it was great to drink it normally.

Deya TTO at GNRT, Hornsey. I drank Steady Rollin’ Man APA, This Ai’nt My First Rodeo, a porter in collaboration with Duration and Rave coffee, Falling into place DIPA and Gareth brews Pale Ale, a superb brewers’ special.

King Arms, E2 hosted an MTB with Menno Oliver of De Molen, although I visited later and didn’t meet him.  Amarillo DIPA, Bommen & Granaten Brett Rioja BA Barley Wine, Mout & Mocca Imperial Stout, Vur & Vlam IPA and Rasputin, a sweet Imperial Stout, all balanced by the refreshing Hop & Liefde Pale Ale!

Mother Kelly’s have a very close relationship with Põhjala, Tallinn’s finest so it was no surprise to see the Vauxhall branch host a TTO. Oo, an Imperial Baltic Porter, Vermalised an IPA,  Must Kuld El Salvador a Coffee Porter, and Kalana, a Brown Ale all enjoyable.

The month ended with Easter, whose loss of beer festivals I have already lamented…..

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.