A month that began with a tap takeover, which eerily foresaw an actual takeover ended with two fantastic parties on successive Friday nights in Bermondsey.
Brewdog Camden hosted Ballast Point, with the highlight unsurprisingly being the Grapefruit Sculpin. A couple of weeks later the brewery was acquired by Constellation Brands for $1bn. We are fortunate to live in a capitalist society that enables us to enjoy such a wonderful range of consumer products including beer, so it would be very unfair to say anything but congratulations to the founders.
From a consumer perspective, the only sensible option is to wait and see: If the quality is maintained, then the larger distribution means we get to drink more; however if costs are cut by head-office and the product deteriorates then I’ll drink something else.
It is thus extremely childish of Brewdog to stop stocking the beers before we see what happens, especially as purely size-wise, they themselves are the “evil giants” of the British craft beer world.
Halloween saw special events at UBrew and a Beavertown tap takeover at Craft Beer Company (CBC) Covert Garden to promote Stingy Jack, although I confess I am not a huge fan of most pumpkin beers.
Siren’s London launch of this year’s Cigar City Caribbean chocolate cake collaboration was at Duke’s Highgate. I couldn’t make the launch but popped in the next afternoon. The beer was good but it was the pub that was really memorable: it was my first visit and I was hugely impressed, with very friendly and knowledgeable staff.
Anchorage took over Cask Pub & Kitchen in Pimlico. Most notable was “Deal with Devil”, a 17%(!) Barley wine, which would be fantastic as an alternative to a post- Xmas dinner port.
Winter Taste London at Tobacco Docks was extremely disappointing this year and the beer was a good indicator why. Taste used to feature many artisan producers who would use the festival to showcase their products to, hopefully, a much larger audience. However the stall fees are now too high and most have been forced out.
The event also makes ludicrous claims. Hence there is now a large “craft beer” section, with the only brewer worth mentioning being Wild Beer, and absurdly including Cornish Orchards! If the organiser cared about bringing new quality food experiences to the visitors, there are many great London brewers they could have invited for reduced fees.
Finally I do not know what the best beer in the world is, but I do know it is not “collesi-imper-ale-rossa” as Taste was ridiculously claiming. The not perfect but useful RateBeer gives it a score of only 50 at the time of writing. This is no longer an event worth attending.
Thanksgiving saw Siren at Brewdog, Clapham, linked in to their new head-brewer and November IPA extravaganza. Standouts were the BabyWheel (English hops), the Pompelmocello (sour grapefruit), which would have been delightful in the summer and at 6% would have caused significantly less damage than last year’s citrus IPA, the 9% ABV Limoncello, and the Counting Vampires (blackberry).
They also had the Orange Boom, a Berliner Weisse that tasted almost exactly like orange juice. I actually briefly mixed the various fruit-based beers, as if I were a Juice Bar, although I am not sure the brewery would approve! Incidentally, later in the month the Old Fountain had both the cask and keg versions of the Counting Vampires on at the same time which was great to compare. The cask was lovely but much sweeter. Personal preference, but I would probably just go for the keg.
Brief but honourable mentions to Chorlton at Mother Kelly’s (Amarillo sour very good), the opening of CBC in the City, Magic Rock at Brewdog Soho (Rhubarbarella, a braggot which was new to me but a bit bizarre), The Kernel bringing back Saturday afternoon brewery tap memories at the King’s Arms and finally the London brewers’ market at Spitalfields.
The highlight of the month was the two very special Bermondsey birthday parties on successive Friday nights:
BottleShop (now aged 5) was fantastic, with extremely generous free pours of predictably superb beers to an invited group of customers, suppliers, staff and investors. A great night with the highlight beer the Burning Sky Saison Provision with gooseberry.
Brew by Numbers turned 3. They launched the new Gyle 100 series of barrel aged Baltic porters (the tequila was superb but the bourbon even better) alongside a great range of their other beers, of which I particularly enjoyed the Coffee and chocolate red ale. There was a wonderful atmosphere with very many friends from the beer world present.
Stone, Berlin had a pan-European launch at selected bars. The London leg was delayed by bad weather but then Barworks (Singer Tavern, Exmouth Arms and Slaughtered Lamb) made the bizarre decision to only put one beer on at a time and then even more ridiculously not to start with the IPA.
So all the effort of Stone building a new European brewery for freshness was ignored by their selected partner bars, which was very odd. When I mentioned this at each of the three bars, not one member of staff even knew that freshness was an issue for IPA’s! I finally tasted the beers at Ninth Ward: they were good but what an own-goal of a start, especially when there are so many bars in the area that do care about beer!
Finally, a great thank-you to BottleShop and Brew by Numbers for two truly magical parties!
Reporting from the front-line – Amateur Drinker manages to get along to all the beer things you’d like to but couldn’t