STORMBIRD – LONDON

Stormbird
Camberwell Church Street
London
SE5 8TR

THIRD VISIT: SUNDAY 17 AUGUST 2014

After a fairly sedate afternoon after a fairly hardcore couple of days we reached our final destination…

I do enjoy my infrequent visits to Stormbird. The keg and bottle selection is great (but I never pay attention to the cask line-up when I’m here) and very competitively priced. The bar crew are great (despite obvious exceptions). And there’s always a nice and relaxed vibe (although there’s often one or two folk who wear their hat indoors).

The place was quiet but it was difficult finding a place to sit as the sun was belting through the windows at an angle that meant one of us either had to wear their shades or a screwed up face – neither of those options are socially acceptable. But the table up in the corner far away from the front windows was free and shaded so we plonked our asses down there. First drink of the visit was an Odell 5 Barrel. We really don’t see enough Odell in the UK. Odell brew delicious beers. I wish Doug and his crew were based in Croydon instead of Colorado. But, hey, we’ll just have to drink Odell whenever we find it and be thankful. Next up we split a bottle if To Ol’s Black Malt’s and Body Salts – it’s a BIPA, Jim, but not as we know it – and very nice it was too. But it’s a To Ol beer so you wouldn’t really expect it to be anything less than very nice. My mate had a brief chat with one of the staff and discovered there was still some Lost Dog in stock. It was a stunning beer in its early days and we hoped that the ageing process had worked further miracles but, alas, time hasn’t been too kind to it. It certainly wasn’t undrinkable but it tasted a little thin and tired. It was an eleven pound fifty that could have been better invested elsewhere.

Some men in suits wandered in. They seemed slightly out-of-place in a pub in a suit on a Sunday afternoon. I wondered if they were gangsters having a refreshment break before getting back to the thirsty job of collecting protection money. They were probably just kitchen salesman having a celebratory beer after a record-breaking Sunday. And then a pigeon flew in and proceeded to do lengths of the pub. It banged into windows then sat dazed and confused until cajoled into a box then transferred from that box into another box then thrown out of the door. Just a standard Sunday afternoon south of the river.

Time was ticking on and I still had to drag my sorry soul 90 miles west. I ordered a couple of Green Flash West Coast IPAs to bring the weekend’s festivities to a close. It certainly wasn’t the best beer of the weekend but it was decent enough in its own little way. One bus, one tube, one train, one walk later I’d be back home after another successful London sojourn.

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SECOND VISIT: SUNDAY 15 JUNE 2014

We’d been refused entry to the cinema so decided to undertake a little pub crawl. A bus from the city centre took us all the way to Camberwell. As usual we were greeted by an impressive line-up of beers. I started with a Bootlegger DIPA from London Fields, which seemed a little heavy going for that stage of the evening. For drink number two I went for a pint of Gamma Ray, which is undoubtedly the finest pale ale currently available in the UK. Next up was a Magic Spanner by Magic Rock, which was perfectly acceptable but a tad underwhelming. I closed the visit with a Framboise from Kirstall (keeping it Yorkshire), which was fruity. Four beers: one of them great, two of them okay, one of them not quite to my liking. Time to move on…

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FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 19 APRIL 2014

A lot of beer geeks don’t like to venture too far south of the river. Perhaps they’ll visit the Rake or maybe the Draft House by Tower Bridge and, if they are looking to bolster their CBV (Craft Beer Vitae), Beermondsey. Strictly speaking they like to stay were the good beer bars are more frequently encountered and the paths between them are more safely traversed. But if they dare to go where the tubes don’t go they’ll discover the Stormbird of Camberwell, which ranks amongst the best beers bars in the entire city. It’s spacious enough but especially sizeable. And every time I’ve been in there’s been a decent sized crowd in there but it’s never been overcrowded. Décor is age worn wood and muted colours, which is livened up by the logos of various breweries from various countries around the world. Stormbird has a simple and understated style. To me it feels like it belongs on the continent and I can’t help feeling that the punters should be speaking Dutch or Flemish. Whenever I visit Stormbird I long for Amsterdam, which is no bad thing. I’ve never bothered counting how many beer taps the place boasts but I’m guessing it must be somewhere in the region of twenty and the names on those taps are a veritable who’s who of the craft beer world. In the past I’ve enjoyed offerings from Mikkeller, Magic Rock, Ska, Lovibonds, Tiny Rebel and Brodie’s.

We been down Shepherds Bush for a gig – The Men They Couldn’t Hang’s 30th anniversary bash – and had then decamped to BrewDog until kicking out time. As luck would have it a bus runs from the north side of the green which has a final destination of Camberwell. Forty five minutes later we were walking through the door of Stormbird. We were concerned that they wouldn’t serve us so close to locking up time but we were greeted with a warm and pleasant smile. We opted for halves of the Brewfist and To Øl collaboration beer, Space Frontier. It was very tasty but there wasn’t enough of it. I knew we’d only be allowed one more drink so I went for a pint of one of London’s finest brews – Gamma Ray by Beavertown. I gulped it down in big satisfying heroic swigs. It’s a delicious beer and I look forward to the day that when practically every drinking den in London sells it. I would have happily stood in Stormbird drinking Gamma Ray until the sun came up but some guy nearby was trying to score another gin and tonic. He was advised that the bar was now very much closed. Oh well, time to go home.