SMALL BAR – BRISTOL

Small Bar
King Street
Bristol
BS1 4DZ

FOURTH VISIT: THURSDAY 4 DECEMBER 2014

THIRD VISIT: SATURDAY 20 JULY 2014

A little deviation from my original Bristol Beer Week crawl. But it was a good deviation as it gave me the opportunity to catch up with some Bristol buddies and drink a pint of Moor’s Nor’Hop and can of Beavertown’s Gamma Ray. I love Small Bar as there’s always a buzzing vibe in the place. I look forward to the day they open a branch in Swindon.

Small Bar

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SECOND VISIT: FRIDAY 18 JULY 2014

A brief pitstop en route to the beer fest at the Bag O’ Nails. A little cluster of people occupied the outside table and few more milled around the bar. I ordered two thirds of an Evolver IPA by Wild Beer. It’s an interesting take on an American IPA but one I’m not particularily bothered about trying again. Outside it was a gloriously hot day and even though the air condition was working impressively you could still feel the heat poking it’s head around the corner of the door. I’ve only been to two drinking dens on the entire planet where customers have free and easy access to a drinking water tap. Most places are happy to give you a free glass of water if you ask but the Great Divide Tap Room in Denver Colorado and Small Bar in Bristol have a self service water tap. The water in Small Bar is amusingly served via a beer tap topped with a Stella clip. While working my way through my two thirds of Evolver I knocked back three pints of water. Shortly before I left Bruce, the owner of Small Bar, stopped by for a little chat about the joys and perils of importing beer from far flung places. Then it was time to get the crawl back on the road. I headed to the Tuns.

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FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 18 JANUARY 2014

Small Bar is the newest of the King Street Three and, in my opinion, the best of the bunch. Despite the name it isn’t really that small – something to do with switch from the original intended location I believe. The interior is fantastic: dimly lit, distressed wood, barrels – it’s like a smuggler’s den but with trendy bespoke fixtures and fittings. The upstairs ‘library’ is a bit brighter than downstairs but I always feel like I’m crashing a private party when I venture up there.

I’m not entirely sure why but I was way more drunk than I should’ve been when I rocked up here. I can remember ordering a Bad Seed IPA – I think I enjoyed it. I remember wolfing down a Chomp burger – I think it was good. I remember ordering a bottle of beer – I have no idea what it actually was. I vaguely remember chatting to loads of folk I know – I have no idea what we chatted about or how annoying I was. I had a pint of Vader Shuffle by Tiny Rebel – I only know this because I logged it on Untappd.

At some point we left and went to the Academy for the Half Man Half Biscuit gig.

INDY MAN BEER CON – MANCHESTER

Indy Man Beer Con
Victoria Baths
Hathersage Road
Manchester
M13 0FE

FIRST VISIT: SATURDAY 11 OCTOBER 2014

How can you fail to love the Indy Man Beer Con? You get to drink great beer while staggering around a disused Victorian Public Baths!

I woke up drunk from the night before. It had been a good night that had started with drinking Stillwater in the King’s Arms and had ended with a mosh at a Future of the Left gig in the Garage… and in between those two events we managed to knock back some cans of Bengali Tiger and some pints of Devil’s Backbone IPA in a Spoons. The morning started just before seven with a bottle of IPA Citra Galactique (by Brasseurs du Grand Paris) in the house the on the train we had a bottle of Moet & Chandon followed by a can of Smog Rocket and a bottle of La Noire (by Correizenne). By the time I arrived in Manchester at 11am I was already pretty trashed. We wandered in the general direction of the Victorian Baths but eventually got bored and flagged down a taxi.

Once inside the festival my opening salvo was an Original (Cider) from Thistly Cross. After that it was beer overdrive! At some point I got so drunk that I actually stopped logging beers on Untappd. Before that I spent a fair bit of time hanging out in the Turkish Baths and on a rocking chair that was somewhere near the Magic Rock bar. Along the way I met up with old friends but probably didn’t make any new ones. I had a lovely time.

For the sake of historical accuracy, here are the beers I had (before my ability to tap an iProduct screen escaped me):

So’Hop – Moor
Gamma Ray – Beavertown
Earl Phantom – Beavertown
Cap Dog – BrewDog
Pognophobia – Magic Rock
Sour Bikini – Evil Twin
Imperial Doughnut Break – Evil Twin
Fuck Art This Is Advertising – To Øl
One Hells Of A Beaver – Camden Town and Beavertown
Black Betty – Beavertown

Yeah, IndyManBeerCon 2014 was great… I will be returning in 2015.

IndyManBeerCoon

KING’S ARMS – LONDON

King’s Arms
11A Buckfast Street
London
E2 6EY

SEVENTH VISIT: FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 2014

SIXTH VISIT: FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2014

FIFTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2014

FOURTH VISIT: SUNDAY 4 MAY 2014

No thanks to you, a detour along Bethnal Green Road had taken me to the King’s Arms where I finally purchased a can of Westbrook’s White Thai. It was alright. Pleasant enough. But at the end of the day it is still a wheat beer and wheat beers aren’t really brewed for me. Nice can though. My travelling companion was feeling a tad under the weather and needed some fresh air. But I couldn’t resist the pull of the gnome and returned to the bar for a half of Hobblen Chouffe. But I’m not a total scumbag so I scooped it down a new world record time of no hours, no minutes and no seconds.

THIRD VISIT: SATURDAY 19 APRIL 2014

I wandered past Rough Trade East but they were queuing out the door – evidently that guy who used to be in Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized is more popular than I thought. I wandered past BDShoreditch but it was rammed – not quite queuing out the door rammed but rammed. I wandered past the Well & Bucket but it was rammed – not quite BDShoreditch rammed but rammed. Thankfully, the King’s Arms was quiet – not empty quiet but quiet.

As usual there was a great selection of beers available. The one that caught my eye the most was Custard Pie by Magic Rock and Toccalmatto. I like beer. I like custard. I like pie. How could I not like a beer called Custard Pie! And you know what? It does taste like a custard pie. Not all the way through, just a little bit on the finish but it is definitely there. Custard Pie Beer. Genius!

Once again I’d found myself in the King’s Arms and once again I’d found myself wanting a can of Westbrook White Thai but once again I had to leave before getting a chance to have one. Next time I’m in the King’s I’m having a can of White Thai – DO NOT LET ME FORGET, thank you.

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SECOND VISIT: SATURDAY 12 APRIL 2014

A busy day. I’d been south of the river. North of the river. Beyond the confines of the M25. Back within the M25. North of the river. South of the river. And now, once again, north of the river.

When I arrived in the King’s I was informed I only had time for one beer as we would soon be departing on a quest for food. Bummer. I didn’t even bother scanning the beer board as I’d already been told that Earl of Denmark – a collab between Mikkeller and Earls (the brewing arm of the Earl of Essex up N1) – was on and tasting great. I’d been in the Earl of Essex the night before but the beer had failed to make an appearance by the time I departed at 8, despite tweets stating it would be on by the early evening. It tasted great. I would’ve happily bedded in for the night and had as many pints of it as possible. But friendship is a democracy so I had to go with the majority and leave.

Buckfast

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FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2014

Alight at Shoreditch High Street. Walk east along Bethnal Green Road. Pass BrewDog. Pass the well and bucket. Walk a bit further. Then a little bit more. Take a right into Buckfast (Tonic Wine) Street and there you will find the Shoreditch’s best kept secret. It’s a nice space. A traditional London boozer that sells quality beer. The bar occupies most of the man room but tables line the perimeter and there are some barstools. The back room is the place to head if you want to be (mildly) boisterous or conspiratorial. The walls are lined with framed butterflies and moths. Not pictures of butterflies and moth but actual butterflies and moths. I’m not sure if there is an actual reason for such decoration or if the owners just thought it would look cool, which it does. As is becoming the norm, beers are listed on a beer board.

We took up residence at one of the front room tables. Unfortunately, the bench that runs along the length of the wall is rather thin and I quickly realised that I would not be able to get comfortable. But if you’ve got toned buttocks (unlike me) and don’t slouch (which I do) you’ll probably be fine. My opening gambit was a My Antonia by Birra del Borgo (originally brewed in collaboration with Dogfish Head). It’s a beer that I’d only previously enjoyed from a bottle. The bottles are delicious but the draught adds a whole new dimension to it but perhaps that’s only because I had a whole pint of it. I was getting way too uncomfortable so we relocated to a couple of stools at the bar. Despite the place have a decent amount if people in there wasn’t so many that we would be causing any annoyance by choosing to sit there. We ordered a couple of Old Freddy Walkers (a 7.3% Old Ale from Moor). As we suspected it was served too cold (the curse of keg) so we ordered a couple of pints of Birra del Borgo’s Cortigiana to allow it some time to warm. Even after we’d consumed the Cortigiana the OFW was still too chilly. We gave it a bit of hug. And a little bit more time. But it still wasn’t at the temperature that it should’ve been at. But we gulped it down anyway. There were plenty more beers that I fancied but I needed to get my south of the river.

BREWDOG (SHOREDITCH) – LONDON

BrewDog Shoreditch
51-55 Bethnal Green Road
London
E1 6LA

EIGTH VISIT: FRIDAY 10 OCTOBER 2014

SEVENTH VISIT: FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2014

I was meeting a mate for lunch but I’d arrived in Shoreditch slightly too early. Two choices: go straight to the Well & Bucket (our lunch destination) or nip into a BrewDog for a swift two thirds of something. I’m always eager to grasp at every opportunity to flash my Equity For Punks card so BrewDog it was. After an initial read through of the beer board I had a shortlist of three: the Russian Doll Pale, IPA or DIPA. I decided to go middle of the road and ordered am IPA. It was good – decent mouthful of chewy hops with a nice oily bitterness but it’s not quite the taste sensation that Jackhammer currently is.

A customer approached the bar and ordered some drinks. The barman gave him a price. The customer asked if the shareholder’s discount had been applied. The barman apologised and said ‘you’ve been coming here for months so I really should remember that you’re a shareholder.’ The customer replied ‘you served me ten minutes so, yeah, you really should have remembered.’ The barman gave a nervous laugh. The customer remained stoic. I was tempted to see if the barman remembered I’m a shareholder but decided that it would piss me off too much if he didn’t.

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SIXTH VISIT: FRIDAY 15 AUGUST 2014

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FIFTH VISIT: THURSDAY 19 JUNE 2014

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FOURTH VISIT: WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2014

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THIRD VISIT: SUNDAY 4 MAY 2014

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SECOND VISIT: WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2012

So here I was back in BrewDog Shoreditch on a Wednesday but it wasn’t quite the afternoon as I had planned and hoped for. The place was reasonably quiet. Most of the tables were occupied but a few were still devoid of people. I went straight for a pint of Punk. My friend paid for the drinks. The server remembered him from previous visits and remembered that he was a shareholder, which is a nice touch. I can’t think of any beer – in the craft beer world – that is debated and discussed and dissed and dissected as much as Punk. Sometimes it is great. Sometimes it is rubbish Thankfully, this was a quality pint of Punk. When the Punk’s were dead I returned to the bar. The place was getting busier. There were two folk working behind the bar and they were both serving. A third member of staff appeared with glasses in his hands. He put the glasses down but instead of asking what I would like he started chatting to a woman at the end of the bar. It was apparent from their body language that they were a couple. After a minute or so he asked what I would like. I was tempted to say ‘someone who serves customers before they chat to their girlfriend’ but I merely asked for two Gonger IPA. I’d never had a beer by Stronzo before. I’m not even sure if I had heard of them before. The Gonger was good in a slightly weird way. Chewy and brown leafy was what I wrote for my Untappd check-in. We were sitting by the door. For some reason whenever anybody came in they left the door open even though it was closed when they got there. It wasn’t exactly freezing but it was still an annoying development. At the table next to us a member of staff was conducting a mini beer school and she kept getting up and closing the door, which saved me having to do it. I returned to the bar for a final beer – Blitz! Raspberry. This time it was a painless transaction. But I shouldn’t have bothered as the beer tasted dangerously close to vinegar.

I’m still not in love with BDShoreditch.

BDShore

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FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2014

I’ve visited every BrewDog bar south of Burton-upon-Trent and Shoreditch is the only one I’ve not entirely taken to. It’s the only one where the other customer’s seem to think they are more important than everyone else in the bar. It’s the only one where the staff have seemed more concerned with flirting with their colleagues than providing the excellent service that is prevalent in other BrewDog bars. But, hey, we can all be a bit of dick on occasion and we all like a bit of an ego boost every now and again. Perhaps I’ve just been unfortunate in the past. Perhaps this visit would be different… Oh! Hold on. I would be arriving at the same time that all the trade session attendees would be getting booted out of Craft Beer Rising.

I arrived shortly after five thirty to find the place busy but not uncomfortably rammed. I snaked through the throng and found a spot at the bar. A cheery and attentive member of staff sidled straight over and enquired about my beer based needs. So far so good. I ordered a pint of Punk and a couple of Lumberjacks (order them at 5.30pm and they are just about warm enough to drink when breakfast rolls around). I flashed my EFP Card and didn’t have to remind him to apply the discount when he returned from the till and quoted a price. Even further and still good. I slowly supped my Punk while I awaited the arrival of my cohort. There was no way I was going to fight my way back through the swelling crowd with three drinks and reasonably sized bag without spilling a drop so I held court at the far end of the bar. It was a silent court but I held it well. The bar staff served new arrivals promptly and explained and chatted when that course of action was required. In those rare moments that no beers required pouring and the bar was clean and tidy the staff chatted amongst themselves but no backs were turned to the audience and whenever service was required they stopped mid conversation and happily stepped forward, which was good to see.

My drinking companion for the next few days arrived and relieved me off a couple of glasses then vanished into the melee. The place was getting full towards bursting and I was now swimming against a crowd a drunken craft beer enthusiasts. It always saddens me that people trying to get to the bar don’t realise it makes more sense to let people away from the bar first. Sadly I was saddened by such a scenario in Shoreditch. But I made it to my destination with my beer and my anger intact. The world is generally a better looking place when viewed from a booth table in an busy bar. We sat and chatted for 90 minutes or so. I happily worked my way through a Libertine and an 8 Wired Rewired before, finally, the Lumberjack was at an acceptable drinking temperature… it was worth the wait. Before leaving the premises I politely pushed my way to the gents where I encountered a couple of guys taking photographs of the record sleeve artwork that adorns the walls. Weird but preferable to folk shagging or snorting coke. As I departed I gave the bar a brief examination. People were queuing two or three deep. The staff appeared to be serving with speed and compassion. Nice.

I still wasn’t totally won over by BrewDog Shoreditch but my previous problems with the staff were fully exorcised. And I know I will return. Perhaps I’ll see how they cope with a Wednesday afternoon visit. Maybe then I can declare my love to the world.

ROYAL ALBERT – LONDON

Royal Albert
New Cross Road
London
SE14 6TJ

FIFTH VISIT: FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2014

FOURTH VISIT: SUNDAY 15 JUNE 2014

THIRD VISIT: SUNDAY 13 APRIL 2014

Some members of the crew were up until 4am drinking beer – Narwhal and IPA is Dead – and listening to Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlesome Bells so the day got off to a late start. After a couple of post noon shared bottles – Goudenbad and Liechenstein – we embarked on a wander to the Albert so we could score another hit of Rubus Maximus. Strangely, despite the sunshine, very few people were occupying the outside tables. Inside all (or at least most) eyes were fixed on the TV screens – some guys in red were beating some guys in blue.

Disaster! There was no Rubus left! Disaster averted! It had been replaced by Magic Rock’s Cherry Circus Sour. I went with the sour but my companions went for pints of foamy casky stuff.

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SECOND VISIT: SATURDAY 12 APRIL 2014

FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 11 APRIL 2014

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.