190 Euston Road
FIFTH VISIT: SATURDAY 14 JUNE 2014
We’d been at the 229 Club for the C86 night which starred The Wedding Present and The Membranes. It had finished at the reasonably early time of 10.30pm. England were playing their first match of the World Cup that night and consequently the Saturday London streets were nice and quiet. We decided to stop at the Tap for a swift beer before catching a train south of the river. I went for an Burton Ace Edge, which is very possibly one of the UK’s best IPAs. We took a table outside and, as is often the case when you sit outside the Tap, we approached by a beggar. We passed him a few coins in a bid to hasten his departure but it only led to him trying to be friendly by asking if we knew the football score. I didn’t think the game had even kicked off. My friend replied ‘You’re asking the wrong folk, mate, we’re from Scotland.’ The beggar backed off while apologising for any offence he’d caused. The staff had began clearing away the tables so we figured there’d be no chance of a second beer. Home time.
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FOURTH VISIT: MONDAY 5 MAY 2014
I’d wandered from Cannon Street station to BottleDog (via Craft Beer Co on Leather Lane) so I figured I may as well keep wandering up the rest of Grays Inn Road then hang a left until I arrived at the Tap.
It was only an hour and a few minutes into the afternoon but a decent crowd of folk already occuppied the outdoors tables. Inside a few more milled around the downstairs area. The sound emanating from upstairs suggested that two or three people where having a lovely time up there. I ordered a pint of Kernel Amarillo IPA. The walk from BottleDog, thanks to my bottle burden and the bank hoiday sunshine, had been energy sapping. I needed a pint of something with a bit of a chill and a good blast of hops. The Kernel was just the ticket. Certainly not as good as some Kernel IPAs but more than delicious enough to slake my thirst. I had a brief chat with someone who noticed my New Model Army bag. He isn’t a fan but knows a man who is. I popped upstairs to the lavs. They were clean and fresh smelling. The three people occupying the upstairs room started laughing at the exact moment I started peeing. I’m sure it was just a coincidence.
While sitting to the side of the bar it dawned on me that staff in ‘craft’ beer bars no longer seem to discuss the beers with customers with quite as much gusto as they used to. BrewDog staff seem to be the only ones who still relish the chance to share their knowledge (so much so they can sometimes foist it upon people who don’t give really give a shit but are too polite to say so). But that’s not to say the customer service is bad in the Tap because it certainly hasn’t been the four times I’ve visited this year. Perhaps ‘craft’ is finally reaching a peak and these days the majority of people who enter the doors of pubs who specialise in quality beer don’t have a beffuddled expression when they aren’t faced with the words Carling and Guinness so the staff give them some space.
I ordered a half pint of the Siren & To Øl brew Ten Finger Discount. It was the first beer I had when I’d arrived in London on the Friday evening. I decided it was a suitably worthy way to bring my time in the capital to a close.
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THIRD VISIT: SUNDAY 4 MAY 2014
Bank Holiday weekend travel mayhem meant that the most obvious routes from BDCamden to BDShoreditch were dead so after much debate it was more-or-less agreed that we’d catch a bus to Euston, have a beer (or two) at the Tap then get a tube to Liverpool Street then walk or bus it from there.
I perused the keg board and spotted Brew By Numbers 05/01 Amarillo & Citra IPA. I’ve been to the BBN brewery and sampled of couple of their beers while there – they were both pretty fine. And, let’s be honest, it’s still difficult to let an IPA in the 7% ABV territory go untried. I bought a half.
We congregated outside in the Sunday sunshine. Pish was waffled and shite was spouted. Some well-meaning sign alterations took place. The IPA was good. I was tempted to have another. But we all decided to indulge in a half of the mythical Ballwhanger instead. When our balls were suitably whanged some of the party decided it was time to move on the Shoreditch. I decided it was time to cross the road to enter the Euston Cider Tap.
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SECOND VISIT: THURSDAY 13 MARCH 2014
My visit to the London Drinker Beer & Cider Festival had been a major let down. Time to save the day!
As I entered the premises my view was blocked, in a jovial and friendly way, by some dude who was sporting a beard and a Holborn Whippet t-shirt. It was instantly obvious that he was either a bit pissed or a very excitable chap or, most likely, both. He remarked that he’d noticed me looking at the cask board. It was true, I had been. But I’d just walked through the door and as I done so I been closest to the left hand jamb which means my eyes were naturally drawn to the right. He said he was going to choose a beer for me and the barman was going to do the same and I was to tell them which one I thought was best. I was ordered to turn my back so the barman could pour the samples. I duly obliged. The beers were poured and I was permitted to turn round and try the beers. I picked up the first one and gave it a sniff. It smelled good. It obviously had a decent amount of hops in it and the aroma suggested it would be nice and dry. I picked up the second beer and gave it a sniff. Hold on! Was I being set up here? Both beers had pretty much an identical nose. I picked up the first beer again. Yup, the aroma was the same as the second. I took a swig of the sample. It was okay. There was a decent bit of taste but overall it was a little thin. I swigged the second beer. Yup, no doubt about it. They were different beers. The second beer had a far greater depth of taste and a much more satisfactory level of hopping. I announced that the second beer was by far best. The guy with beard who had set me the challenge was gutted. Evidently the barman was 5-2 in the lead. Once the general hubbub had down I said ‘And after all that I’ll have a pint of Beavertown Gamma Ray.’
I took up position under the seat that was situated closest to the cask beer board. I love Gamma Ray. It is undoubtedly one of London’s finest beers. I look forward to the day when it is as ubiquitous as Carling or Fosters. Some other folk came and went. Nobody else was asked to undertake the cask challenge. The Gamma Ray went down quickly. My experiences at the LDB&CF were starting to fade away. But to make sure they stayed away I ordered a Five O’clock Shadow. Another great beer from another great London brewery. When the Five O’clock was dead. I decided that I would stick with the theme of the visit and go for a Kernel Table Beer. I chatted to the dude with the beard and Holborn Whippet t-shirt and another guy who, coincidentally, had a beard and Holborn Whippet t-shirt about Kernel and the other breweries who are situated a short stroll from the Spa Business Park. They both admitted that they had never made it to Beermondsey. Shame on them. And on that bombshell I drained the remains of my Kernel and hit the road.
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FIRST VISIT: WEDNESDAY 12 MARCH 2014
Do I need to introduce The Euston Tap? Everybody has been there, right? The New York Times has been there. If the New York Times can travel 3,471 miles to visit a bar then there is no excuse for you not getting there from your bedsit in West Peckhamham, is there? No.
From the outside the Tap looks like an interesting by spatially challenged place. But once you step inside you discover that it is… well, it is an interesting and spatially challenged place. A small but cleverly designed bar occupies most of the downstairs room. The bar is home to 15 or so kegged beers and 9 or thereabouts cask beer (I forget the exact figures, soz). Beers are all dispensed from taps situated on the back wall – keg on the top and cask on the bottom. The beers are listed on two blackboards – keg to the left and cask to the right. The cask beers come from unbranded twisting taps. The keg beer handles are all branded but the branding very rarely corresponds to the beer that’s currently flow through each tap. I’ve seen folk look confused when they’ve asked for a Lagunitas and it’s been served from a tap two away from the Lagunitas branded tap. But then they look at the blackboard then count along the taps then nod discreetly but still with slight confusion on their face.
Once you’ve a acquired a beverage you can remain downstairs – although there seems to be less and less seats every time I visit. Or you can pop upstairs to the main seating area, which is worth a visit just so you can walk up and down those stairs. Or if it is a nice day or you don’t mind the cold or the wind or the rain and beggars you can take your beverage outside. The choice is yours. It’s not as vast as the beer choice but is greater than a lot of pubs.
I had some time to kill before heading east to Shoreditch so I decided it was time to reacquaint myself with the Tap. It hadn’t long turned 4 but already the place was rammed. Rammed at 4pm on a Wednesday! What kind of crazy beer sodden life do these Londoners lead? I ordered a Kernel Mosaic IPA. I took it outside and hung around by the pallets of casks and kegs. I couldn’t get the Wifi working, which always pisses me off far more than it should. I took a hit of the Mosaic and smiled at another Kernel success. I carried on drinking and while doing so I soaked in the Euston area architecture. For a brief moment I thought I saw the Chouffe Gnome dashing across the rooftops. Only half way down my first beer of the day and I’m hallucinating gnomes. This Kernel Mosaic is impressive stuff! I gulped down the last of the beer and headed back inside. The place was even more rammed than before. I wasn’t in the mood to queue for a beer that didn’t come with free wifi so I squeezed my glass onto the bar and left.
The Euston Tap was the second ‘craft’ beer bar I visited – the first was Amsterdam’s Beer Temple – and although this visit was very brief it reasserted my belief that the Euston Tap is one of my favourite places to go for a beer. I will return.