THIRD VISIT: FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2014
SECOND VISIT: WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2014
FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 19 APRIL 2014
THIRD VISIT: FRIDAY 12 SEPTEMBER 2014
SECOND VISIT: WEDNESDAY 4 JUNE 2014
FIRST VISIT: FRIDAY 19 APRIL 2014
BrewDog Shepherds Bush
EIGHTH VISIT: FRIDAY 15 AUGUST 2014
Just a flying visit to try the Elusive and Weird Beard collab Lord Nelson and fill up my growler…
I came round the corner just as the shutter was rolling up. Perfect timing. I ordered a hit of Lord Nelson. It was good. It was very good. But is was a saison. Why the fuck was I expecting it be a stout? There were a hell of a lot of great beers on sale and many of them were seriously tempting me but I had to be over in the east by 1pm so I got my growler filled with Siren Limoncello and left.
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SEVENTH VISIT: THURSDAY 5 JUNE 2014
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SIXTH VISIT: SUNDAY 5 MAY 2014
And so the Oskar Blues Bank Holiday Booze Cruise made its way to the third and final stop…
Obviously, I was a bit drunk by this stage but as I was still good for a few more. I’d only had one Oskar Blues beer at BDCamden and another one in BDShoreditch, which was a bit of a poor show, so I decided that I’d make more of an effort now that I was at the end of the line.
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FIFTH VISIT: SATURDAY 19 APRIL 2014
I’d spent the previous two hours in a very busy Shepherds Bush Empire surrounded by men who were singing out of tune and were doing so with stale cider breath. I needed a quality beverage. Fortunately, BDSB is practically next door and, as per usual, they were selling forty quality beverages. The place wasn’t rammed but it was nicely busy. Most of the folk in there were far younger than me. If BrewDog can hold onto them they’ve got a loyal fan base for the next fifty years. There were still 14 Kernel beers available (although that changed to 13 while we were there) and I decided to go for their IPA brewed using Amarillo, Citra and Summit. In recent months there have been some grumblings in the beer geek undergrowth that Kernel are no longer creating IPAs that are as delicious as the ones they used to wow the world with. I would like to present this beer as evidence that Kernel can still whip up a world class IPA. I was tempted to have another but BrewDog’s Jasmine IPA was on. It’s a limited edition brew that supposedly isn’t going to make it into bottles. It would be a shame to not try it. So it tried it. It was good. Not as good as the Kernel. But still very good. Midnight had arrived so we had to leave.
As I gazed out of the window of a late night Routemaster that was taking me south of the river I realised that Shepherds Bush is now my new favourite BrewDog bar. Sorry Bristol.
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FOURTH VISIT: SATURDAY 19 APRIL 2014
Just a brief visit to drop off some quality WWE merchandise. But I couldn’t pop in without downing a quality beverage. Seventeen Kernel beers (out of the 20 from Thursday’s TT) were still available. I decided to go for the Biere de Table Damson. I’m a big fan of Kernel’s Table beer/biere series. And the damson is the best of the few I’ve been lucky enough to try. It’s sort of a cross between a saison and a sour – a baby sour. I fancied another and several of the other 39 beers available but I also fancied seeing if I could get into Rough Trade East for the J Spaceman record store day performance. I headed to the tube station instead of the bar.
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THIRD VISIT: THURSDAY 10 APRIL 2014
I was in town for a British Sea Power gig. Consequently, that meant I could attend the Un-Human Cannonball launch at the Islington branch of Craft Beer Co. Subsequently, that meant I could pop into BDSB and sample the Sour Brown from Lovibonds. O fortuitous day!
It was only 2.30pm so the place was recently calm and sedate. I’d only planned on having the one drink but when I spied that BrewDog’s IPA is Dead Kohatu was on I decided that I needed to have two drinks. I’d previously had a Single Hop Kohatu that had been brewed by Wiltshire’s finest – Hop Kettle. I was keen to see how a cask version compared to a kegged version. The taste was blackcurrant bubblegum, which is exactly what I was hoping for. The BD Kohatu is good. But it’s not quite as good as the Hop Kettle version. An away win for Team Cask!
Next up was the beer that had brought me to Shepherds Bush: Lovibonds Sour Brown. I’ve tried countless times to procure some of Lovibonds’ Sour Grapes but so far I’ve failed to hunt it down. So when the opportunity presented itself to score some of their latest sour offering I wasn’t going to let it pass me by. Sour Brown smells great and it tastes great. Not majorly sour but, thankfully, not overly brown. It’s an all-round and well-rounded taste sensation. Well worth the detour.
While consuming my drinks I sat up the back under the world beer map. Nobody else ventured into the area the entire time I was there. It’s a great space. Like a Manhattan loft apartment. I would’ve happily sat there all day (or until someone else crashed my solitude) but there was a limited release IPA that required my attention.
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SECOND VISIT: FRIDAY 21 MARCH 2014
My number one task of the day was to secure a table at BrewDog Shepherds Bush. Unfortunately, this task wasn’t bequeathed to me until 20 past 5 when I was sitting an 18 minute walk away. I double timed it down Goldhawk Road and arrived at BDSB (which was spotted from a fair distance thanks to the newly installed shield) 3 minutes ahead of schedule. There were a few tables unoccupied so I relaxed. There were, however, a few people at the bar and I couldn’t gauge if they were new arrivals or if they already occupied a table and where just procuring another beverage. As I awaited to be served a group walked in and half of them went to the bar and the other took up residence at a table. Oi! Where the fuck do you think you are! MuckDonalds! By the time I got served (which was only a couple of minutes after arriving) only two tables remained unoccupied. One had a reserved from 7pm sign on it and the other was the first table you reach when you walk through the door. Arguably it’s the worst table in the house but it’s a table nonetheless. I wasn’t entirely sure what time my companions would arrive so I ordered two beers – I didn’t want to win a table only to lose it because I had to return to the bar. I ordered two old favourites: a pint of Mikkeller American Dream and a schooner of Lovibonds 69IPA. I took the spoils of victory to my throne.
I sat at my table a slowly supped my beer. I tried to look like a man who would not welcome company without actually looking like a man who would not welcome company – it’s a difficult balance but I believe I pulled it off. Around 20 minutes after entering BDSB the first two members of my entourage arrived: Mr Matthew Curtis – beer writer, musician, all round good guy (go visit his BLOG) – and his friend and fellow musician whose identity I’ve sworn to protect. The bar was filling up nicely and was now very much standing room only. There was a good buzz in the air. Occasional glances towards the bar revealed punters standing three deep. But when I glanced back just a few minutes later they people who had been at the back of the heap where now heading away from the bar with glasses full of delicious beer and big smiles. Impressive, most impressive.
Oh! One thing that I feel I should mention is the toilets. They were clean and fresh smelling every time I visited, which is nice. But that’s not the fact that I feel is worth mentioning. No. The fact I feel is worth mentioning is that every time I went to the toilets they were empty. Not another person in them. Just me. On the way down I’d pass someone on the stairs but once I’d opened the door I’d not encounter another soul until I was heading back up the stairs. The bar was absolutely rammed with people pouring liquid down their throats but hardly anybody needed to use the loo. Weird.
The fourth member of our posse arrived. The chat was flowing freely. The beer was flowing freely (although we did have to pay for it). I scooped a BrewDog Old World Imperial IPA. Then a Jackhammer – surely a frontrunner for the prize of BrewDog’s most consistently great beer. Then I was back on the Mikkeller American Dream, which I believe was served in a non-BrewDog glass, which I believe is the first time that has happened to me in a BrewDog bar (not a complaint, just an observation). Time was running out. Some of us had a gig to go to. There was enough time left for one for the road. Imperial Russian Stout’s for all! No! Not you. Or you. Just us four. Buy your own. We all agreed that it was most delicious. A great beer to end a great three hours in a great bar.
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FIRST VISIT: SUNDAY 2 FEBRUARY 2014
My flight back from Stuttgart landed at Heathrow. A perusal of the tube map revealed that one of the possible routes to Paddington was to get off the Piccadilly line at Hammersmith then follow the H&C. Hmmm… one stop up from Hammersmith is Goldhawk Road and brief wander along Goldhawk Road brings you to BDSB. It would’ve been rude not to pop in for swift two-thirds of something…
The Shepherds Bush branch of BrewDog is a big one room deal featuring trendy & subdued bespoke lighting with some interesting graffiti-style artwork on the walls. It’s minimal but not sparsely so. The centre of the room is occupied by several long benches, which operate as communal seating. But if you are having one of those moments when you don’t want a fat Scot plonking his ass down at your table you can occupy one of the booths that form the majority of the perimeter. The stools at the communal tables are well worth a mention as they are constructed from materials that had me recalling the cans of soda pop that made a brief appearance in the UK back in the 1980s – Squirt, Quattro, Tab Clear, et al. As you are no doubt know, BDSB home to 40 beer taps and several vintage video games machines, which makes it something of a Mecca for 40-something beer geeks. But there’s no bingo. It’s a cool but unpretentious space. Reading through a 40 strong tap list is a slightly daunting and time consuming task but thankfully I quickly homed in on Weird Beard’s Shark Biscuit. I’ve met the Weird Beard guys and the seem like genuinely amiable dudes. And I’ve also chatted, via Twitter, to Shark Biscuit co-creator Daniel Vane and, again, he seems like a genuinely amiable dude. And Weird Beard make great beers. Decision made.
While soaking in the surroundings I spied a Star Wars Trilogy machine. I was tempted to chuck some money in it but then remembered that I was shit at it when I was a kid so would undoubtedly be even shitter at it now. I stayed in my seat and politely smiled at the cabinet while I reminisced on days of misspent down Glenrothes Ice Rink. I finished my Shark Biscuit and fancied another but I also fancied being home and a second portion of Shark Biscuit would very probably lead to yet another portion of Shark Biscuit and that would… you know how it goes…. So I took the sensible but far less tasty option and returned my empty glass back to the bar and departed. I will return. As often as possible.
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.
315 Mare Street
FIRST VISIT: 12 MARCH 2014
Three visits for the price of one! We were in this part of town because we were meant to be hanging out in a church with Michael Gira. As soon as you walk through the door of the Cock you know that you are in a boozer that has remained almost exactly the same for many a generation. Sure, the beer list is way more varied and exciting and the clientele look much less dangerous than I imagine they would’ve in the days before ‘craft’ but if it wasn’t for those two facts you could easily pretend you were drinking in the 1960s or perhaps even the 1860s (but probably not).
These days the Cock is the home of London brewers Howling Hops. Consequently, there were quite a few of their beers up for grabs. It would’ve been rude to have not kicked off proceedings with one of their offerings so I plumped for an IPA Export No.2. It’s 7% and pretty dang tasty. And the Cock is very probably the only place on the planet where it has been sold, which, in beer geek terms, makes it extra tasty. We headed across the road to church…
… we returned almost straight away as the guy we wanted to see wasn’t due on for another hour or thereabouts. This time we decided to head over to the west of the city and ordered a Weird Beard Hit The Lights IPA. It’s a 6.3% and dang tasty. But is you can buy it in loads of other places it doesn’t qualify, under beer geek rules, as extra tasty. The quiz had started and the quizmaster was shouting out the questions. He seemed to like the fact that he was being allowed to shout in the pub. Personally, I think they should invest in a little PA system so he can ask the questions in a nice and clear and polite fashion. A couple came in just as the quizmaster was bellowing: IN SHAKESPEARE’S OTHELLO WHO KILLED DESDEMONA? The woman blurted out the answer. The quizmaster wasn’t impressed. He came across and gave the woman a stern talking to. She quite rightly remarked that if anybody didn’t already know the answer they shouldn’t be doing a pub quiz. Time was ticking towards headlining act time so we gulped down a Weird Beard Decadence Stout and wandered back to the gig.
The gig was strange. The venue – St John at Hackney Church – was impressive but too vast for my liking. Gira’s guitar sound was good but his vocals were way to high in the mix. I found myself wishing I was at a Swans gig instead of witnessing Gira on his own. After 45 minutes I departed and returned. On Mare Street the police were wrestling with an elderly geezer. We entered the pub just as he was bundled into the back of police van. The pub let out a collective roar of joy. Apparently he had been causing trouble all evening. I suppose he’s be drinking in the Cock for decades and doesn’t fully appreciate the young trendy folk who know occupy his bar stool. We’d done east London and west London and now it was time to go continental: a Blikken & Blozen by De Molen was ordered. It was time to make the journey south of the water.
I liked the Cock. I’d like to go back to the Cock. There’s a particular reason that I would like to go back to the Cock but the reason will remain unspoken and, indeed, untyped.