Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Beers Of London Series: 49. The Kernel - Pale Ale: Riwaka, Ahtanum 5.2%

Beers Of London Series
49. The Kernel - Pale Ale: Riwaka, Ahtanum 5.2%

I love trying new hops, or at least beers brewed with hops that I'm not familiar with. There's something quite exciting about opening a bottle with no pre-conceptions about the aroma or taste of the beer inside, it's a blank page for me.
Will I like it? Probably - it's beer after all, and I've yet to find a style that repulses me however this doesn't mean I necessarily like every beer equally, far from it.
Will the brewer have treated the ingredients with the respect they deserve? More than likely on this occasion, this is a Kernel beer, so I can pretty much count on every drop of flavour working to full effect here.
So what are these hops?
Riwaka, which is the one that I'm guessing that you're more likely to have heard of, is a New Zealand hop variety produced by crossing the 'Saazer' line of hops with newer New Zealand hops. This was done at the Riwaka Hop Research Station (from where it gets its name) which is near Motueka, the name of yet another hop variety. I'm not going to let you in on what it says about the aroma or flavour it imparts, mainly because I haven't looked that bit up on the notes, and also because I'd like to keep a little of the mystery for when I open the bottle.
The Ahtanum hop, developed in the Ahtanum Creek Valley in Yakima County, Washington State and, I'm reliably informed, is used by Stone Brewing Co. in their Pale Ale. It's got a fairly distinct flavour so if you've had any of the Stone beer that seems to me to be everywhere (in London at least) at the moment then you've probably tasted it, unwittingly or otherwise. I have to say, and this may shock you, that I'm not the greatest fan of Stone beers (although I loved the 16th Anniversary ale brewed with lemon verbena) as I find them generally a bit too sweet for my taste, so I can't recall the flavour of their Pale Ale. I expect that I'm about to find out.
It pours a translucent pale orange, almost golden with a light fluffy and sustained off-white head. The aroma packs a big citrus punch, full of grapefruit and lemon peel, tangerine and lime juice, there is a faint hint a pine but it's almost completely overwhelmed with all that citrus. Light and a little creamy over the tongue, there's a touch of pineapple syrup, a wash of real lemonade (the kind made from lemon juice, not the fizzy stuff) before the grapefruit peel lays itself liberally over the tongue like a sharp tangy net. The finish is dry and bitter with lots more grapefruit peel and a splash more tangerine.
This is a great beer if you like those sharp citrus fruit flavours and those hops really deliver in this area. I'm not sure that there's a great deal of this beer out there now and I'd like to thank my beery friend Thomas Marshall for picking this up from the brewery for me a little while ago, so if it sounds like your thing I'd strongly suggest that you buy it, and remember, drink it fresh.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Beers Of London Series: 48. Camden Town Brewery - Pete Versus The World 8.1%

Beers Of London Series
48. Camden Town Brewery - Pete Versus The World 8.1%

I've reviewed Camden Town Brewery beers before, but this is the first that I've actually reviewed at the brewery and the first in this series so far that I've reviewed literally spitting distance from where it was brewed so I'm pretty sure I'm getting this just about a fresh as it could possibly be. I have to confess that I don't often visit the Camden Town Brewery as often as I should, it's very easy to get to (Overground to Kentish Town West, come out of the station, turn right, first right, then the next right turn takes you to the bar) but I find it a little oppressive. I don't know whether it's the tightness of the space or, at least when I've been there the seemingly constant vans or forklifts parked close to the seating area, but I just feel a little closed in and I never seem to stay for more than a couple of beers. This is a shame because the beer is delicious.
I visited there last Friday afternoon with my family and sister-in-law after an excursion to Hampstead Heath followed by lunch at The Southampton Arms. It was a warm sunny afternoon which has become very much the norm of late, so cold beer was definitely called for. The collaboration with Odell - Camden Versus Odell Brewing Co. - was the first beer I had and whereas I found it tasty, liquorice and coffee with a dry grassy finish, it wasn't really what I was after so I changed style and opted for the latest of the limited release beers - Pete Versus The World.
This Double IPA is hopped with Centennial, Citra, Amarillo and Cascade hops, and then dry-hopped with more Cascade and Amarillo. It is brewer Pete Brown's parting gift to the brewery, his last brew before he goes travelling, so I was hoping for something a little bit special. It pours a beautiful orange/brown colour, like highly varnished pine with a big foamy off-white head, and the aroma of light, grassy citrus, pineapple, grapefruit and pine. It's actually not that big an aroma, and certainly given the nature of the hops used I was expecting something a little less subtle, but this smells quite refreshing although there's a hint of dank hop fug lurking at the back and poking at your olfactory cells. It's quite harsh and a little abrasive over the tongue, and a big wave of pine sap sweeps in swamping everything in the process but this is quickly followed by some gooey orange barley-sugar sweets, great big lumps of grapefruit and lemon peel, before the pine sap returns, but in a rather more restrained drizzle. The aftertaste has the merest hint of mashed-up over-ripe banana instantly overlaid with cheek-suckingly tart orange, dry, sharp and a little oily.
This is quite a beer, and an excellent one for Pete Brown to finish on. Remember though that this is a limited release and won't be there for long, especially if this hot weather continues, so I'd suggest you get over there sharpish.

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Beers Of London Series: 47. Adventure Brewery - South 5.0%

Beers Of London Series
47. Adventure Brewery- South 5.0%

When I first reviewed West by Adventure Brewery I have to confess I was a little low on details about them. Alex Wilson and Ben Owen, for it is they who are behind this venture now have much more information on their website than I was previously able to glean. They did indeed start brewing in January of 2012 (not Jamuary as I previously wrote, go check it's still there, but what a great month that would be) with the first bottles available in April of that year. Influenced by recipes from a bygone era, the heritage of nineteenth century brewing is very important to them, South is the second of their core range that I have had with North and East yet to come. They also brew a limited beer each month as part of the New Frontier range, and I'd love to get my hands on some of those too.
South is a best bitter brewed using the 1880 recipe from a London brewery but given the added twist of the addition of Australian hops. It pours quite a flat orange/yellow, especially considering it is bottle conditioned as all the Adventure bottles are, but with a thin layer of pure white bubbles sitting on top. It has an aroma of grapefruit juice, honey and orange chewy sweets, all very light and fruity and quite inviting. I'm picking up no trace of carbonation here, rather it oozes over the tongue with barely a whisper moving over the palate in quite a polite manner, shuffling along to make it's may down your throat, but what it leaves in it's wake is full and flavoursome. There's mandarin orange here and that really is the dominant flavour, but there's also peach skin, grapefruit, lemon and melon juice sitting nicely and confidently underneath. More of those chewy orange sweets come through in the finish leaving you feeling rather satisfied, even if it is a
touch sweet, but there's some bitterness and a little crumbly oaty biscuit coming through right at the death.
I really enjoyed this beer in spite, or perhaps because of that little prickle of fizziness that I have come to expect with most beers of this time that I drink. The big flavours are very welcome with the addition of those Australian hops adding some gorgeous juicy fruitiness to the mix. This is yet another beer I picked up from Ales By Mail and whilst they don't currently have it in stock as I write, I'm sure it won't be too long before they have it back.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Beers Of London Series: Moncada - Ruby Rye 5.2%

Beers Of London Series
46. Moncada Brewery - Notting Hill Ruby Rye 5.2%

Before I start this review I have a confession to make.
I've had this beer for a couple of months now, having picked it up from Ales By Mail some time towards the end of May, however, having pulled this bottle out to put in the fridge I have seen the expiry date says 06/06/13. I'm also writing this piece prior to opening the bottle so I don't know at this point which way I'll go with this, it may never even be read. I do tend to keep my beer on a stone floor in cardboard boxes and at a constant cool temperature so it should be ok, we'll soon see.
I'm a big fan of Moncada Brewery and their beers, having very much enjoyed the Notting Hill Stout and the Brew Wharf collaboration Rudebwoy Red earlier in this series. The Ruby Rye was launched in December 2012 in time for the festive season which probably accounts for the fact that I've let the date slip. I'm assuming it was bottled on or around 6th December 2012 in that case, and I'd normally refer to the brewery website for some more information but that appears to be down at the moment. Really I've got no choice but to crack open what is effectively a Christmas beer on one of the hottest days at the height of summer. Let's do it.
It pours, true to its name a deep ruby red, it really is a beautiful colour with a nice beige head reminding me of fresh snowfall at dusk. There's some sediment in the bottle, all Moncada beers are bottle-conditioned, and I've just let this slip into the glass but it hasn't clouded the beer at all which I'm rather glad of. There's a gorgeous aroma of milk chocolate and a hint of cold coffee, but this is pierced with some strawberry and blackberry fruitiness that is quite irresistible, and these flavours seen to rotate, one after the other, each time I raise the glass to my nose. I'm enjoying this already. Biting, slightly creamy and bitter over the tongue, it wakes up the taste-buds but not with the mouth-puckering slap round the face of a US style Pale Ale (a phrase I read possibly a little too much for my liking if I'm honest) but rather it pounces like a panther from a tree, shocking and sudden, and I love the sensation. There's lots of berry fruitiness here, blackberries that I mentioned earlier, but also blackcurrants, gooseberries and redcurrants, all resting on a light milky bubbly chocolate with a finish so like a Kit Kat biscuit it's almost uncanny. The more I drink this glass the more the flavours intensify. I'm not getting any of the almost dirty mouthfeel I associate with a beer brewed with rye but it is coming through right at the end coupled with some burnt caramel like the top of a crenme brulee, crisp too, and it compliments the other flavours perfectly. In fact this beer is so tasty it's almost like having a dessert.
This beer is an absolute winner as far as I'm concerned. My earlier fears have been allayed, and I'm inclined to think that I'm having this beer at it's absolute best. If by chance you have a bottle of this in your cupboard or cellar now then I suggest you open it now. You won't regret it.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Beers Of London Series: 45. Howling Hops - Amber De Luxe 4.6%

Beers Of London Series
45. Howling Hops - Amber De Luxe 4.6%

It's about time I had another beer brewed at The Cock Tavern, E8. Every time I go there I feel welcome, I feel relaxed, and the beer is fantastic. It's a place I really enjoy. I'm surprised that it's actually taken me three months to review another of their beers since the Smoked Porter I had back at number 7.
The Amber De Luxe is brewed with Cascade, Amarillo and Chinook hops and I have read elsewhere that this is their Harvest Ale with a few tweaks. If this is so then it's had one hell of a tweak where the hops are concerned. Instead of giving you more about the brewery this time then I thought I'd take a look at those hops and their combination prior to drinking it, Cascade first.
Cascade was developed at Oregon State University in 1971 and is the most widely used hop by US craft breweries, and is pretty much an essential in American Pale Ales. Moderate in its alpha acid content, imparting that all important bitterness, it is best known for it's citrus aroma, heavy on the grapefruit, but with a little spiciness and other floral notes.
The Amarillo hop is patented and privately grown by Virgil Gamache Farms Inc. in Washington State, and its name is trademarked. It is relatively high in alpha acids and imparts a big orange and grapefruit flavour as well as and orange aroma. If over-hopped it can be overpowering giving an aroma resonant of cat urine, however, bizarre as this may seem I rather like beers over-hopped with Amarillo.
Chinook is one of my favourite hops. Cultivated in Washington State (again) it was first released in 1985 and is extremely versatile, you can find it in anything from a Pale Ale to a Barley Wine and is quite often used in Black IPAs. It has quite a heavy, spicy aroma and gives some beautiful pine notes to beers.
So with these thoughts in mind, and bearing in mind that I don't know the quantities in which they were used in this beer, I'm going to open the bottle.
True to its name it does indeed pour a luxurious amber, a cloudy orange lozenge of a beer with golden edges and a soft off-white head. The aroma is something else. Grapefruit and orange peel makes your eyes water from six feet away, and when you stick your nose right into the glass this harshness melts away into beautiful pine and pineapple notes with a herbal basil and rosemary edge. Only faintly oily over the tongue initially it has a mighty burst of pine, grapefruit and musty orange peel flavour, all sticky and sharp but not lip-puckeringly so. There's some concentrated tangerine juice running below the surface like an underground stream, threatening to burst through and dribble down your chin before it all goes dry and gooey at the same time at the finish, like orange syrup coated grapefruit peel, and lasting a long long time.
I'm not sure whether or not listing the characteristics of the particular hops has enhanced my appreciation of tasting this beer, my feeling is that it is good enough to stand without the analysis, however it has meant that I was able to pick some of the different elements from the hops used and my appreciation is with the skill of the brewer in using them to produce a beer of this quality and at only 4.6% abv. I genuinely have a big smile on my face and an almost empty glass, long may it continue.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Urban Sessions: Raising The Bar .. And Serving Great Beer

Finding the Moon Under Water in a 1930s Public Baths

When you imagine your perfect pub or bar you may well bring to mind Orwell's Moon Under Water where the 'architecture and fittings are uncompromisingly Victorian'. You might want 'plenty of elbow room' somewhere to go for 'conversation as much as the beer' although the beer and quality of it is of some importance if you're thinking of lingering a while. It probably needs to be reasonably accessible, comfortable and possibly have the option for food should you so wish, but as Orwell states about his fictional local, 'the thing that most appeals to me about the Moon Under Water is what people call its 'atmosphere' '.
Yesterday, a hot burning summers day, I took my family to Urban Sessions.
We arrived possibly a little too punctually at five to twelve (it doesn't properly open until twelve, but the doors were open so in we went) relieved to get out of the sun for a bit, and in need of some refreshment.
Urban Sessions is housed in a converted Public Baths (not a swimming pool, there used to be actual baths here) in Hackney Wick, East London (the Wick part in case you're wondering derives from the word 'Wyk' and means 'an outlying dairy farm') opened in 1935 on the Eastway as part of an urban regeneration scheme, cleaning out the slums that were common in the area and building good affordable housing to improve the conditions of the local population. It closed in the 1960s from what I can gather, before being converted and re-opening as a community centre called CR8, in 2008. Conceived by beer writer, international beer judge, good beer evangelist Melissa Cole in conjunction with Twisted Lemon Events promotion company and supplier, it plans to make over five hundred beers, as well as cider, spirits and food from various first class vendors from around London available between 11th July until the 31st October this year.
The entrance itself is quite unassuming, a door (admittedly a rather large door) with three pieces of white A4 paper with the simple words 'Urban Session' stuck to it. Soon there should be a pennant flying from the flagpole on the roof with the name and 'Raising The Bar' making it a little more obvious. As I mentioned in my previous post it is very easy to find, turn right after leaving Hackney Wick station (it doesn't matter which direction you're coming from) and follow the road round and through the Trowbridge Estate, past the imposing Victorian school and keep going. You'll see it right in front of you.
There's a short corridor, to the left of which are the toilets, but go straight ahead past the sign and head down the stairs to your left and you'll find yourself in a scaffolding clad sports-hall-esque space. Don't panic though, it's not about to collapse into a pile of rubble, the scaffolding is purely there to hang lights, bunting and signage from, but you can't fail to notice the two long wooden bars, one in front of you and one to your right, with a variety of different taps along with a couple of hand-pulls ready to dispense all manner of beery goodness. The tables are made from rough wooden boards sawn diagonally in half which does leave some rather awkward pointy ends which aren't particularly child friendly or easy to negotiate but it's early days and when I pointed this out all parties were in agreement so they could well be slightly altered. There's a small stage to the right, set up for a band when I was there, and a small DJ booth as well. Urban Sessions is not just about beer, it's in a community space and there will be bands, DJs, comedy acts and other events happening throughout its time there so you'll need to check the website regularly to see what's coming up next. There's also a cocktail bar providing fruit juices, ginger beer, bottled beer, spirits, wine and cider if you're that way inclined, and this was a boon as far as my children were concerned as they were provided with long glasses filled with crushed ice into which their juice of choice was poured, very welcome in the intense heat.
Heading outside through one of the doors in either corner you'll encounter the garden which although currently a rather dusty stony area, with table and chairs in similar style to the inside, is a large pleasant space with a canopy providing welcome shade from the sun or indeed shelter from the rain should it come. You'll also find food vans here although on our visit only burgers (including pork and stilton and lamb) or bacon butties were available, which were very nice however more choice considering it was lunchtime, or even some chips or crisps, would have been appreciated. They may even want to consider having a freezer unit with some ice cream or lollies in it, and I would have been very interested in sampling the Anchor Zymaster Flying Cloud Stout with a scoop of vanilla ice cream in, perfect for the blistering weather. There are plans afoot to make the garden a proper community garden but whether this will happen during Urban Sessions tenure remain to be seen. Beyond the garden is a decent five-a-side football pitch which was being used for local children top train on for the first hour we were there, although later on we were able to procure a football which my son and I had a kickabout on for half an hour or so, adding to his enjoyment of the day.
Out in the garden area, next to the burger van, you'll also see a blue inflatable arch structure. This is a sealable refrigeration unit and I was lucky enough to get a peek inside and see where the magic happens, all the beer is contained in kegs, key-kegs and casks here before being fed underground into the main hall.

If your heading to Urban Sessions then I'm assuming that you'd be heading there for the beer, and what a selection there is. The bars are divided into rough areas, which are, when I was there at least, from left to right, general European, British, including quite a few London breweries and an impressive Meantime keg tap (with a nice touch on its base), Italian, US, Belgian, and German. Another thing of note, and a very good thing in my opinion, is that there are no pint or half pint glasses, only thirds or two-thirds. Considering the huge array of beers available this encourages sensible drinking and enables you to try and enjoy many more of the beers on offer whilst still maintaining a considerable degree of relative sobriety. It's all about pace you see, there is no need to rush when the beer is this good and there are plenty of people around and very willing to discuss beer with you. I've mentioned this before so you may well be aware that my wife loves beer, particularly US style IPAs, Pale Ales, Saisons, Wheat Beers, and ... well pretty much anything really, so we always enjoy a chance to drink together, and when the children are with us, and especially when they feel relaxed and comfortable, we enjoy ourselves all the more. Being able to drink beer by the third over some time with conversation, activity and exploring the various areas meant that we were able to taste many many different beers (we shared some of the thirds you see) and talk about what we were tasting and the brewery that made it, picking out flavours and elements that we liked, without worrying about becoming drunk at any point. I'm also fortunate that my children are accustomed to going out to pubs and restaurants and know how to behave in those situations, not charging about and getting in everyones way, causing vexation among those seeking a quiet drink and a chat, and they were made very welcome by all the staff who happily engaged them in conversation. My son particularly has a real interest in beer, and although far too young to have a drink of his own (he's only just seven) happily sat and joined in with the various conversations we had.
I was particularly delighted at the attitude and genuine friendliness of the staff, and it really did more than anything else to make my visits (we left to do some shopping at Westfield in Stratford before returning later on) so relaxed and enjoyable. They were engaging, with interesting backgrounds and stories to tell as well as being interested in what I had to say and my views on my experience there. It's very much early days there so they are looking to make tweaks and changes where needed to make sure everyone has the best experience possible and not rest on their laurels, which is very much to their credit. 
As we were about to leave Melissa Cole arrived. Although tweeting each other a few times I had met her briefly a few weeks before at Duke's Brew and Que for the launch of the Moor / Beavertown collaboration beer RYPA and we had talked a little about the Urban Sessions project then. She came up and said 'Hello' and I introduced my family, and asked me about my experience there. We talked for quite a while about beer, the set up, changes that could be made, the beers on offer, those to come and my weird beer/banana split 'cocktail' experiment that sort-of worked before we had to go. She was genuinely friendly and again seemed very interested in what I had to say and I left with the impression that this is a real labour of love but one she is determined to get right. It's my opinion that they are well on the way to getting it spot on, all it really needs is customers.
At know point while I was there was it busy which considering how good it is was a real surprise. If you're reading this and you are still deciding whether or not to go then I don't really know what else to say to convince you, or perhaps I do ...
In case you were wondering, here's a list of the beers I tasted while I was there:
Weird Bear/Elusive Brewing - Nelson Saison, Magic Rock - Salty Kiss, Magic Rock - Simpleton, Magic Rock - Curious, Sierra Nevada - Blindfold, Anchor - Anchor Summer Beer, Flying Dog - Easy IPA, Old Dominion - Hop Mountain, Ilkley - Siberia Rhubarb Saison, Boon - Kriek, Brew Fist - Spaceman, and Birra Del Borgo - Cortigiana. I also had tasters of quite a few more, so you can see there's plenty there to delight most beer orientated palates.
At the start of this piece you'll remember that I alluded to Orwell's The Moon Under Water, highlighting areas of his essay, which first appeared in the Evening Standard on 9th February 1946, which in my view make up the kind of pub or bar that I enjoy. The fixtures, fittings or architecture at Urban Sessions may not be Victorian, the eclectic mix of doors and bric-a-brac was sourced from markets and reclamation yards, but It's setting does provide that sense of prestige associated with a Victorian municipal building whilst at the same time embracing its modern use by the local community and beyond. There's also plenty of room and as I'm sure you'll have gathered from this post, plenty of good conversation to be had. It's comfortable, having the option of food should you want it, but most of all, and most importantly it has a wonderful atmosphere, a relaxed, chilled ambience that is very special and increasingly hard to find in places serving fantastic beer.
So, inevitably, the question that you're asking me now is: "Did you find The Moon Under Water ?"
Quite possibly ...

Thursday, 11 July 2013

Beers Of London Series: 44. Tap East / Fullers - Higgs Boson 2.5%

Beers Of London Series
44. Tap East and Fullers - Higgs Boson 2.5%

I've not visited either Tap East or Fullers beers for a while in this series, they were numbers 17 and 1 respectively, so to be able to sample both in one glass (ok it's a collaboration brew, but you know what I mean).
Between 28th and 30th June Tap East held an 'Open Brewhouse Beer Festival'. This weekend was the culmination of various brewers having visited the brewery in the Westfield shopping centre in Stratford, East London, to brew beer in using their equipment in collaboration with head brewer James Wilson. Members of the Tap East team had also been visiting other London breweries on their brew days and bringing them back for the festival. Brewery tours were conducted every two hours on the Saturday by James himself, as well as a Question and Answer session with some of those who had helped in brewing the beers.
Now, I'm sure you're assuming that I was able to attend this showcase of brewing, but sadly this was not to be. Work and other commitments meant I was unable to do so, however I was lucky enough to pay a visit to Tap East not long afterwards and fortunately for me they still had a couple left. One was a deliciously cloudy and tart collaboration with Howling Hops titled 'A Beer Called Framboise', and this fruity lower alcohol number brewed in conjunction with Fullers.
It pours an inviting pale lemony yellow with a thin white head and a faint aroma of lemon and lime which revels in its citrus subtlety. It slips beautifully over the tongue with a light malted milk biscuit quality before washing all this away with grapefruit, white pepper, bitter lemon and mandarin orange flavours. They're all quite subdued as you might expect for a beer of this abv but they all merge together beautifully to make a flavoursome beer that you could drink a couple of pints of without any real effect, and I'd rather this than an over-hopped bitter mess to be honest as the underlying biscuit malts give it a nicely balanced base. The finish has a fine trickle of lime and grapefruit coming through leaving you very satisfied and ready for another. This is a very accomplished 'light beer' than certainly isn't light on flavour. Having tasted the two beers that I did, I rather regret not being able to attend the festival. If you were able to do so and tasted some of the beers then why not leave your experience in the 'Comments' box below? I know that if they do it again I'll be booking the weekend out.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Beers Of London Series: 43. Crate Brewery - IPA 5.8%

Beers Of London Series
43. Crate Brewery - IPA 5.8%

Back in number 15 of this series I reviewed Crate Lager and pondered on what their beer would taste fresh from the tap by the canal-side with a slice or two of pizza on a warm summers day. Well I'm pleased to say that a week or so ago I was able to find out for myself.
I've read reports that Crate is tricky to find, a brewery hidden in a labyrinth of warehouses and run-down buildings, but essentially it's not actually that difficult and if you come out of Hackney Wick station from the direction of Stratford on the London Overground then it's pretty much left, left, and left again. You might want to download the Craft Beer London app to your phone though just to be sure.
It does indeed sit alongside the canal, and quite a pleasant little spot it is too, and I particularly like the way that although it partly blends in with its rather bleak and scruffy surroundings, it also has the feeling of an oasis of calm. The tables and benches are fairly Spartan but it's relaxed and laid back letting the beer and pizza do the talking under the background murmur of idle conversation. It wasn't particularly busy when I visited, but a word of advice, you may want to order your food when you arrive as the pizzas are prepared and cooked to order so it's probably not best to visit if you want to eat in a hurry.
The outside seating area is in similar vein to the interior but be aware that there's no barrier to the water so keep an eye out should you take any youngsters with you. The pizzas when they come are good and tasty, reasonably priced, and easily enough for two to share unless you're feeling particularly hungry. The beer on offer is good too. I sampled the Crooked Stout, the Best Bitter, the Lager (well I had to have it fresh) and the IPA. There were guest beers from Alpha State and Thornbridge, as well as a fridge stocking the likes of Partizan and Kernel with some Belgium and American beers for good measure. A fine selection of wine and cider is available too, but it's the IPA that I'm reviewing tonight so I'd better crack on.
It pours a pale amber with a tight white head, so far so good and there's a wonderful aroma of melon, peach and pineapple that is instantly captivating. Dry, sharp and tight over the tongue, lemon, pineapple and sweet sticky peach juice flavours emerge and combine with some frothy melon and the merest notion of mango rather delightfully before drying out quickly, perhaps a little too quickly on reflection. The finish has a light citrus lick with shades of lemon, lime and orange, a very tasty ending to a fine IPA. I could have drunk that all afternoon if I'd had the time, and next time perhaps I will.

Addendum: I have learnt today that Urban Sessions, London's biggest and best beer bar in a converted public baths, is also incredibly near Hackney Wick station. Instead of turning left for Crate (see directions above) just turn right and keep going. As it doesn't open until 4.00pm during the week, why not visit Crate for a late lunch and a few beers before heading down there? Just saying ...

Friday, 5 July 2013

Beers Of London Series: 42. East London Brewery - Orchid 3.6%

Beers Of London Series
42. East London Brewing Company - Orchid 3.6%

Set up in February 2011 by husband and wife team Stuart Lascelles and Claire Ashbridge-Thomlinson, the East London Brewing Company is based in Leyton, London E10, right next door to the Lea Valley Nature Reserve, just off the Lea Bridge Road.
Stuart previously worked as an industrial chemist, but after twenty years he decided that he was ready for a new challenge, so with his wife on maternity leave (they had a four month old and two year old children at the time) a micro-brewery became the chosen path. Within six months they had brewed their first beer, the ELB Pale Ale (which incidentally was the first beer of theirs that I had, at the The Southampton Arms in December 2012), and they haven't looked back since.
Their current line-up of beers include the aforementioned Pale Ale, Foundation Bitter an Amber Ale flavoured with a blend of English and New Zealand hops, Nightwatchman a chestnut coloured 'smoother beer', Jamboree a Golden Ale brewed with English hops, Quadrant an Oatmeal Stout brewed in collaboration with National Homebrew Competition champions Graeme Coates and Tom Dobson, and Orchid, which I'm having tonight, a dark Mild lightly spiced with vanilla.
It pours a deep, rich milk chocolate brown with a thin beige head that dissipates quickly. The aroma is a delightfully light mist of good quality chocolate, ground coffee and the faintest dabs of vanilla adding a beautiful sweet note to the proceedings. Quite thin over the tongue, there is however a prickly buzz of carbonation that picks and prods in a rather friendly manner and this leaves behind a flavour of watery milk chocolate and maybe a little meat juice that slowly melts into an absolutely delicious milky sweet vanilla. This is like having your tongue gently bathed in a fresh milky vanilla pod liquid, the chocolate and coffee flavour all but forgotten, and this continues long into the finish albeit becoming a little more lactic at the end.
This beer carries its beauty in its subtlety. Even though the aroma is big and bold up front, its the finish that makes this a truly stunning beer. Take some time out to find it.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Beers Of London Series: 41. Ellenberg's Brewery - Black Ale 5.7%

Beers Of London Series
41. Ellenberg's Brewery - Black Ale 5.7%. Ellenberg's Brewery - Black Ale 5.9%
As you will know if you've read my previous post, Ellenberg's Brewery, founded by Mike Ellenberg from whom it gets its name (did I hear you whisper eponymous?) share premises with Weird Beard Brewing Co. in Hanwell, London W7.
Mike, like Bryan and Gregg, is another successful home brewer turned professional brewer and worked closely with his weirdly bearded compatriots to find a suitable brewing facility that they could set up home in since 2011, finally signing the lease in October 2012.
A variety of bottle-conditioned beers have been produced so far, a stout, an Altbier, Dark Smoky Wheat a smoked wheat beer, a red ale called Ale No.1 which I'm guessing by the name was the first beer, a Bock that I have in reserve for a later review, and Black Ale a schwarzbier that I'm drinking tonight.
Pouring so dark a brown you'd swear it was black, with a tight creamy beige head and a divine aroma of blackcurrant and lightly whipped chocolate it smells almost good enough to swim in. Prickly over the tongue, it tightens the taste buds as it flows across them, constricting, choking almost, before releasing them slowly. As it does so, it allows the flavour to rush in. Chocolate, blackcurrant, touch of espresso and a twist of black pepper all combine in what is simply an absolutely stunning beer. I've had schwarzbiers produced outside of Germany before but I honestly cannot remember one with this complexity and depth of flavour. It's rich, creamy and deep whilst still being light, an absolute joy. The finish has coffee with a hint of vanilla, bourbon biscuit malt and possibly the merest hint of damson. Fantastic.
You might well have discerned from my description that I was more than a little delighted with this beer, and to be totally truthful I didn't really know what to expect as this isn't a style I'm particularly enamoured with. I picked my bottle up from Ales By Mail last week. They still have some.