It feels like something has changed when a non-beer-geek friend suggests we meet at a convenient pub near his house and it just turns out to be the latest hip ‘craft beer’ joint — the Earl of Essex, Islington.
The thing that immediately caught our eye was the beer list — a wooden display which appeared to have been a church hymn board at some point in its life, and which provided key information on all the draught beers on offer, in bloody great big black letters. Beats a sheet of A4 Blu-Tacked to a post by the bar any day.
Being with a gang of ‘normals’, however, we became very aware of a key omission: “Are any of these beers dark?” they asked. “Which ones are pale?” A lot of people still choose their beer based on its colour and, as Barry Norman would say, why not? Until people starting messing about with mindbending ideas like black IPA, it was a decent indicator of how a beer might taste.
Along with some very decent cask ale, we also got to drink a couple of American IPAs from cans — not something we’ve done before. They were no worse, as far as we could tell, than kegs or bottles, and, though we weren’t taking notes, we took a distinct liking to Ska Brewing’s Modus Hoperandi.
Then, in a small world moment, the table next to us filled up with beer bloggers we recognised from their Twitter avatars. You might choose to take their presence as a mark of quality or, depending on your point of view, as a danger sign. (Being with friends from real life who we haven’t seen for months, it didn’t seem quite the right time to say hello, so, rather pathetically, we ‘lurked’.)
This is sure to become a staple on the beer geek circuit in London and means that Islington alone can now support a very decent crawl.