Brew Wharf – interesting idea, poorly executed

Having bought a load of fantastic beers from Utobeer (see previous post), we popped over the road to Brew Wharf to see what the fuss was about.

Brew Wharf opened in October 2005 as part of the Vinopolis empire at London Bridge. This is a brewpub/restaurant with a couple of house brews and some of the Meantime range on tap and around 30 bottled beers from around the world. Sounds good?

Many others don’t think so. It is pretty much universally panned on Beerintheevening.com and fancyapint.com for bad service and expensive drinks. It doesn’t seem to be popular for its food either; the magazine Time Out called it “a bad restaurant with very good beer”.

I have very mixed feelings about it – there are some strong pros and cons.

Pros

Goose Island IPA

  1. One of the Wharf brews (I didn’t get which one, but it was either Wharf Best or Century Ale) was very fresh and tasty. A pub with its own beer is shockingly rare in London, so this in itself is a plus point.
  2. Someone had obviously put a lot of thought into the bottled beer list; there was a good range of styles, and some absolute crackers on the list. As well as Meantime Chocolate and Coffee, they stock the excellent Goose Island IPAfrom Chicago
  3. They have a good range of glasses to match the beers. This may sound like a minor point, but we believe that the look of a beer contributes enormously to the overall enjoyment, and we’re always impressed when people make the effort to serve the beer in the right glass.

Cons

  1. The service is pretty poor; a couple sat down next to us and then left after 10 minutes of trying to get served at the bar. One of the bar staff tried to take my drink away before I’d finished.
  2. The prices! They were charging £5.65 for a bottle of Schlenkerla Rauchbier. Now this is a nice beer, and perhaps used to be rare, but it’s not that difficult to get hold of these days. The Pembury Tavern in Hackney does it for half the price charged here.
  3. I could see what the reviewers meant when they said it was soulless. There was quite a nice atmosphere on the terrace but the pub itself would be pretty dreadful without it.

Is this the way to get people into beer? Not sure. Despite the fact it was a brewpub with a large beer list, I didn’t get the impression they were out to convert people. Most of the customers seemed to be drinking wine or Budvar. Perhaps descriptions of the beers would help? This could potentially be a good place to bring someone you were trying to convert – but the Greenwich Union is much cosier and has a similar (if not the same) range of bottled beers.

So would I go back? I can’t imagine having a cosy pint there, but it’s quite a good place on a weekend afternoon to pretend you’re on holiday – pretend the prices are in Euros and that the service is just down to misunderstanding…

Boak

Beer heroes of the month (June) – Utobeer, London

Beer hero of the month is Utobeer, who sell a fantastic range of bottled beers from all over the world from a cage in Borough Market, London.

A trio of porters from UtobeerWe went there today, for the first time. Yes, the first time – I cannot believe I have never been here before. A mixture of laziness, and suspicion of Borough market (some great food, but boy, do they charge for it…) mean that we had never got our arses over there in the past.

It was definitely worth it – I have never seen such a fantastic range of porters and stouts in one place. Reasonably priced too – we came away with 10 beers we had never had before for just over £20.

We will definitely be returning.

Beer hunting in London: Stoke Newington

The beer cellar was looking a little bare this weekend, so we decided to seek out some more. Having followed our own advice from an earlier post, “surviving a beer desert”, and tried out all the local shops, we thought we’d branch out and try to find some alternative sources of quality brews. We reckoned it would be interesting to go to another part of London to see what was available.

So we headed to Stoke Newington, North London. Trendy but lived in, we had high hopes that we’d be able to find something interesting to drink. In particular, we were after (a) “premium” ales and lagers (b) Baltic porters.

For the premium stuff, we headed for “Fresh & Wild“, the organic supermarket on Stoke Newington Church Street.

fresh-wild.jpg

They have a small selection of very nice British brews – Sam Smith’s organic ale and lager, Honeydew from Fullers; also Riedenburger, imported from Germany, although disappointingly, only one of their many varieties. (It was also, unhelpfully, labelled “lager” – yes, but which one?)

We felt in general that they could have offered more of a choice, even if they were being strict about the organic criteria, as there seem to be loads of organic ales and lagers around now. At Fresh & Wild, the beer section seemed a bit of an afterthought (especially given the enormous wine selection).

We then trekked up and down Church Street and Stoke Newington High Street looking for nice beers in general and Baltic porters in particular. Complete failure to find any Baltic porters (plenty of pale polski lagers though).

However, we did find an off-licence / convenience store with a great selection of ales, including at least 4 bottle conditioned ones and at least one from a brewery we’d never heard of, always a good sign. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a good selection of ales in a high street off-licence.  We were limited to what we could carry, but came away with a couple of Hook Norton beers that are not widely available (Haymaker and 308A.D), among others.

If you’re in the area, the shop’s called “Intercontinental Wines and Food” and it’s at 209-211 Stoke Newington High Street.

The Devil Tavern

I saw this sign on an office building on Fleet Street in London, and was intrigued.
deviltavern.jpg
You don’t see pubs called “The Devil” much these days, even though Britain is actually much less religious now than it was in the 18th century.

How did this long-gone boozer get its distinctive name? Well, it was originally called “The Devil and St Dunstan”, but St Dunstan got dropped. Samuel Pepys mentions the Devil Tavern several times in his diaries.

Here’s a bit on the history of the pub:

The noisy “Devil Tavern” (No. 2, Fleet Street) had stood next the quiet goldsmith’s shop ever since the time of James I. Shakespeare himself must, day after day, have looked up at the old sign of St. Dunstan tweaking the Devil by the nose, that flaunted in the wind near the Bar. Perhaps the sign was originally a compliment to the goldsmith’s men who frequented it, for St. Dunstan was, like St. Eloy, a patron saint of goldsmiths, and himself worked at the forge as an amateur artificer of church plate. It may, however, have only been a mark of respect to the saint, whose church stood hard by, to the east of Chancery Lane.

Quotation from: ‘Fleet Street: General Introduction’, Old and New London: Volume 1 (1878), pp. 32-53. URL: http://www.british-history.ac.uk/report.asp?compid=45023 . Date accessed: 04 June 2007.