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.

Cellar doctor

cellardoctor.jpgGreene King are obviously trying to win some brownie points in the face of a lot of vitriol from ale fans – they’ve launched a website to help pub landlords diagnose and cure problems with their cellars which are leading to dodgy pints.

It’s a clever idea, and could really be useful, especially for novice landlords. Many are saddled with poor quality cellars, or are dealing with equipment that their predecessors just didn’t look after, so this could make a real difference.

But it’s also standard practice for companies with poor reputations – and Greene King are going that way – to try to associate themselves with the very people who oppose them. BP are now branded much like Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth, for example. Is this Greene King’s attempt to start a “Campaign for Decent Pints”?

And, of course, a good beer tasting course might be just as usefu. The landlord of one of my local pubs – which often serves bad pints – told me once that he didn’t drink ale, and had no idea what it was meant to taste like… worrying.