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Beery Highlights of a Week in London

Brew by Numbers Cucumber and Juniper Saison.

Spending more than a week in London, we set out to drink things that we rarely see in Cornwall. These were our highlights, in chronological order.

1. At the London and South East Craft Brewing Competition, where we took part in judging some excellent home brew alongside more experienced tasters, we were especially impressed by (a) the overall winning beer, Josh ‘Evening Brews’ Smith’s black IPA (a super-clean commercial-quality product) and (b) Lee Immins’s strong scotch ale.

2. At BrewDog Camden on Sunday 22 June, we were pleased to finally try a beer served through a ‘Hopinator’ (Randall). We think that what the IPA gained from being filtered through Cascade hops at the point of service was a fresh raw vegetable note (celery, carrots) — nicer than it sounds, perhaps. It tasted as if it was good for us, is what we’re saying. A gently perfumed Jasmine IPA was also intriguing enough to warrant more than one round.

3. We took two passes at Brew By Numbers Cucumber and Juniper Saison, the first at the Three Johns, Islington, and the second just down the road at the local branch of the Craft Beer Co. It’s an odd beer, but we found it absolutely charming — not a ‘stunt’ or ‘novelty’ beer, but a classy, refreshing brew with well-integrated flavours.

4. Young’s Bitter. Yes, really. We first enjoyed it a decade or so ago when it was already ‘not what it used to be’. Then, in recent years, with the move to Bedford, it seemed to have become browner, stickier and duller, slowly morphing into Courage Best. Having not tried it for some time, we were delighted to note that both beer and brand appear to have been spruced up. Paler than we ever recall it being, it was also truly bitter, with a lemon-zestiness that left our mouths dry. It’s not one for hopheads, but we’d certainly be happy to have a session on it.

5. West Berkshire Brewing Bruce’s Original Dogbolter — the Kings Arms in Bethnal Green not only hosted our compact and bijou book launch ‘do’ last Friday night but also acquired a cask of this recreation of recent brewing history. CarsmileSteve, who drank Dogbolter back in the Firkin days, declared it convincing. We, used to drinking Blue Anchor Spingo, found it very enjoyable, though very much a beer of its time (the 1980s) — brown and hearty, or, in Steve’s words, ‘twiggy’.

2 replies on “Beery Highlights of a Week in London”

Good notes and the description of Young’s does recall the beer as I first tasted it in the 80’s. The special was browner but very good too though. I think the genesis of brown would be interesting to explore, and it may come down to crystal malt.

Interesting term, twiggy, I think it is getting at the Fuggles hop (not the citric Golding) which has been the workhouse of classic English bitter flavour. May it long reign.


I judged some homebrew for the Northern Craft Brewers at Saltaire Brewery back in may, and found it the most enjoyable judging experience I’ve had in a long time! The quality of the beer was amazing and, with the ‘twist’ on this competition being ‘Mystery ingredient’ , there was some real invention. Despite the many, many flavoured Saison entries (to be expecte,d in today’s climes, I guess!), the winner was a spiced tripel-style beer, with porters and stouts also showing well – those old warhorses of flavoured beer. So I share your sentiment!

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