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.

Lithuanian Lager Face Off Part 2: the face offening

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A few weeks ago, we had a “taste off” between two lithuan­ian lagers – Utenos and Kalnapilis.

We weren’t blown away by either, but slight­ly pre­ferred Utenos. This time, though, we went back to our old favourite for com­par­i­son – Svy­tu­rys.

They’re very proud of Svy­tu­rys in Lithua­nia, and it was one of the first Lithuan­ian beers to be import­ed to the UK. They have sev­er­al vari­eties. Tonight, we test­ed Ekstra Draught (unpas­teurised), Gin­tari­nis (with a gold label) and Svy­tu­rio (with a red label).

Gin­tari­nis is sup­pos­ed­ly a pil­sner (“Pil­sner my arse” – Boak) but is not espe­cial­ly hop­py or “dry”. It’s real­ly a slight­ly more hop­py ver­sion of a helles.

Ekstra (unpas­teurised) is the posh­est beer in their range, and a Dort­muner type. Its bot­tle is very swanky – no label except at the neck, with a big logo embossed in the glass. The beer is very nice, and very much “true to style”. It’s hard to say if the “draught” sta­tus makes much dif­fer­ence, but its nice to see this kind of thing hap­pen­ing.

They don’t say what type of beer Svy­tu­rio is sup­posed to be – only that it’s a cross between Gin­tari­nis and Ekstra. But it tastes quite dif­fer­ent. Guilty admis­sion – we actu­al­ly did a Pep­si-style blind taste test, and we were only able to iden­ti­fy “red” as dif­fer­ent from the oth­er two. It’s much thin­ner, despite being stronger, and pleas­ant­ly bland. It’s also a lit­tle lighter in colour.

Gin­tar­i­nus ini­tial­ly won in the blind test, but as the beers warmed up, it start­ed to smell a bit off. This could have just been an off bot­tle though.

We can’t quite work out whether Svy­tu­rys is a force for good or evil in the beer world. On the one hand, their web­site boasts such delights as Svy­tu­rys Extra Cold, and the tempt­ing promise of “even lighter beers” to come (urgh…). On the oth­er hand, we always enjoy a bot­tle of it, and even Roger Protz rates it (in “300 Beers to try before you die”).

We’re now going to try and track down the rar­er treats in the Svy­tu­rys range – Degin­tas (a baltic porter type), Bal­tas (a wheat beer) and the most entic­ing, Balti­jos, which accord­ing to the web­site is “dis­tin­guished for its hard scum”. Yum­m­m­mm.

Boak and Bai­ley

Old article on London Stout

450px-truman_black_eagle_brewery_2005.jpgIn the Novem­ber 1854 edi­tion of Fraser’s Mag­a­zine, there is a fas­ci­nat­ing arti­cle called sim­ply “Lon­don Stout”. It paints a vivid pic­ture of how a mid-Vic­to­ri­an Lon­don pub would have looked:

One of the ear­li­est things to strike our coun­try cousins is the uni­ver­sal appear­ance of the names of cer­tain firms, paint­ed in the largest let­ters upon the most florid back­grounds of the numer­ous pub­lic house signs of the metrop­o­lis. “What does ‘Rei­d’s Entire’ mean?” asked a fair friend of ours the oth­er day, look­ing up with her brown eyes as though she had asked some­thing very fool­ish, and point­ing to the puz­zling inscrip­tion on a neigh­bour­ing sign­board.

Lat­er, the writer describes a street porter-sell­er “with his lit­tle rack of quart mugs brimmed with the frothy liq­uid, or rat­tling the shiny pots against the rails by their sus­pend­ed strap”.

The best sec­tion, to my mind, is a detailed descrip­tion of the inte­ri­or of the brew­ery of Tru­man, Han­bury, Bux­ton and Co at Spi­tal­field, East Lon­don.

After the process of mash­ing the wort is pumped up into a large cop­per, of which ther are five, con­tainig from 300 to 400 bar­rels each, where the wort is boiled with the hops, of which often two tons are used in a‑day. The boil­ing beer is now pumped up to the cool­ers. To get a sight of these the vis­i­tor has to per­form a climb­ing process sim­i­lar to that required get at the upper gallery of St Paul’s, and, when he has reached the high­est point lad­ders are capa­ble of tak­ing him, he finds his nose on a lev­el with a black sea, whose area presents a sur­face of 32,000 square feet.

Pho­to adapt­ed from an orig­i­nal by , and used at the Wikipedia arti­cle on the Black Eagle Brew­ery, on Brick Lane.

Was Wellington a fan of IPA?

wellington.jpgOn June 12 1841, The Times ran a sto­ry about how the duke of Welling­ton was greet­ed by the staff and man­age­ment of the famous India pale ale brew­ery at Wap­ping.

On Mon­day last (says a cor­re­spon­dent) dur­ing the aquat­ic pro­ces­sion of the Trin­i­ty Board on the riv­er, the firm of Hodg­son and Abbot, pale ale brew­ers in Wap­ping, adopt­ed a nov­el mode of com­pli­ment­ing the Duke of Welling­ton, Mas­ter of the Trin­i­ty-house, as he passed their premis­es on his way to Dept­ford to be sworn in accord­ing to the annu­al cus­tom for the ensu­ing year. The riv­er frontage was dec­o­rat­ed with flags and ban­ners from the cor­ners of which hung bot­tles of India pale ale.

Lat­er:

A Par­ty of Con­ser­v­a­tive gen­tle­men in the draw­ing-room [of the brew­ery]… drank the health of his Grace when the shal­lop in which he was seat­ed was oppo­site the win­dow… in Her­culean glass­es of strong pale ale, each hold­ing a bot­tle and a half, and his grace appeared much pleased with the com­pli­ment, and bowed to the gen­tle­men assem­bled.

Those glass­es sound cool. How strong was the strong ale…?