Pride of Spitalfields – a great little boozer

We seem to be con­nect­ed again, so I can quick­ly post a few notes about the Pride of Spi­tal­fields, in Shored­itch / Whitechapel.

I used to go there quite a lot, around five or six years ago. Then I changed jobs and wasn’t in the area so fre­quent­ly. In fact, I don’t think I’d been there for three or four years until I vis­it­ed a cou­ple of days ago. I was delight­ed to find it was as friend­ly and wel­com­ing as ever.

It’s inter­est­ing – if you read the reviews, lots of peo­ple con­trast this “tra­di­tion­al east end booz­er” with unfavourable com­ments about trendy pubs and Nathan Bar­ley types fur­ther up the road in Shored­itch.

But actu­al­ly, there are a fair few trendy types that vis­it this pub too (we even spot­ted Tracey Emin once). And that’s my favourite thing about this pub – the fact that it’s gen­uine­ly wel­com­ing to all. They don’t care if you’re a beard­ed CAMRA mem­ber, a “suit”, a local trendy or even an avant-garde British artist. They don’t judge you – or at least, if they do, they don’t let on.

The beer’s great too – as well as Lon­don Pride and ESB, they also had Crouch Vale Brewer’s Gold, an excel­lent beer in excel­lent con­di­tion. Oh, and there’s a fire and lots of cool pho­tos of the East End. What more could you want?

It can get crowd­ed towards the end of the week, but it’s just far enough from the City (10 min­utes walk from Liv­er­pool Street) for it not to become unbear­able.

It’s the kind of place that I’d move near so it could be my local. Eas­i­ly one of my favourite pubs in Lon­don.

Notes

The Pride of Spi­tal­fields is at 3 Heneage Street, about 10 metres off Brick Lane. For trans­port details and map, see the Beer in the Evening review, although please note that Shored­itch sta­tion no longer exists.

If you’re a beer enthu­si­ast in the area, you should brave the cur­ry touts on Brick Lane to take a look at the old Tru­man Brew­ery build­ings. It’s all bars and stu­dios now, but most of the orig­i­nal build­ings are still intact, and it’s quite awe-inspir­ing to see the size of the place. And of course, there’s plen­ty of cur­ry around for before or after – my favourite places are on Whitechapel High Street rather than Brick Lane itself, but I’m sure you’ll find some­thing tasty.

Boak 

More winter warmers

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Ser­vice update: no inter­net in the Boak and Bai­ley house­hold, so updates will be inter­mit­tent until it’s sort­ed. Virginmedia’s ser­vice and cus­tomer ser­vice is ter­ri­ble. 

Just because Christ­mas is over doesn’t mean the win­ter warm­ers stop com­ing. Here are some of the good ones we’ve had in the past month or so.

Mean­time Win­ter Warmer

Final­ly got hold of this one in a Sainsbury’s on the out­skirts of Lon­don. Worth the trou­ble, as it’s very pleas­ant and packed full of flavours – smoke, hints of choco­late, some fruiti­ness. We thought it was like a smoother, milki­er ver­sion of their Lon­don Porter. Bot­tled con­di­tioned and 5.4%.

If you want more poet­i­cal and detailed descrip­tions, the Beer­nut has reviewed it here, and Zythophile has reviewed it here.

Anchor “Our Spe­cial Ale” 2007

This is brewed to a dif­fer­ent recipe each win­ter, accord­ing to the Anchor web­site. The 2007 ver­sion is 5.5% and very tasty. It’s a red-black colour, with excel­lent head reten­tion and full body. The aro­ma remind­ed us of pine trees and can­dyfloss. We not­ed burnt gin­ger­bread flavours (that’s a good thing!), with some spices that were dif­fi­cult to iden­ti­fy – pos­si­bly all­spice? Nut­meg? There was also some fruiti­ness – a lit­tle bit like peach­es. We wouldn’t be sur­prised if there were cran­ber­ries in it.

It had a bit­ter dry fin­ish – almost cer­tain­ly C-hops, but the cit­rus isn’t par­tic­u­lar­ly pro­nounced.

All fan­tas­tic exam­ples of how lots of flavour can be achieved with a *rel­a­tive­ly* low ABV.

Baltic porter round-up

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A long time ago, we bemoaned the lack of Baltic porters in Lon­don – dark, stout-like beers from Poland, Lithua­nia, Rus­sia and oth­er Baltic states. Light fizzy beers from these coun­tries are now amply rep­re­sent­ed in cor­ner­shops through­out this fair city, but not a hint of the dark stuff.

We’ve always been intrigued by the his­to­ry of these kinds of beers. They appear to have evolved as a hybrid of Russ­ian Impe­r­i­al Stouts and “local” (i.e. lager-brew­ing) tra­di­tions. I won­der why the Porter name, then? Did they also owe some­thing to 19th cen­tu­ry porters?

The Beer Judge Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion Progamme (BJCP) Style Guide­lines iden­ti­fy Baltic Porter as a style, and say:

Baltic Porter often has the malt fla­vors rem­i­nis­cent of an Eng­lish brown porter and the restrained roast of a schwarz­bier, but with a high­er OG and alco­hol con­tent than either. Very com­plex, with mul­ti-lay­ered fla­vors.

It also reck­ons the style derives “from Eng­lish porters but influ­enced by Russ­ian Impe­r­i­al Stout”. So let’s see.

Thanks to the Great British Beer Fes­ti­val in August, and the Pig’s Ear fes­ti­val in Decem­ber, we final­ly got our paws on some prop­er baltic porters. Well, dark beers from that part of the world. We thought that by com­par­ing and con­trast­ing we might under­stand bet­ter if there is a uni­fied style or not.

Utenos Porter – 6.8%

Utenos, from Lithua­nia, are very pop­u­lar both over there and in cor­ner­shops in East Lon­don. Although it’s a dif­fer­ent brand from Svy­tu­rys, it’s actu­al­ly part of the same com­pa­ny, owned via Baltic Bev­er­ages. We weren’t over­ly impressed with their nor­mal lager (a Helles type), but the Porter was much more tasty. Then again, at 6.8% it should be. It was a brown-red colour, with a trea­cly- toast­ed caramel flavour – and not a huge amount else. Not very com­plex at all, but nice enough.

Black Boss Porter, from Browar Wit­ni­ca, Poland – 8.5%

Again, sweet-trea­cle flavours and not a lot else. Quite a heavy body, and remind­ed us a bit of Gui­ness For­eign Extra but with­out the bit­ter­ness. Not ter­ri­bly excit­ing, and we’d expect a lot more for 8.5%. How­ev­er, we would rec­om­mend the “Kozlak” (bock) from the same brew­er. This is a *mere* 5.8% but packs in much more flavour. As well as the hints of trea­cle, there are liquorice, choco­late and cof­fee notes – and it’s not cloy­ing­ly sweet!

Huvi­la Porter – 5.5%

The labels on the bot­tle are all in Finnish, but the brew­ery help­ful­ly pro­vides expla­na­tions of the beer on its web­site here. The Porter is made with British ale yeast (I sus­pect the oth­er beers above are lagers). We thought that it had a sticky but light body, with­out much aro­ma. It tast­ed very roast­ed, with hints of liquorice. Pleas­ant enough, and I’m quite intrigued by the brew­ery and their oth­er Eng­lish-style beers.

Well, that’s all the baltic porters to date. There are more to go, but no more in our cel­lar – we still haven’t seen Okocim Porter for donkey’s years, and have nev­er seen Zywiec Porter in Lon­don. (I had it on tap once in Poland and thought it absolute­ly hor­rid, but that was a long time ago and I reck­on it had been sit­ting in the bar­rel for about three years.) So far, the Baltic porters we’ve had are sweet and not par­tic­u­lar­ly com­plex.

I think I like the idea of a Baltic porter bet­ter than I actu­al­ly like any of the Baltic porters we’ve had so far. I won­der if today’s incar­na­tions bear any resem­blance to the 19th cen­tu­ry orig­i­nals?

PS: Not a *Baltic* porter, but while we’re on the porter top­ic; we did pick up a“Hazelnoot Porter” from the Klein Duim­p­je brew­ery in the Nether­lands, which we rather enjoyed. I remem­ber that the hazel­nut flavour was def­i­nite­ly present, but very sub­tle, and blend­ed beau­ti­ful­ly with the malt and hops. I’d hap­pi­ly drink this one again.

Boak

The Session: Doppelbocks

session-logo-r-sm.jpgThis month’s ses­sion is host­ed by Wil­son at Brew­vana, one of our favourite beer blogs. Wil­son says:

I want to learn about dop­pel­bocks, and so the sky’s the lim­it: write about dop­pel­bocks how­ev­er you see fit. His­to­ry, reviews, pair­ings, pic­tures, poet­ry and expe­ri­ences. All of it.

This time last year, we hadn’t heard of a dop­pel­bock and didn’t real­ly know what a bock was. A year on, and a two week trip to Ger­many lat­er, we’re still not much wis­er.

You get light, amber and dark bocks (and dop­pel­bocks). The strengths vary (the “dou­ble­ness” is rel­a­tive to the oth­er beers in a par­tic­u­lar brewery’s range, as far as we can tell). The same goes for bit­ter­ness – some­times, it’s all sweet choco­late, and oth­er times there are per­cep­ti­ble hops. Malti­ness is key, in dop­pel­bocks dou­bly so – but that’s about the only uni­fy­ing fea­ture, and it’s pret­ty broad as to what it allows you to do. It’s not so much a style as a state of mind and a way for the brew­ery to say: You’re get­ting some­thing real­ly spe­cial here.

Hand­i­ly, most Ger­man brew­eries give their dop­pel­bocks a name end­ing in -ator, as homage to the orig­i­nal Sal­va­tor (now pro­duced by Paulan­er).

Inci­den­tal­ly, Sal­va­tor is about the only dop­pel­bock eas­i­ly and reg­u­lar­ly avail­able in Lon­don (i.e. you can get it in a cou­ple of pubs). It amazed us the first time we had it, but we’ve since come to find it rather on the sweet side.

Onto some dop­pel­bocks we’ve enjoyed in the past year. “Alli­ga­tor” is pro­duced by brew­pub Der Koenig von Flan­dern, in Augs­burg (Bavaria). This is a love­ly pub, with two oth­er decent brews and good food. But the Alli­ga­tor stood out; it was 7.2% and remind­ed us of choco­late liqueur. Great name, too. It also boasts “19% Stammwuerze”. Does any­one know what this means?

We’re told (by the brew­ery among oth­ers) that Wel­tenberg­er Kloster­brau Asam-Bock is also a dop­pel­bock, despite not fol­low­ing the nam­ing con­ven­tion. We had this a cou­ple of times dur­ing our last trip. I remem­ber that we loved it, and my notes say “Rich, choco­latey, trea­cley with a bit­ter after­taste. Like an impe­r­i­al stout but not as heavy. Per­haps a cross between impe­r­i­al stout and Sal­va­tor. Or a choco­late orange.”

Anoth­er great dop­pel­bock from a great brew­ery was “Oper­a­tor” by Her­rn­brau in Ingol­stadt. We think this was a sea­son­al spe­cial, as there’s no ref­er­ence to it on the web­site. We don’t have par­tic­u­lar­ly detailed notes on this one: “dark & sweet, bit choco­latey, strong, deli­cious”. Don’t think we’re going to win any beer-writ­ing awards with that review, but we def­i­nite­ly enjoyed it a lot. Her­rn­brau pro­duce lots of great beer, with wheat­beers that are more bit­ter than those of their Bavar­i­an com­peti­tors, and a num­ber of sea­son­al spe­cials. Pity you don’t seem to see them much out­side Ingol­stadt.

goosinator.jpgFinal­ly, we got a bot­tle of Left Hand’s “Goosi­na­tor” espe­cial­ly for the Ses­sion. This is a smoked dop­pel­bock, accord­ing to the label, and is bot­tle con­di­tioned. They’ve made up some half-arsed sto­ry on the back of the bot­tle for the ori­gin of the name, to dis­guise the fact that all the best -ator puns with real words have been tak­en.

Well, it’s an inter­est­ing crea­ture. Bai­ley loved it, and I wasn’t so con­vinced. It has a slight­ly smoky and pleas­ant malty aro­ma, then a range of flavours as you taste: a hint of choco­late, then a whop­ping malt kick (sog­gy corn­flakes?), then the smoke lay­er and then some smoke and hop bit­ter­ness. For me, the dif­fer­ing flavours didn’t quite hang togeth­er, but they float­ed Bailey’s boat.

Notes

Links to the brew­eries are embed­ded in the arti­cle. Most of the Ger­man ones are in Ger­man only, unfor­tu­nate­ly.