More Bottled Beer in Pubs, Please

goose_island_again.jpg We’re lucky in that we can get to the Pem­bury Tav­ern from our house in 20 min­utes, and two of our near­est pubs serve real ales in good con­di­tion (includ­ing a reg­u­lar mild). But last night, that just wasn’t enough for me – I want­ed to go to the pub, but I also had a pow­er­ful crav­ing for a strong, hop­py IPA1. That’s one of the few styles the Pem­bury doesn’t stock. Nor does any pub in our area.

Which made me wish that all pubs had as a min­i­mum:

1. A small selec­tion of cask ale in good con­di­tion – as much as they can turn over at a rea­son­able rate, but no more – ide­al­ly includ­ing a stout oth­er than bloody Guin­ness.

2. A Ger­man or Czech lager on tap.

3. A Ger­man or Bel­gian wheat beer on tap2.

4. A rotat­ing selec­tion of bot­tled beer in every style not rep­re­sent­ed on the pumps.

It’s not rea­son­able to expect every pub to have ten dif­fer­ent ales on tap, but bot­tles are sure­ly the best way for land­lords to offer choice with­out bank­rupt­ing them­selves. Bot­tles last a long time; they don’t cost much to store; and they allow pubs to offer odd­i­ties which might only appeal to a small sec­tion of the mar­ket.

It would be nice if I could drink rauch­bier, strong IPA, impe­r­i­al stout, lam­bic and oth­er ‘acquired-taste’ beers with­out get­ting on a train or bus, when one of these uncon­trol­lable crav­ings over­takes me.

Yes, I guess I’m spoiled. I should just get off my arse, or drink what’s on offer. But I can dream, can’t I?

Bai­ley

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1 We’d been brew­ing a strong, hop­py IPA all day – I always want to drink what we’ve been brew­ing.

2 We were in a pub on New Year’s Eve that had Franziskan­er, Paulan­er, Schnei­der and Erdinger wheat beers on tap. Seri­ous­ly, one brand is enough!

Blog round-up

A cou­ple of things from oth­er blogs that have caught our eye recent­ly.

Wil­son at Brew­vana has organ­ised a “tast­ing ses­sion to engage women in brew­vana”, with six beers test­ed on women from six decades. It’s a thor­ough­ly good read, with Wil­son being slight­ly sur­prised by the favourite beer. He then chal­lenges us to organ­ise sim­i­lar tast­ings.

I’m still scep­ti­cal about there being a dif­fer­ence between male and female taste­buds – I think a lot of the con­clu­sions from tast­ing would apply to a group of men who didn’t like beer either. Still, quite up for organ­is­ing some tast­ings at some point…

Image, and there­fore, mar­ket­ing does have a lot to do with it, a fac­tor Wil­son and his tasters dis­cuss, and is dis­cussed at more length in an arti­cle by Lew Bryson in Conde Naste.

I think in the UK, real ale is dis­liked by women for the same rea­son it’s dis­liked by men – it’s often too warm, too flat and off. And the sterotyp­i­cal image of the real ale drinker is the old beard­ed sex­ist (rather than the young clean-shaven sex­ist for main­stream lager…). More on real ale mar­ket­ing to come in a future post.

On the sub­ject of beer warmth, this seems to be exer­cis­ing British blogs, espe­cial­ly when it comes to real ale. Stonch plumps for 11 degrees* as does Tan­dle­man. This is slight­ly cool­er than CAMRA rec­om­men­da­tions (12–14), and cer­tain­ly cool­er than it’s served in a lot of pubs, espe­cial­ly in the sum­mer. This top­ic seems to attract a lot of inter­est, judg­ing by the num­ber of com­ments. Who said that real ale lovers were anal beer geeks?

I sup­pose the one thing con­clu­sion that can be drawn is that tem­per­a­ture is a mat­ter of per­son­al taste rather than sci­en­tif­ic truth. I’m gen­er­al­ly pret­ty hap­py between about 8 deg and 12 deg for most ales. Too cold can be a prob­lem, but I’d rather too cold than too warm (it can always warm up!) Except that last night I was drink­ing Orval in a pub, which was absolute­ly revolt­ing straight out of the fridge but rather nice when it had warmed up a bit (they rec­om­mend 12–14 on the bot­tle, and who am I to argue with the monks?)

Final­ly, Tan­dle­man is also plug­ging the Win­ter Ales fes­ti­val in Man­ches­ter, tick­ing off oth­er blogs for not men­tion­ing it. Sor­ry for our typ­i­cal south­ern bias, hope this makes up for it!

Talk­ing of regions – I’ve been offered a job that may mean spend­ing a lot of time in Birm­ing­ham. Can any­one advise me on the beer and pub sit­u­a­tion there before I accept the offer?

Boak

*That’s in Cel­sius.  About 52F

Shepherd Neame Porter

shepherd_neame.jpg

The White Horse and Bow­er on Horse­fer­ry Road in Lon­don is a pret­ty decent pub. When I was there last night, I was very impressed by the incred­i­bly friend­ly and help­ful staff, the cosy atmos­phere and the con­di­tion of the beer.

The main event for me, though, was drink­ing Shep­herd Neame Porter for the first time in about three years.

It’s a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent beast to Fuller’s Lon­don Porter*. SN’s Porter is lighter bod­ied and, despite the “Win­ter Hop Ale” tag, I was hard­ly aware of any hops at all. It’s dis­tinct­ly mild-like, in fact, although at 4.8%, stronger than it tastes.

If I was feel­ing less char­i­ta­ble, I might say it was a lit­tle bland, but I can hon­est­ly say I enjoyed every sip, and wasn’t even remote­ly tempt­ed to try any­thing else all night.

It’s great that there are now pubs in Lon­don where you can drink dark beer oth­er than Guin­ness. Now it would just be great if all those Young’s pubs would get the Oat­meal stout on the pumps, or at least back in bot­tles behind the bar.

* We had Fuller’s Lon­don Porter at the Plough in Waltham­stow on Mon­day night. It was sup­posed to dis­ap­pear at the end of Decem­ber, but the land­lord has a bit left in his cel­lar and assured me that Fuller’s also have more in their ware­house, which he’s going to try to get his hands on. It’s tast­ing very nice now it’s matured a bit more!

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