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.

I hate hi-ball glasses

tumbler1.jpgThe Green­wich Union – Mean­time Brewing’s “brew­ery tap” – serves half pints in clean, sim­ple, “tulip” stem glass­es. Fuller’s recent­ly intro­duced sim­i­lar­ly ele­gant glass­es for Dis­cov­ery and Hon­ey Dew. They serve every­thing else in tall, fair­ly nar­row tum­blers, with room for a head. The Pem­bury Tav­ern in Hack­ney Downs, again, used taller than nor­mal half-pint glass­es, with room for a head.

Not all pubs are doing this kind of thing.

I’m real­ly get­ting fed up of order­ing a half and get­ting what looks like a tooth glass, full to the brim, with a grey scum instead of a head. The pints in these pubs look fine, so it’s not the beer, or the tech­nique – just the glass.

I’m kind of used to that with ale, but last night I was served a half of Meantime’s Helles lager in a straight, short, half pint tum­bler, with no head. It tast­ed fine, but looked dread­ful. Like urine, frankly.

This wasn’t a dodgy pub next to a rail­way sta­tion, with fly-blown win­dows and an inci­dent board out­side: it’s in the good pub guide.

Land­lords – get nicer glass­es!

Pho­to from glass­ware sup­pli­er barmans.com

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.