German beer festival at Zeitgeist

What better use of a day’s holiday than to pretend you’re in Germany? And how much easier when someone has gone and laid on a German beer festival for you, complete with many beers dispensed Franconian-style out of little wooden barrels.

This excellent little festival was brought to us by Zeitgeist, a great German pub in Vauxhall, Stonch’s beer blog, and Bier-Mania, who organise beer trips to Belgium, Germany and beyond.

This won’t be a detailed review, as we drank too much to remember many details — as did everyone else, by the sound of it … there are now no more festival beers left.

We remember a large range of beer from the Bolten-Brauerei from outside Duesseldorf, with their Alt being particularly nice. Hofmann Export Dunkel Lagerbier was a great example of the complexity that Franconian Dunkels can deliver. Our stand-out favourite was a Dunkel-Rauch by SternBrau-Scheubel which had a gorgeous Maerzen-like malt flavour and amber colour, with a hefty hoppiness and a subtle but complex smoke taste.

We thought the mix of people and the atmosphere was great – some tickers, some trendies, some locals, but everyone getting into it. It was the kind of place you could bring non-beer geeks to (we did) without worrying about whether they’d have a good time.

Also, the excellent range of Brotzeit really helped line the stomach – Obatzda is an acquired taste, but I love the stuff, and they make it well here.

This was easily one of my favourite festivals of all time. Do it again, chaps!


For another perspective, see Allyson’s write-up on her Impy Malting blog.

Ron Pattinson blogged about Hofmann here.

The Duke of Cambridge organic pub

The Duke of Cambridge organic pub's trendy blue barThe Duke of Cambridge in Islington is a restaurant/pub which prides itself on its ethical credentials. Ninety-five per cent of its fruit and veg comes from the UK; everything, from the oil in the candles to the washing up liquid, is organic; everything is Fair Trade.

The place itself is all stripped wood, black ceilings and pot plants, but also full of sunlight and fresh air. The staff were friendly (we got a ‘Hello!’ on entering), even if they did make us feel rather lumpy and unglamorous. The clientele is solidly middle class — so much so, in fact, that they’d passed beyond suits and into expensively scruffy designer casuals.

Bailey’s Dad wouldn’t like it, let’s put it that way.

In line with their ethical mission, the pub’s owners get most of their beer from breweries in the south east of England, namely St Peter’s and Pitfield. We’d never seen Pitfield beers on tap, but were very impressed. These beers do not suffer at all from being organic!

The Pitfield SB (the first organic bitter in the UK, apparently) tasted a little sweet on its own, but with fish and chips suddenly gained a new dimension — drier, crisper and with more apparent hop aroma.

We also worked our way through Pitfield East Kent Goldings (Summer Lightning-like), Eco-Warrior (sweet and citrusy); St Peter’s Organic; and Pitfield lager (fruity, malty, very pleasant).

But the real revelation was a bottle of Pitfield’s N1 Wheat Beer. Coriander seed, orange peel and hops gave it a pronounced Belgian flavour, but darker malt made sure this was no mere Hoegaarden clone. Poperings Hommelbier sprang to mind, in fact.

In short, a lovely place to go if you fancy a treat (it’s not cheap) on a summer evening… of if you’re a ticker missing a few of Pitfield’s beers from your collection.

The Duke of Cambridge is at 30 St Peter’s Street, ten minutes walk from Angel tube station. The photo above is from their website.

Pub quizzes – good idea?

In theory, a pub quiz can help boost midweek trade.

Trouble is, they can rather take over the place, and if it’s not a quiz you’re interested in, it’s a lot more intrusive to your drinking and conversation than any music could ever be. It’s also difficult for quizmasters to strike the right balance between charismatic and annoying.

Then there are the pub quiz professionals. You know — the humourless groups of individuals who absolutely kill the mood, not so much by always winning, but by the fact they’re a group of people whose sole purpose for coming together is to win a pub quiz, not to enjoy each other’s company or the atmosphere of the pub.

Landlords and ladies — if you are going to have a pub quiz, make it short and sweet, and ideally limited to one area of the pub.


North Nineteen

n19.jpgThe London Drinker really is invaluable for keeping tabs on the comings and goings of London pubs. The editorial is, of course, interesting, but in the current issue, it was an advertisement that caught our eye.

The landlord of North Nineteen, a recently refurbished pub off the Upper Holloway Road in North London, included this refreshingly friendly line in his advertisement for a “mini beer festival”:

We are looking for ale lovers not just for the event but also to become regulars as we always have good well kept real ales on draught. Real ale and the British pub are national treasures, so we are doing our bit to keep this fantastic British tradition going.

On top of that, a warm review in Time Out gave us the nudge we needed to brave a barely functioning public transport network and give it a go.

First impressions: they are trying very hard, and partially succeeding. The beer was, as promised, on good form, and there was interesting selection including two from Wooden Hand. Black Pearl was a very tasty porter/stout — one to look out for.

In terms of atmosphere, there’s a little work to do. Wooden floors and white walls, contrived to send out come hither signals to North London middle classes, actually make the place a bit cold and echoing, but that will change as the place gets busier. That’s certainly what happened at the Pembury. One of the two bars was already crammed with people enjoying live music from three bands, which bodes well for the pub’s survival.

The biggest asset, though, is likely to be the energy and commitment of the owners. The landlord was very much the host, readily dishing out the hellos, goodbyes and welcomes. He also got out from behind the bar to, as they say in the modern vernacular, “work the room”, which really helped to make us and others feel at home.

In short, we like this place, and we want it to do well, even if it’s not quite there yet. If you’re in the area, do pop in for a pint.

Picture from the pub’s rather swanky website.