pubs real ale

Another moment of clarity

Every now and then we have a moment when we realise why everyone else is raving about a particular beer or pub. Recently, that happened with St Peter’s and the Jerusalem Tavern.

From the bottle, we generally find their beers, despite the lovely branding, to be watery and fizzy. On the rare occasion we’ve tried them from a cask in pubs other than the Jerusalem, they’ve been pleasant, but nothing special.

But at the Jerusalem, from a cask, Organic Ale knocked us for six: it was a hundred times more complex and satisfying than the bottled version. We were expecting so little that there were looks of giddy joy on our faces as we drank.

“Blimey,” was our one word review at the time.

Photo by Surprisetruck at Flickr, under a Creative Commons license.

beer reviews

How can beer be peppery?


Beer reviewers like to use certain words time and time again. ‘Peppery’ is one that we’ve seen a lot but which has left us nonplussed — what are they on about?

Red Rock’s Rushy Mede organic ale (bottle-conditioned, 4.4%) helped us to get our heads round it.

It’s something like Hopback Summer Lightning but with a spicy, tongue-tingling edge. Nettles? Medicinal herbs? Although we’re not always impressed by organic beers, we really loved this and found it not only illuminating but also a very convincing imitation of a cask ale.

beer reviews

A gem in the stash – Butts Barbus Barbus

We’ve got quite a big backlog of beers to get through.  The last time we reorganised the “cellar”, we sorted it by very loosely defined styles and best-before dates (“Belgian keepers”, “weak bitters to drink in the next couple of months”).  Trouble is, you often reach for the ones you know are going to be good, and the poorly-labelled weak bitters from microbreweries can be rather unreliable.  So we’ve got rather a lot of those gathering dust.

(Yes, we do judge beers by their label.)

In amongst the dross, we stumbled across Barbus Barbus, from the Butts Brewery.  To be fair, in this case it wasn’t the label that put us off so much as the dreaded word “organic”.  As we’ve said before, organic beer is not really an attraction for us — it’s often either bland, or if it’s from a small dippy-hippy brewery, verging on the undrinkable.

This was a surprise. It’s actually a really nice pale ale, with a lovely orangey aroma, rounded malt flavours and fruity hops.  It was also in great condition, with a long-lasting rocky head.  A slight grassy note towards the end gave away its microbrewery origins, but this is still a very accomplished brew.  We’ll look out for their stuff in future, weird pump-clips or not.

And here’s the review at The Oxford Bottled Beer Database.


beer festivals

Some interesting Oktoberfests in London

A ferris wheel at a beer festival in Bavaria
A ferris wheel at a beer festival in Bavaria

While the main event is underway in Munich, there are a couple of interesting options for Londoners.

And this is without mentioning the Oktoberfest Pub in Fulham. I’ve never been, so perhaps I’m being judgemental, but from their website it looks awful. Is it connected to the Bavarian Beer House, who are also putting on Oktoberfest fun?

London Drinker has details of other beer festivals coming up.

beer and food london pubs

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.