Sunday, 26 January 2014

Christmas Crawl 2013 - Reports from the front....

It has been almost a month since your three explorers disappeared into the depths of Kentish Town and Camden to drink, eat and chat. However, today, the weather outside is frightful (erm....that's more than enough Christmas references now...Ed.), so I thought I would get this report all written up.

After a relatively trouble free journey to Tufnell Park, we emerged from the Tube station in rain. Fortunately, it is but a 5-10 minute walk to The Southampton Arms. What a great pub this is. Admittedly, we were the first in, and it was a quiet day, but the luxury of sitting in a good pub, with the real fire being set, fresh pints in hand....difficult to beat. The pub is a single room bar, with somewhere in the region of a dozen beers and ciders on - so one could have a beer festival in one pub. Friendly welcome, and an apology for not having much food on (this isn't a place for burger and chips anyway!. All the beer we tried was well kept, but, and here's a bit of a personal moan, during winter a few more dark beers wouldn't have gone amiss. This place was so good we felt embarrassed to leave after one (the bar team looked like they wanted the company), so we ordered a second and waited for the next lot of punters to add to the growing lunchtime hubbub. I suspect this place may get rammed in the evenings, and it should be.

The rain had now abated, and the weather looked set fair for the rest of the day. Heading south we took a few short cuts through residential areas to appear at The Grafton. I had seen, from their site, that this looked like the place for some decent food and a good beer. Unfortunately, they had forgotten to advertise that their kitchen was closed, and we walked into the staff clearing out all their lines. Oh dear. Still, a very helpful member of staff pointed us at 'Another real ale pub, not far away...' ...Did we look THAT obvious?!?!? The aforementioned pub was the strangely named 'Tapping the Admiral', and it was next on our list anyway. This a corner terrace boozer, and I was expecting some harridan to be shouting 'Get aaat my paaaab' at any moment. But no, we were well looked after. A smaller selection of beer, with Adnams seeming to feature strongly. And lunch. And here's the thing. I have experienced this in London before; the concept of Thai food in pubs. I was a bit dubious, but the walk, a few pints before hand, a beer in hand....all seemed to add up to a great match for what was really tasty, and pretty cheap, Thai food. Lunch for a fiver, you cannot go wrong!! I still don't understand where the name comes from, but I urge you to not miss this pub out if you're in the area.

And so on toward Camden and Brewdog. I'm sure you already know about the Brewdog ethos. The bar was a little 'industrial', the decor all matching the 'punk' attitude of the brewery. There were a good range of beers on, from the relatively common to the less obvious. I settled for a half of 12 Hop, oured through their 'hopinator' of fresh Galena hops and ground coffee beans. Very hoppy, but not astringent, did get that coffee. We finished on thirds of Brooklyn Chocolate 10% one to be sipped...huge, but lovely. Interesting, I was worryingly waiting for the Craft Beer Co moment of last year, but the prices were somewhat moderated by focusing on their own product.

Continuing southwards, we skirted the back of Euston and hit the Bree Louise. We always seem to get a seat in this pub, yet it always seems busy!The CAMRA card in hand to claim discount we settled for a couple of Christmas brews from the Brains 'Craft' set up. The second Brains 'craft' beer I have had (Boilermaker being the other), and this was similarly disappointing. The beer is never undrinkable, but it just lacks that Ooomph.

 To cap the evening it was but a hop and step to the Euston Tap. This pub is TINY, and you find it in the little mock gatehouse outside Euston station. There is a cider alternative in the gatehouse opposite. The place was busy downstairs, but there are a few tables upstairs up the winding staircase. The place was a bit full to appreciate the range of beers on, but I noticed that there was a Moor beer (so'Hop) that I wanted to taste. This is not a beer for the malt lovers to be was really assertively hoppy!

 Saying our goodbyes, we left Dr B. to the delights of the Victoria line, whilst we took the trip south of river to Waterloo, a welcome pasty and home. A few more places ticked off the list, and added to the growing map of decent beer venues, this tradition is going to get more and more difficult to make different each year at this rate. However, what you got in all the places we visited is the vibrancy of new breweries, new beers, more established breweries upping their game, and pubs opening or changing to accommodate this movement. If this continues, there will be places to discover for years to come.

It is now the day after Burns Night, and I am feeling remarkably fresh. My contribution, for which everyone has my apologies, was the rather average Blackberry Hefe last brewed. Interesting beer this, never really delivered due to mashing too high and fermenting too high I suspect. Thus the body was too light and the clove thing not very pronounced. The blackberries added a nice pink hue to the beer, but what they predominantly lent in taste was a slight sourness. Not unpleasant, but nothing really that good. I think I still have a few litres left....coming near to a drain near you....

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