Archive for the ‘Beer’ Category

2015

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Bit of a strange year for me. I think, a quiet-ish one. For my own benefit, once more…

Books

I bought a Kindle. As I may have mentioned previously, I seemed to have stopped reading. For the last few years I’ve been hauling unfinished books around with me for a good year or so. I always enjoyed the times I did sit down to read them, they just weren’t very often.

First thing was first, finish the hardback I had been humphing about with me. Which was fantastic. It’s weird, I wasn’t not enjoying it just not motivated, or too bust listeningto podcasts and checking social media. I almost don’t want to name the book, as it was given to me as a birthday gift, when it came out. Which a quick check tells me was six years ago now. But, The Way Home by George Pelecanos is worth recommending. It’s as tough, as touching and as downright exciting as you’d expect from the co-creator of The Wire. I will be reading more of his stuff.

The rest of the reading has been lagely me submerging myself in the good-old trashy thriller or police procedural. About the only recent stuff would have been the new Brookmyres. Read the first Stuart MacBride Cold Granite and looking forward to more (and visitng Aberdeen again – despite him capturing it’s icy miserableness bang on). Read all the Cal Innes books. Mainly down to having picked up the first when it was free years ago, and now having the means to do so. Enjoyed it and felt obligated to buy the rest. (Take note all producers.)

Next year, I’ll do some serious literature. But, I’m back reading!

Film

Movies this year seemed to be predominantly about women. From them kicking-ass in the two best blockbusters (Fury Road and The Force Awakens) to the dreamy Bechdel-busting worlds of The Falling and Duke of Burgandy. The big comedies were Trainwreck (which I didn’t see) and Sisters (which I did, and liked a lot). Then in the last month or so we got Carol. Which is a brilliant piece of film-making. But, for me, it lacks the emotional resonance of the staggering Brooklyn and wonderful Grandma
I could list half a dozen films with strong femal leads that I wanted to but failed to catch. Of course , the fact this is pass-remarkable is only an indication that this is still very much far from the norm. 

There were others. The Oscar fair being particularly good. (Birdman, Whiplash, Foxcatcher.) A couple of brilliantly acted indies; Missippi Grind and 99 Homes. I’m not sure Slow West is worth honourable mention. But, I do keep recommending it to folk. 

While I didn’t see anywhere bar the usual amount of animation (Inside Out and Minions of course), I have to say that I think my favourite film of the year was Shaun The Sheep. It made me happy. 

Music

So, as usual, tons of great shows. Mostly the usual suspects. The trip to Muddy Roots obviously stands out. But, best show must be finally seeing The Julie Ruin. Such a powerful, positive night. 

Continuing on the vague riot feel vibe, my favourite new bands were Slum of Legs and the amazing Big Joanie. Looking forward to more shows and recordings in 2016. 

The album I listened to the most was Coward’s Path by Mishkah Shubaly. Managed to catch him a couple of times. Bought some of his ‘singles’ for the Kindle. Looking forward to him coming back this year. 

I WILL listen to more new music in 2016. (And, this time I mean it.)

Beer

Brewdog seemed to get back on their game this year. The second Born To Die IPA nearly convinced me. Their nitro milk stout WILL win prizes when it becomes official next year. But, most of all, with Abstrakt 19. Complex but balanced. So much going on. Proper grown up beer. 

The where-the -fuck-did-that-come-from staring-at-the -glass- and-giggling award goes to Buxton and Wilderness‘ inspired (the only inspired offering this year) collaboration for The Rainbow Project a smoked orange saison Deep Rainbow Valley. Genius 

And, I don’t like saisons. 

Travel

Iceland
Kentucky and Tennessee

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Written by Tony Kiernan

31 December 2015 at 7:19 pm

Cork City, Cork

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I went to Cork, one of my favourite cities. Drank much good beer. Ate good food. Even ventured to Blarney Castle this time. (Didn’t kiss the stone due to “no bloody way am I going up that staircase” claustrophobia.)

Mostly: saw The Handsome Family. Heaven

Written by Tony Kiernan

30 March 2015 at 9:05 pm

Posted in Beer, Gigs, Ireland

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2014

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Not done this for a while. But, seeing as I’m going to try and keep this damn thing up to date properly next year, let’s call this a statement of intent.

Drink

My thirst for ale continues undiminished. Although I’ve been to many great events and drank many fine beers. It’s a combination thing that stands out as the highlight this year.

Back in June I attended the 3rd annual Brettfest in Amsterdam. (Carnivale Brettanomyces #3) to give it it’s official name) Which, in itself stands out as a beer festival in not being tied to one location. Instead it’s a series of events and beers across the many excellent beer bars of the city. And, instead of brewers showcasing their newest (as if they’re the best) brews, or some unseen hand of god selecting what will be available to the regular palette, this was pretty much a come-hither-come-all for all things farmyard and funky.

When I first visited Amsterdam (properly- we’re not counting that time), I was a little ‘meh’ about it. No doubt I was there for a gig and the location was just a necessity of the calendar. It’s a beautiful city, looks just like you want it to. But, it didn’t grab me quite as much as others. But, like Dublin, repeated necessity of visits has beaten it into me. Now, it’s one of my favourite places to spend a few days, strolling from bar to bar. Have I been back to the Van Gogh Museum? Nope. Visited the Rijksmuseum? Nope. Anne Frank’s House? Nope. The red light district? Well, you know, sometimes it’s the quickest route… Yes, I’m the man that goes to Amsterdam for beer (and rock ‘n’ roll), not any of the stuff it’s reputed for.

Be sure to try the ossenworst.

De Molen are, simply, one of the greatest breweries on the planet. Not only do they have their own tap-list board in Cafe Arendsnest (the dutch-only beer bar). But also, a range of spirits available. This includes their brilliantly named DutchSky (do you see what they did there?). In a wonderful turnaround this is whisky matured in beer barrels. It’s smooth peppery lush-ness. It makes me want a bottle (how much?!?!) and reminds me I need to drink more whisky.

The festival was als omy first experience of Brouwerij Het Uiltje. All of whom’s beers made me sit up and note the owl device. I’ve been lucky enough to try some others of their beers since then and can confirm that they seem to be making some very fine libations. In fact, the Meneer de Uil (Mr Owl) mortlach barrel aged stout would make me happy to drink nothing else ever again. Only the second beer I’ve ever had from a Mortlach barrel and also exemplary. I reckon there should be a queue outside the distillery waiting for their cast-offs. I really must return to the shop I got this from, see if there’s any more. No, I’m not telling you which one.

But, the most notable beer of the year goes to Watford’s Popes Yard and their, frankly bonkers, Keeping Porter. A brett-aged porter served from the tap in Amsterdam. Slurped from the bottle in London. It’s black and funky (simile redacted). All licorice and leather. Every mouthful makes you stare at the glass in disbelief. I’m not sure if I even like it, but I am sure I can’t get enough of it.

The pictures

2014 should be noted as the year I went back to the cinema. OK, I hadn’t really stopped going to the cinema, but definitely not as much. Partially, this is to do with the move to London. No longer did I find myself daily passing an 18-screen-plex on my journey home from work. Now, I have my geography sorted out a bit more. I’m swinging back into it. and, can I say what a year to have done so? It seems to me that there have been more totally excellent movies this year than any I can think of. At least for a long time.

In any other year Frank or Calvary or The Wind Rises or even Under The Skin could well have been my favourite film. Even a sub-par Coen Brothers offering (which I find myself really wanting to see again) is always in with a shout. But not 2014.

There were two seriously big Hollywood movies this year that completely grabbed me. Guardians of the Galaxy seems to have pleased everyone. And, that’s kind of it’s appeal. The plot (what there is) is patchy. It has some dodgy sexual politics. And, the female characters (despite being the interesting part of the storyline) are marginalised. Yet, it still managed to be the much sought after rollicking rollercoaster ride that a superhero/comicbook movie should be.

The most interesting sci-fi film for me was Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow. Yup, you read it right the Cruise. EoT was originally called something like This Movie Plays Like A Video Game. Which could be how it was pitched to the studio. But anyone that describes it without reference to Groundhog Day is a disingenuous poser. It’s a whip-smart, surprisingly funny, timeslip movie (is that a thing?). With a great performance from Cruise in his slimy sleazeball mode. A reminder of why he is where he is. The obvious for-3D sequences kinda hold back what should be the cleverest sci-fi movie since Looper.

There were also some excellent, what I’d call, B-movie style genre-piece thriller malarkeys. Great Thesping all over the shop with amnesia whodunnwhat Before I Go to Sleep. Stellan Skarsgård being none more bad-ass in In Order Of Disappearance. (I must go back to Norway.) The very welcome return of Renne Russo in the grimy Nightcrawler. But mostly, and FINALLY, someone makes a decent stab at a Joe R Lansdale book in Cold in July. Which bodes very well for the upcoming Hap & Leonard TV series from the same folks.

The 70s got wheeled out a bit this year. Crowd-sourced coming of age story Northern Soul looked like my childhood. It was insane. The tale of pills, vinyl and paranoia. Not so. Well, not the 70s bit anyway.

Yann Demange’s, I think, feature debut ‘71 is just gobsmackingly tense. Set in Belfast in the eponymous year it tells the story of a young soldier (a brilliantly monosyllabic Jack O’Connell – apparently the one to watch) separated from his squad during a riot and attempting to get home across the burning barricades and flying petrol bombs.

Plotwise it might sound like Green Zone, but really this is more like a dark, dark After Hours (with extra helpings of menace), it’s series of incident and meetings across the city. Never knowing if they’re friend or deadly foe. And, sometimes that doesn’t matter. O’Connell does amazing things with very little dialogue, and an awful lot of hiding round corners. As does Demange, creating a terrifyingly other-worldly feeling of the night in a dangerous city. He uses shakycam stuff to brilliant effect. Yeah, you heard, good use of shakycam!

But, the real genius in here is the complete lack of polemics. A rarity in any movie dealing with the troubles. This is a story set in NI. But it could be anywhere. Gaza. Mars, even. There is a real sci-fi feel to bits of it. Escape From New York with real, actual, peril. It doesn’t shy away from the issues, some major plot points hinge on them. It certainly has something to say. Sure, it wouldn’t be a complete review of it without quoting the description of the army therein: Posh cunts telling thick cunts to kill poor cunts.

Of course, there was Boyhood. I don’t understand why this is so good. How a human hand created such a piece of work. Which should be the case with all great art. A film in which nothing happens. And, EVERYTHING happens. Just stunning.

But, it’s Blue Ruin that I keep coming back to. It may not have been the most original plot, yet the central performance and general pacing and atmosphere just got me. Brilliant stuff.

All of this, is being written when there’s a list of recent releases I haven’t got around to seeing too. I have great hopes for a few of those.

PS. I forgot Mr Turner. Which, I loved. I’m sure there are others. It’s just been a brilliant year.

Tunes

Every year, I swear blind I will hear more new music. Every year, I completely fail to do so. So, mainly a line-up of the usual suspects. Some excellent gigs from the True Detective-boosted
Handsome Family. A trip to Berlin for Slim Cessna’s Auto Club (and, as you read this I should be lying face down in some Colorado beer or green chilli in preparation for their annual New Years’ shows). The Jesus & Mary Chain resurrecting Psychocandy was fantastic. I guess I’m getting to that age. Nostalgia tours from hereon in.

Always welcome is a new album from Half Man Half Biscuit, and the made up for the previous Shepherd’s Bush debacle with a stonking show this year (or more specifically, the soundman was better). Finally, that new album from The Phantom Band arrived. With some smoking hot dates to promote it. (And, whoopee! Another album on it’s way early in the new year. Hopefully yet another by the end :))

Last of the old hands (and mouths) was Sparks. After last year’s stripped back shows, what could they do? Celebrate the 40th anniversary of Kimono My House by performing it live with full orchestral backing. Obviously. And, boy, they didn’t half.

The second half ‘greatest hits’ set. Featured a version of The Number One Song In Heaven that cemented that title as whatever the opposite of hyperbole is. (Lytotes?)

The Amazing Snakeheads, who I caught at the Wickerman (in other news, I was back at Wickerman!!), and thoroughly enjoyed, were pretty new. Picked up their album Amphetamine Ballads. It’s entertaining. But, like everything about the band, just not quite enough of something. They’re neither proper gang scary enough, not cartoon rocking enough. Still good, though. Seeing them again in bigger shinier venues, you kind of suspect where they might be going. It’s fun for someone young and Scottish to be doing something at least a bit novel.

Really 2014 has been all about the girls, the girls, the girls, no penis*.

First up being St Vincent. She delivered an album of some of the smartest pop music I’ve heard in quite some time. I’ve tried to look all with it and love Taylor Swift. But, Birth In Reverse is worth 100 Shake It Offs (yes, I had to look that up) any day. Not only is Ms Clarke a writer of razor sharp sexy-space-disco classics, she’s also a total guitar hero. Part Jit-groove finger picking, part-artwank shredding. It truly is one of the most original and exciting styles I’ve seen since Wilko.

I was also lucky enough to catch her tour for the album twice. In which she managed to rock, excuse cool perfection and do the art thing to an extent that never tipped over in to po-faced pretension with just the right seam of humour.

I’d had been intrigued by Angel Olsen when I caught her as support for Neko Case. She released the album Burn Your Fire For No Witness early in the year. As is the case these days, she then started to appear across my social media accounts performing on chat shows and in many a college radio station across the states. It becomes more than intrigue. I bit the album. It’s great. It is redolent of a certain type of indie that was never quite as good as it should be. But, as good as that stuff should’ve been. Does that make any sense whatsoever?

Live, this time with a full band, she still was hypnotic. Marvellous stuff. Just the right side of weird. It all seemed to be going well. We got some joking and stuff from the stage. Yet, we all stood there for ages, clapping and begging. She hadn’t done High Five. There was a glaring encore shaped space for it to slot into. This house lights came up.

For the new to me, for the year, it has to go to Perfect Pussy. As their name on the line-up for events and festivals I fancied, I googled the band. Buoyed by the fact their Bandcamp page came back as the top result, and those little images previewed in the image search panel, I clicked in the image search. At work. I have quite a large monitor. I work in IT. I’m meant to know. I are a idiot.

So, I bought the cassette EP they had for sale (as a download, London hasn’t changed me that much. Yet). It was just so URGENT. It demanded your attention. This was not in any small part down to force of nature that is the band’s front Meredith Graves. Look her up, there are a ton of articles out there by her that are some of the most perceptive writing on music/politics/culture in years. Gobby and smart, just how we want our punkers.

The album Say Yes To Love came along. (It encompassed the aforementioned EP.) More of the same. Exactly what was required. It rounded out their vision. It’s not all protest. There’s a deep humanity in that anger. Y’know, just how we want our punkers.

Towards the close of the year, I finally got to catch them live (having missed all the festivals and events that made me aware of them). Boy, it was exhilarating. Am I selling the band short focussing on the singer? Possibly. They may be the Ray Manzerek of spiky guitars and the Robbie Krieger of pounding drums etc. Do I need to complete that metaphor…? We have a new and essential talent on the block (please stop me).

I love a bit of music I does. And beer. And movies. And theatre and comedy and podcasts and tons of other stuff that’s been pretty awesome this year (have I told you about seeing David Simon?). Must try harder and get recording these things. If only for myself. And I need to read more books. That’s a terrible habit to have gotten out of.

*OK, the sex or gender of an act shouldn’t really be anything to define them by. But c’mon, it’s christmas. Allow me a terribly zeitgeisty joke.

Written by Tony Kiernan

01 January 2015 at 12:00 am

IPA is Dead 2014

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It’s odd to think, but back in 2011 when Brewdog put out their first four IPA is Dead beers, the concept of a single-hopped beer was wild and whacky to me. Of course over that time, my beer-geekery has come on leaps and bounds, and now I’ve lost count of the number of weird dank ‘experimental’ glasses of murk I’ve waded through (ok, and the fabulous piney, fruity, bitter tastinesses too). And, the brewery have put out a set of four annually, and a couple of one-offs. Which brings us to this years release.

2014:  The same 7.2% base beer flavoured and dry-hopped with four different single hops.  Happy to see the bump in strength (although short of the 7.5% of 2001 – the best year) as the previous two 6+ offerings have been pretty poor.

So, I ordered a case of these.  I’ve had them at various points, most times of the day.  I’ve also tried each at least once on tap in one of the bars.  For the purpose of this I’ve drank each over the course of the weekend (to avoid the old hop-burnt tastebuds), and in alphabetical order (was as good an order as any) to finalise my thoughts.

Amarillo

“Every time I see that name the song goes through my head”.  Me too.  Although, not the same song.  Personally it’s always Gimmick by The Cult.  Still to this day, despite (or perhaps because of) having learnt years ago that the lyric in question is a mondegreen.

Pours to the dark-side of golden (not quite copper).  With about a centimetre of clean white head.  Big floral notes on the nose, at first.  Fruitiness afterwards.  Initial mouthful, tropical flavours ahoy. A little bubblegum.  With grassy undertones.  A surprisingly sweet finish, and a really nice bitter (hurrah) finish.

None of which you probably couldn’t have guessed.

What’s particularly impressive about this is just how well balanced it is.  When everyone is competing to come up with the next cheek-shredding hop-bomb, its nice to see the (self-styled) enfant terribles come up with something ever so slightly understated. Even, dare I say, mature?

Comet

This guy definitely seems a lot more coppery; a ginger-tinge to it.  Which may or my not prove relevant.  Much much less on the nose, but a definite gumminess.  I assume that’s what folks would usually call resin.  But, there’s a vague whiff of spearmint chewing gum; like cheap Iron Brew (that spelling) always had.  And, it’s there in the first taste.  With a big peppery undercurrent, it makes this quite ‘hot’ to drink.  Like a fizz-burn from an over carbonated soft drink.  We’re back at that other Scottish beverage of choice, aren’t we?

Yup, Irn Bru beer.  Obviously, it’s nowhere near sweet enough.  And the finish has a very pleasing bitter, dryness. Over time that fruit/gum combo marries to the pepper to an almost ginger (as in root, not bottled) flavour.  But, this is my 5/6 time having this and always my thoughts return to the great amber icon of the homeland.

File under Interesting.  You’d have this over any of last year’s offerings.  It’s well drinkable. I don’t see anyone forsaking the Amarillo in favour, though.

Exp 336

See?  This guy looks lighter in colour than the last, but darker than the first.  Which makes no sense, the hops shouldn’t affect that.  Weird.  This is excessively honeyed on the nose.  Like over ripening.  Which carries through to the flavour.  You know when you buy a melon or other tropically-typed fruit and leave it lying about too long because they tend to be a bugger to eat, and usually too big for just one person.  Then, when you do get round to it it’s right juicy an on the border of past it?  Yeah?  This is like that.  Slight bitterness on the finish.

You wouldn’t choose to do it all night.  But could.  Without complaint.

Kohatu

Smells like all of the above.  Have I got to the point of over-thinking this?  There’s something near candy in the aroma.  The resins, the pepper, the tropics, yes.  But, mostly that sweetness.  Can you smell sweetness?

Taste: Similar.  All of the above.  No real individual character.  Just everything going on at once.  Fruity. Spicy.  Floral.  Honey mouthfeel.  The bitterness is in there, but more dryly.

Odd.  But, not unpleasant.  Like them all, an interesting and enjoyable beer.  I guess there’s reason most beers use a blend of hops.

Conclusion:

  • I like beer.
  • These are better than the last two years.
  • All worth a look.
  • The Amarillo is the best, but that’s like saying you preferred the pasta with oregano* to the one with just chervil; there’s a reason why that one gets used most.
  • All of these beers tasted better now than straight out the box.
  • I like beer

*Citra or Nelson S would’ve been analogised with Basil.

 

Written by Tony Kiernan

27 April 2014 at 8:38 pm

Posted in Beer

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Thanksgiving at the Union Tavern

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In the middle of last week, the sad news came through that the Catford Bridge Tavern had closed it’s doors and returned it’s keys to it’s owners. Barely a week goes by without there being some story about x number of pubs a week closing. And, while there may be a panic in the industry, it seems more that the market has changed and those that innovate and can change to meet demands will out. Were it not always thus? The CBT, did not close due to plummeting sales and empty tills, but was the victim of a moneygrabbing landlord (in the property sense, not the Al Murray one) looking for a quick buck*.

While the vertical drinking establishments and Punch carveries may be struggling, a new breed of independent pubs are opening. Pubs where the focus is on quality rather than quantity. And, they seem to be thriving. It’s a new business model. Destination pubs rather than just the local. I’m reminded of record labels itching about falling sales, while releasing less titles and ignoring the new technology that is not going to go away. Some (admittedly small) real ale brewers are seeing the possibilities and embracing the change (stand tall Brodies).

So, say what you like about Fuller’s, and god knows I have – boom-tsch! – they have an interesting place in this new drink market. If the Craft Beer Revolution(© some cocknocker) is driving these changes, it is generally accepted that their ESB was a spur for small american brewers to try to make something a little bit more interesting. So, a big influence if not ally a player. Yet, despite the occasional good pub (hello The Ship, on Wardour Street – I stick to the cider), they are almost archetypal in their old-fashioned unchanging tied-pub format. They seem strangely above criticism too, I’m told by a few proper beer writers this is because they throw the best junkets and no-one wants to be excluded from the invite list.**

But, now we have the Union Tavern (past Westbourne Park just under the Westway) up the wrong end of Notting Hill. A it is these days, word had passed own through the digital grapevine that a pub, not close but close enough to my work, was getting a very nice reputation. For as hipster as it may seem round them parts ,you’re still lucky to find somewhere with a couple of bottles of Sierra Nevada in the fridge. The Union Tavern does not disappoint. A set of well conditioned casks showcase some fine London ales, a couple of ciders and some Fuller’s ones. Keg taps carry offerings from some of the best brewers in the uk, with an understandable London slant (again, when this means two Kernel beers on, I say slant more). It’s the usual junkshop chic, but done with a proper eye. The place is comfortable and cosy where it needs to be. But, big (stripped, of course) tables mean a decent sized party can eat in comfort. (Amazing how few places consider that.) And, what food they could eat, a small menu offers fantastic American-styled offerings. It’s all whiskey glazed ribs, brisket sandwiches and the chefs secret baked beans recipe. Add to that friendly, informed staff and we’re rocking. Top it with a pub quiz matched with £5 burger night.

The agendaOne of the regular events they have is We Need To Talk About Beer pretty self explanatory. Following a tweet about not enjoying the landlords beer (among man I did) one night I found myself crowbarred into the remaining empty place on the Thanksgiving night celebration of american beers.

Writers Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham in addition to writing books on pretty much everything quaffable, have made the book signing into an art form as Thinking Drinkers. Tonight, they are our hosts, drawing heavily on their book Good Beer Guide West Coast USA, and what’s in the cupboard here.

[See photo for full beer listing ==>] I was familiar with most of the beweries lined up for the tasting, if not the beers.  Brooklyn‘s special Local beers have never really sparked my interest enough for me to fork out for them.  TBH, I’ve been probably more underwhelmed by this brewery than any other.  Even sat at that table in Katz’s Deli I could only muster a ‘meh’ for the ale specially brewed for them.  So, their special Belgian style beers are probably as far from something I’d want to try as you can get.  Still underwhelmed.  If pushed, I’d sat the No 2 had more substance than the No 1.  (Oh, yes I did!)  I have drank the excellent Flying Dog‘s Kujo plenty of times, but never has it been as good as tonight.  Wracking my brains, I come to the conclusion that it’s the first time I’ve had it bottled.  Possibly a bit older than usual too.  All I know is it’s a fantastic coffee stout, as style very easy to make a dog’s dinner of (ok, that I apologise for).

There is food laid on; smoked turkey (amazing) with thanksgiving wings and stuffing balls, served with cranberry sauce, corn on the cob, and sweet potato with marshmallow.  The latter, nowhere near as appalling as you would imagine, but something I have no intention of ever eating again.

New beer and brewery to me was the final Unita Brewing XVI. Interesting because, well, it’s from Utah which is home to good friends of mine, and largely Mormon.  Again, we’ve got them sneaky yanks taking our tired old heritage ales and returning them back to us bigger an better.  This time the barley wine.  I’s good enough to get me thinking “If I could only drink one style of beer for the rest of my days…”

And, all in a Fuller’s pub.  I hope this is an experiment.  Testing the waters.  Should they be giving their bar managers the discretion and freedom to do things like this (the whole place, not just the excellent event).  Yes, yes, and again yes

*As far as I can make out, the council listened to the complaints and put a block on the change of purpose. The CBT folk say this is very much not over. Fingers crossed.

**I do, of course, appreciate the irony in making that allegation

Written by Tony Kiernan

25 November 2012 at 6:32 pm

Posted in Beer, Drinking, Food, London

Catford Bridge Tavern

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I’m fooling no-one with my claims to some sort of authenticity living in the heart of Lewisham. It may have only been this century that I started coming to London on a regular basis, but even in this much neglected corner of the south-east, can I see the creeping hand of gentrification. Not only am I living right on a visible crest of it, I’m very probably one of the indicators too.

On as Saturday, it’s just as easy for me to take a walk up the ‘proper’ market for sacksful of cheap veg as it is to go get some brunch at Brockley Market in the other direction. And, if I’m honest, that really suits me.

Pubs round here can be a bit hairy. While I love that my local is populated by old Jamaican guys in pork-pie hats, drinking Guinness, playing poker and getting locked in until I’m leaving for work; it’s not really somewhere I frequent. Mostly this is down to the poor beer selection. There is, of course, a Wetherspoons but it’s one of those ones; fine for a passing pint (always has Old Rosie) but not really a destination. There’s a couple of places that carry premium lager and the occasional decent guest ale. At least they’re trying.

So, thank the Lord for Antic, more a pub collective than chain. Any interesting pub, slightly off the obvious beaten track, in south London (and increasingly elsewhere) has about a 75% chance of being affiliated to them. I’m pleased to have three within what I could call (but would rather not) staggering distance from the flat. First, furthest and foremost of these is The Catford Bridge Tavern.

Nestled between the Catford stations (bridge and plain old – it confused me), the CBT is big traditional English pub straight out of central casting, all beams and red brick. Al that’s missing is the thatch, really. Inside its junk shop chic, and deceptively cosy. It uses multiple rooms to provide a ‘proper’ bar, lounge area and larger surprisingly bright and airy dining space. Which is a good thing, as the food is excellent. Or, let me be more specific, the starters are excellent. TBH, every time I’ve eaten there we’ve ended up grabbing a bunch of smaller plates (cod cheeks, Spanish cured meats platter – with accompanying sherry, potted duck/crab, and so on) and sharing them. And, as yet, not one of them has been duff. I’m willing to do the research to find out though. Yup, I’ll take one for the team.

But, of course, most importantly, the beer is excellent. A good mix of cask and ciders, excellent local ales and the occasional special from further afield. Excellent selection of bottles and some hipper kegs. There’s a near permanent Kernel tap. What more do you need know? Must check out their wine list some day.

But, all is not well. The owners of the building the CBT is in have applied for planning permission to change the building to a supermarket. Like the one next door. To put this in some sort of perspective, Google maps reckons it is 2 miles from my gaff (as we Londoners call our pied-à-terre) to the bar. Over that distance, I can think of 6 variations on major chainstores. Not even considering the independent traders. Needless to say, the pub has started a campaign. If you live in the borough of Lewisham, please take a look, and take 10 minutes to contact your councilor.

CBT, has always been a welcoming place for me. I’m looking forward to long winter nights gathered round the fire in there. With the regularly quoted stats of x number of pubs closing a week, lets not force those that want to keep trading to become another statistic. Or, worse, another bloody Tesco Metro.

Written by Tony Kiernan

12 November 2012 at 8:33 pm