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A convicted cocaine smuggler who runs London Fields Brewery has been arrested on suspicion of tax evasion after a dawn raid at his home. Jules de Vere Whiteway-Wilkinson was detained after officers from HM Revenue and Customs arrived at his house in Stoke Newington to question him about allegations that he has been failing to pay VAT at the London Fields Brewery. This is according to the Propel Newsletter. Whiteway-Wilkinson has run the brewery since his release from a 12-year prison sentence imposed in 2004 for his role as the leader of a cocaine-smuggling gang that supplied drugs to celebrities and music industry figures.

I have to admit that when I was in London a year ago, the tap room at London Fields was one of the highlights of the weekend. Oh, well.

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Congratulations to Boak & Bailey, who were named the Beer Writers of the Year by the British Guild of Beer Writers. If you haven’t bought their Brew Britannia book already, it’s time to do it. And follow their blog – lots of good beer writing, including good links to others.

 

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I don’t read many beer books. As a matter of fact, I buy slightly more beer books than I actually read. I interact a fair bit with other beer bloggers, but I don’t even read them as systematically as I did. The demise of Google reader is partly to blame.

A blogging duo which I have followed for years is an exception.Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey have a love of language as well as a love of beer, and, have a personal voice between them that is personal, not private.
They moved out of London and settled in South Western England some years ago, showing yet again that you dont have to be based in a major city to play a part in the beer writing community.
They have been open about their bigger projct for a long time, putting together a history of British beer over the last five decades, starting with the early beginnings of The Society for the Preservation of Beers in the Wood  (SPBW among friends) and CAMRA and ending up with the fantastic diversity of today.
They have researched this in depth, using a long list of printed and oral sources. Their blog has been used cleverly for crowd sourcing information.
The result, Brew Britannia,  is impressive. It is a story of businesses that thrive or fail, of consumer rebellion, of enthusiasm and organizational strife. And, given the topic, a story of English eccentricity told in such a way that a smile and a chuckle is never far away.
In addition to the well told main part of the book, there are appendixes and comprehensive notes, even an index, which you don’t find too often nowadays. (You’ll even find me in the index, which is, come to think of it, even rarer).
When you write a book like this, you have to choose what to include and what to leave out. I have followed the British beer scene for most of this period, and I did not find any omissions to point out.
Go ahead. This won’t end up on the shelf with the unread beer books. And it’s in paperback, meaning you can read it on the bus, which is more than you can say about the heavier tomes full of glossy photos.

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The Beatles and beer

There have been the occational discussion about the Beatles and their relation to beer in the blogsphere, but with rather meagre results. I’ll come back to this when I’ve finished the first volume of Mark Lewisohns comprehensive biography, where I belive there will be information about Liverpool beer and pubs.

Meanwhile, here is a photo from Sir Paul’s web site, one of many Linda McCarney photos featured in a new exhibition opening in France in February.

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Jeff Knut

I told you I won’t give any proper coverage of our London visit, but I must mention this particularly.

We had spent the afternoon and early evening doing brief stops at a number of pubs. Some of them we knew beforehand, like Cask Pub and Kitchen and the Euston Tap. My aim was to end up fairly early in the evening at the Gunmakers Arms, where two of the early activists of the beer blogsphere are to be found, behind the bar, Jeff and Alessio.

I was welcomed warmly – I have met Jeff some time over the years, while I was in touch with Alessio during the time I visited Italy fairly frequently.

The Gunmakers is still doing very well, with a good range of well kept cask ales.

I’m happy to report that Jeff is also opening a new pub in Earls Court, or to be exact, if I got it right, reopening a pub that has been closed for quite some time, the Finsborough Arms. It will not be a brewpub, but in the beer range you’ll find  recreations of classic beers unearthed by the legendary Ron Pattison. Six keg beers, eight hand pumps.

Opening on 28 February. Jeff’s birthday.

Jeff even promised that he’ll start blogging again.

If you want updates, follow @FinboroughArms on twitter.

Thanks to Ole Richard for the photos.

Gunmakers

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Sorry.

No time for writing up any comprehensive blog posts on pubs, beer shops or the general feeling of being back in London in December once more.

It was a nice unpretentious weekend with two mates, and, while we tried to cover quite a few pubs, we did not aim for a maximum number of beers or breweries. The choice is staggering compared the London I used to know, perhaps I’ll try to come back and cover it better in the future. And our Facebook friends got live coverage the weekend we were there….

So, just a few highlights:

The London Fields brewery tap.

After passing two pubs that did not open until four in the afternoon, this was a great place to end up. Nine beers on tap, including some one-offs, and you get 1/3 pint samplers at a reasonable price. Industrial/punk style, concrete, glass and plywood. There are windows between the tap room and the brewery. Relaxed on a Friday afternoon. Good beers, we particularly noted that the quality was consistent across the range. Impressive from a newcomer.

A return visit to the Cask Pub and Kitchen, good food and a great range of beers. A Saturday evening  visit to the sister establishment, Craft Clapham, which was quite insane. It was the night after opening, and it was packed with Christmas partying. The beer was, however, excellent, with inventive brews far beyond what English beer used to be . A Berliner Weisse from Magic Rock is a good indicator.

Some good Fuller’s pubs in West London, the highlight being the canal side Union Tavern.  If you didn’t know this was a Fuller’s House, you would not guess it. It is really a sign of the changing times that there is a fine range of beers from several London breweries available. And the setting by the Grand Union Canal must be spectacular in the summer. Just a few minutes from Westbourne Park tube station.

CASKdec2013

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There’s a room in a house in a street in a manor in a borough
That’s part of a city that is generally referred to as London
It’s a dark place, a mysterious place
And it is said that if you’re born within the sound of Bow-Bells
You have the necessary qualifications to be christened a Londoner
[It’s a cruel place, it’s a hard place]
But when you think back to all the great Londoners
William Blake, Charles Dickens, Dick Whittington,
Pearly kings, barrow boys, Arthur Daley, Max Wall
And don’t forget the Kray twins.

Ray Davies –London Song

I make no claim to have the necessary qualifications to be christened a Londoner. But I used to visit London at least annually.

A week every year.

For decades.

I explored the city. On foot, by bus, by tube. I went on guided walks, I bought guidebooks.

I explored the pubs in number of boroughs, usually sticking to Young’s Special or Fuller’s London Pride.

But times changed. There were pubs with a broader range of beers. There were beer festivals. Utobeer and the Rake offered exiting American import beers. BrewDog entered the scene. Young’s disappeared.

The last four years I have only visited once. I have tried to follow the developments, but I cannot claim to have my finger on the beer pulse of London the way I used to.

Time to do something about that. Time for a pre-Christmas visit. In particular, it is time to get so know some of the dozens of new London breweries that have emerge over the last few years. Many of them are clustered in East London. Hackney seems like the centre of gravity right now. And my research shows that on the weekend I am in town, there are two events in the area worth visiting in addition to breweries, pubs and brewpubs.

There are four of us from Oslo going to London for an oval weekend. The other three have more knowledge of beer and brewing than I do. But I know a thing or two about advance planning.

We are talking Friday 6 December, starting at lunchtime. Anyone is welcome to join, get in touch about more exact timing.

Start: Old Street Tube Station.

Or Shoreditch High Street, if that’s more convenient.

There used to be a rather good beer shop around here some years ago, carrying the Pitfield range of beers brewed to classic English recipes. That’s history.

But we have a good alternative. The first stop is a something really special. A pop up beer shop.

The Wanstead Tap is a moveable feast,  selling beers at festivals, farmer’s markets and other event. It  has settled for two weeks in 87 Leonard Street in Shoretditch.

As far as I can understand, the concept is simple: Bottled beers from the London breweries. According to the East London and West Sussex Guardian, this is a case of true love for beer: A father of two has given up a successful career in television to dedicate his time to promoting beers brewed locally. I have already asked him to reserve something specialfor me. Have a look at the Facebook page if you are looking for something out of the ordinary..

I haven’t been to any of the BrewDog bars yet, and BrewDog Shoreditch is just up the road. 51 Bethnal Green Road. Maybe a swift one? www.brewdog.com

 

The question is if the Redchuch Brewery on 275-276 Poyser Street is worth a detour? I may be convinced. On the other hand, their beers might be available later in the day, too.

I think we will jump on a bus going north. Just before the road crosses the Regent’s Canal, the first brewery of the day is Hackney Brewery, just to the left. in Laburnum St. They don’t seem to be open to the public, but I have e-mailed them.

The next stop is across the Canal. It used to be the home of Beawertown Brewery, but they have moved on. But Duke’s Brew and Que is still the brewery tap. And, dangerously, they have around ten of their beers on keg or cask. Not to mention bottles.

I think I’ll have a Bloody ‘Ell Blood Orange IPA.  

Adress: 33 Downham Road, De Beauvoir Town

After this it is probably sensible that we strech our legs, and our next target seems to be about a kilometre due east. Perhaps we will walk along the towpath.

London Fields Brewery has a core range of session beers and more challenging stuff in their Bootlegger Series.
The brewery and brewery tap: 365-366 Warburton Street. Gift packs of beers to take away are available.

If the weather and overall condition is up to it, we can continue walking. The alternative is to get on a bus along Mare Street towards Central Hackney.

Pressure Drop Brewing is located in a railway arch, but don’t have a brewery tap. I think we’ll have a fair chance of sampling some of their beers in the Cock Tavern, which I seem to recall as a rather grim establishment in its previous incarnation, but presumably gentrified along with the rest of the area. According to the Craft Beer App, there are chances of us finding beers from the otherwise elusive Happy Collie brewery from West London there. And, conveniently, the Cock Tavern has its very own Howling Hops Brewery at the premises. 315 Mare Street.

Just a few minutes away, Five Points Brewing is close to London Fields station. I thought I would e-mail them to ask them if they want visitors. But I don’t think we will be up to a serious presentation of a brewery at this stage.

It’s dark by now. But the Pembury Tavern, across the street, is like a beacon. It is actually the only stop on the route that I have visited before. 16 hand pumps, including a fine range from the Milton brewery. 90 Armhurst Road.

The sensible thing now is to return to wherever we came from. Eat some junk food and go to sleep. But there is a beer festival. The City and East End CAMRA Pig’s Ear Festival. With lots of one off beers from London breweries. It’s in an old chapel (!) in Powerscroft Road. Lots of friendly natives. Come on. Just for a pint?

London Beers listed for the festival include brews from

  • Beavertown
  • Belleville
  • Brew by Numbers
  • Brew Wharf
  • Brodies
  • By the Horns
  • Clarkshaw’s
  • Crate
  • East London
  • Five Points
  • Fourpure
  • Hackney
  • Howling Hops,
  • Kernel
  • London Brewing
  • London Fields
  • Moncada
  • Partizan
  • Pressure Drop
  • Redchurch
  • Redemption
  • Strawman
  • Tap East
  • Truman’s
  • Weird Beard
  • White Hart
  • Wild Card.

That makes 27. And, while there is no way to know which beers are on at any given time, there should be enough for even the most enthusiastic ticker.

Even the affectingly mentioned Pitfield from the beginning of this ramble is listed with a few beers. They have made festival one offs for Pig’s Ear for many years, now they are being brewed somewhere in the countryside.

The festival will also commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Society for the Preservation of Beers from the Wood, which advocates the use of wooden barrels as part of British beer heritage.  Several wooden casks will be featured, including a one-off anniversary special 7% classic Red Ale brewed by award-winning Cambridge Moonshine Brewery.

There is food available at a number of the pubs on the route, I suppose we will be snacking along the way rather than sitting down for a proper meal. Scotch eggs, crisps and beer cover most of the basic food groups.

 

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