Friday, July 31, 2009

Day Three, London (updated)

We met just after 10am and laid out a plan: Since most pubs don't open until 11am or noon or even later, we needed a place that opened early. When England had restrictive pub opening hours, a few pubs were granted exceptions and one of those was the Market Porter, in the Borough Market. This was originally a wholesale food market, and so opened in the wee hours of the morning and by 9am or so business was mostly concluded. So the Market Porter would open at 9am for the workers to have a pint after their shift.

On the way from the tube stop (I mistakenly advised we get off at one I thought was closer but turned out in fact to be farther) I noticed a building that used to house a hop factor. Its brewing related architecture and so rated a picture:

Well, the Borough Market today is more a retail market and the UK has eased restrictions on pub opening times. So as we found out to our dismay, the Market Porter doesn't open until 11am, just like a typical pub. Another loss of tradition.

So we decided to walk over to the other side of the market to check out the hours of the new pub in the area, the Rake. While walking by, we noticed the Brew Wharf was open. This is a trendy pub that actually has a small brewing system on the premises. In the evenings it is often crowded with people definitely more posh than a trio of American Beer Tourists, so we haven't spent much time there in our visits over the years. But they do serve a number of the very good Meantime beers from Greenwich.

Our first trio of beers where all Meantime: Kölner, High Saison and London Stout. All were excellent, with the Kölner being perhaps the finest Kölsch style beer I've had brewed outside of Cologne. The Saison, while not up to the standards of, say, a DuPont, was much better than most of the microbrewery examples brewed in California. And the London Stout was downright nourishing.

London Stout, High Saison and Kölner, brewed by Meantime, served at the Brew Wharf

The also had a couple of very modern looking handpubs, so we ordered a half pint of each of them just to check out the beers...

Modern, chrome hand pumps.

The two beers where Wanderlust from Blue Bear and Ferryman's Gold from the Loddon Brewery. We were warned that the Blue Bear had just gone on and would probably be a bit yeasty. Well, for homebrewers that often is a feature not a bug so we said "Pump Away"

Loddon Ferryman's Gold, Blue Bear Wanderlust

Both were nice "morning beers" -- the Ferryman's Gold had some nice hoppiness in the middle and finished a bit (but not cloyingly) sweet. The Wanderlust was a bit cloudy but the yeast gave it a freshness and "bready-ness" that made it a good beer to start off the day.

By now it was well past 11am so we wandered back around the Market, stopping for a quick lunch of roasted meat on a baguette (I had salt beef, Tom had pork and Luis roast beef) we ended up back at the Market Porter.

The Market Porter, Southwark London (Borough Market)

The Market Porter is a must stop for beer tourists visiting London. They have nearly 20 hand pumps with a changing selection of beers. There is always something new to try.

I saw they had the Meantime Helles Bier and since the Kölner was so good, I thought I'd see what the helles was like. Tom had a Arbor Ales One Hop and Luis the Lymestone Stonefaced. Tom could see which hop was used (from the website it must have been "Lubelski" -- a Polish hop that I think is decended from Czech Saaz. It turns out, all three beers looked identical. The Meantime Helles Bier is on the right -- it was kegged not hand pulled so it has more carbonation. As it turns out, that picture could be used for the second rounds of beers as well -- all were pale gold and clear, so I didn't bother taking pictures of them :)

Lymestone Stonechaser, Arbor Ales One Hop, Meantime Helles Bier

Round Two was Hyde's Golden Fine, Skinner's Cornish Blonde and from a hand pump labeled "Secret Brewery" a beer called "Summer Saison."

The Summer Saison was disappointing -- it started off OK, but as it warmed up there was so much diacetyl that it was unpleasant. I managed to finish the half pint, but only because I was determined to leave no beer on the table. The other two were nice and refreshing. The Cornish Blonde was labeled as a wheat beer but you wouldn't know it from the flavor profile. In Germany a wheat beer has to be over 50% wheat and many are 60% or more. I don't think that is true in the UK so it wouldn't surprise me that it only had 25% or so of wheat in the mash.

We decided to have one last round. I went for a Moorhouse Pendle Witches Brew, Luis had a Harvey's Suffolk Best Bitter and Tom chose Oxfordshire Ales British Summer Time.

Harveys Suffolk Best Bitter, Moorhouse Pendle Witches Brew, Oxfordshire Ales British Summer Time

The British Summer Time had quite a bit of sulfur in the nose and a bit in the mouth as well. The Harvey's was as Harvey's always is -- great. The Witches Brew is sometime available in the bottle in California and it was pretty much the same on cask, only fresher.

On the opposite site of the market is The Rake. This is a new pub, just about to celebrate its 3rd Anniversary. They only have two hand pumps but always have some interesting kegged beer and a great selection of US and Belgian beers in the bottle.

The two handpumps had Brewdog Storm and Oakham Ales Helter Skelter. We were familiar with breweries but hadn't had either of these beers so we were looking forward to tasting them.

Brewdog Storm and Oakham Ales Helter Skelter

I feel sorrow for the Helter Skelter -- it was a nice beer but the Storm was so bad it overpowered everything. It (the Storm) had so much acetone that it tasted like flavored fingernail polish remover. There was some interesting malt in the background and I really, really tried to get past the acetone but with no success. What was left in the glass is a few cc's less that the picture above.

The Rake has a sign above the bar "No crap on tap" -- not true that day. I really find it hard to beleive that a brewery let this beer out the door and even harder to believe that a publican would serve it. Do you get the picture yet on how bad we found this beer? Usually on a trip we end up with a consensus of the one beer that stand out. Usually it is a good beer. I fear this trip it will be the Brewdog Storm.

They had Schlenkerla Rauchbier (Märzen) as one of their kegged beers, so I had a class of that. It was strong enough to erase the flavor (but not the memory) of the Storm.

We decided we needed something very tradition to reset out pallets and minds, so we wandered down to the Royal Oak, a Harvey's house not too far away.

The Royal Oak, Southwark, London

The Royal Oak is on the corner of Tabard Street and Nebraska Street. Nebraska? Yep. I would love to know the history behind that!

Yes, Virginia it is Nebraska

Since we'd had the Best Bitter at the Market Porter, we went with the Mild, Pale Ale and Armada. Harvey's beers all have a pleasant house character that we assume comes from the yeast. These did not disappoint.

All Harvey's: Armada, Pale Ale and Mild

The Mild was my favorite, though I think the St Peter's Mild we had at the Jerusalem Tavern is still the best Mild of the trip. The others were all quite nice and met expectations.

The interior of the Royal Oak is very traditional, with two rooms separated by the bar. Very comfy and a quite pleasant place to spend an afternoon with a couple of pints for company.

The bar at the Royal Oak

They had two beers none of us had tasted before, plus Tom wanted a cider so we had another round:

Harvey's Olympia and Tom Paine, Thatchers Heritage Cider.

The Olympia I would guess is a summer season, light and refreshing. The Tom Paine is nicely dry hopped with a nice hop bitterness as well. I wondered about the name and it turns out Tom Paine lived in Lewes (where the Harvey's) brewery is before he left for "the Colonies" where he achieved great fame for things other than beer.

We were meeting friend later that evening in Wimbledon so we decided to visit the White Horse Pub in Parsons Green since it was on the way. This pub had a long history of stocking interesting beers but a couple years ago there was a change in management and the beer selection was a bit shaky (and there was fear it might turn into a wine bar) but it seems to have recovered and is back in fine form.

The White Horse, Parsons Green

Among the keg beers where both Sierra Nevada Draught Ale and Sierra Nevada Summerfest -- the latter being one of my favorite bottled beers and I don't think I've ever had it on draft. It was hard to pass up, but I was here to drink British beers, so I did.

We started off with Hook Norton Hooky Dark, Thornbridge Jaipur IPA and Timothy Taylor Ram Tam.
Thornbridge Jaipur IPA, Hook Norton Hooky Dark, Taylor Ram Tam

The Jaipur was as you'd expect, hoppy and stronger than most of the other beers we'd had. It was really the only IPA we'd had that could be called an IPA in the US. The Hooky Dark was disappointing -- too much diacetyl overpowered the dark malts. The Ram Tam was delicious, nice dark malt flavor.

The White Horse has a comfortable "living room" feel to it with cooshy sofas and leather chairs. Its not the traditional English Pub decore but very very confortable none the less.

The White Horse Bar.

We had time for another quick one and so had a Twickenham Pale Beauty, Cottage Brewery Champflower Ale and a Hook Norton Old Hooky. It was such a quick one I forgot to take a picture and take much in the way of notes. I do remember the Old Hooky was much more pleasant than the Hooky Dark and the other two were pleasant golden ales.

So it was oft to Wimbledon to meet some friends at the Brewery Tap (which sadly isn't a brewery). We arrived just as they did and sat down to refresh ourselves after the trip.

The Crooked Billet, Wimbledon Commons

1 comment:

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