Its a bar in London, with beer – lots of beer..
I know I should be expecting to recognise much of the draught offering in any given pub by now and I certainly shouldn’t be shocked at the price but I was by both.
I have been working in the real ale trade for 8 years and in that time I have served thousands of different beers (Not just thousands of pints but really and verifiably over 3000 different ales) from hundreds of breweries, most of which I have tasted and a fair few I have happily imbibed (though somewhat less that I would remember a second time) but I still alternate between surprised to find new tastes and surprised to see the same old thing on offer time after time.
So on a trip to London for a friend’s birthday I was happy to go somewhere that advertises 16 cask ales as well as a unique keg and bottled range. The problem was that when I got there I not only recognised more than half of that cask offering but drink at least 5 of them regularly. [Side Note: It is nonetheless gratifying to see a friend’s beer in a big commercial venue and well kept -‘grats Mr. Bingham]
What really struck me was that the range essentially consisted of 2 or 3 beers from about 5 breweries (I did drink a fair amount so please do forgive me for the slightly hazy figures) – was this a conscious choice I wonder? A deliberate effort to allow punters to compare different types of beer by the same company or simply a convenience of cellarage – since beers from a brewery coming in at the same time often have a similar ‘shelf life’? Out of personal preference I have usually avoiding duplicating breweries whilst rotating our selection with intent of creating maximum variety. I would be interested to know whether drinkers out there had a preference for one style or the other.
As you may have guessed I was a little disappointed by the cask selection and moved quickly to halves of continental-style keg offerings which I know less about and therefore proved to be more of an adventure. Within our group we must have purchased two-thirds of the available selection, each passed around for comparison – which is a tactic designed to preserve our livers as well as our wallets since they typically came in at 7% and £4 for a half! And if that sounds wimpish, note that I would be lying if I told you that bottles didn’t find their way to our table too -these busting the bank towards the £10 mark.
It was an interesting experiment for the amateur such as myself and there was enough variety for the more experienced amongst us but the price tag makes it a rare treat – and the atmosphere backed that up, it was bar for trendy youngsters to dabble and fun for it but I doubt that it will get too many londoners interested in real ale or in making it a local.
Verdict: Worth a trip but set yourself a budget, eat before you get there and don’t let the hipsters put you off.