Monthly Archives: August 2010

The Duke of Cambridge Organic Pub

The Duke of Cambridge is quickly becoming my favorite pub in our new neighbourhood of Angel Islington.  It’s a bit off the beaten path, but it came highly recommended by both Yelp and Lonely Planet, so we had to check it out.  I’m glad we did because I really enjoy it’s cozy atmosphere and tasty treats.  It’s a completely organic pub, as in every ingredient in all the food and every drink they serve is 100% organic.  I don’t particularly care about the organicness, but I do appreciate the care and attention that goes into their menu.  You can taste the love and it is delicious.  I’ve noticed that the majority of London pubs will have five generic European Lagers on tap and then three casks of similar not terribly exciting British ales.  The Duke of Cambridge breaks the mold by serving interesting beers on tap, cask, and in bottles, with no generic macro brews to speak of.  It’s rare to find stout, porter, and even English lager available in pubs here, and so I especially enjoy the Freedom Dark Lager and both the stout and porter from Pitfields.  While I respect the organic stance the pub takes, what I really like is the overall quality of the food and drink.  Combined with the quieter, relatively hipster free locale and the comfortable and inviting interior, the Duke is my new favorite.

Pitfields Porter at the Duke of Cambridge

Pitfields Porter at the Duke of Cambridge

Cheers,

Chris

Central City Bacon Tasting Menu

Beer loves baconBack in the colonies one of my favorite breweries is doing something extremely rad.  Central City is offering a bacon tasting menu all September using bacon cured with their own beer.  The three course menu only costs $35 and features bacon and corn cakes paired with Red Racer Lager, country bacon terrine with Red Racer ESB, and maple chocolate bacon cheesecake prepared with Red Racer Stout.  Can you believe that? A three course meal and beer pairings for $35 based on bacon, the world’s most delicious food (fat and salt, mmmm)!  I might have to fly back for this.

Cheers,

Chris

Experiencing the Great British Beer Festival

When I let my intentions to attend the 2010 Great British Beer Festival (henceforth to be referred to as GBBF) be known, numerous people let me know not to go on Saturday.  Sadly, having already bought the tickets and being a Monday to Friday working man, Saturday was my only option.  It turns out that most of the good beer is gone by Saturday and the crowds tend to be rather raucous.  I had no problem with the latter, but the lack of quality beer was disappointing. That being said, if you enjoy people watching, Saturday is the day for you.  I will not elaborate; attend next year to see for yourself.

The Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court

The Great British Beer Festival at Earls Court

To give you a bit of back-story, the GBBF is held every year at Earls Court (an enormous convention center in London) the first Tuesday to Saturday of August.  CAMRA UK organize GGBF, which is well attended by hundreds of brewers from around the UK who provide casks of beer.  It costs £8 to get in, another refundable £3 for a tasting pint glass (yes, pint), and then beer can be purchased from various bars in 1/3, 1/2, and full pints at rather affordable prices.  I was used to having my testing vessel at a beer festival come in the form of four ounce taster sized cup and was quite surprised at the full pint glasses on offer.  Luckily, most British beers are lower in alcohol content than typical North American festival beers, so the full pint did not do me in.

Me quite pleased with our pints at GBBF

I was quite pleased with our pints

In searching for quality beer, we did indeed find that almost half of the beer listed was sold out.  We didn’t particularly enjoy what we tried of the other half.  It might be that the beer was starting to spoil after five days sitting in an open cask or that only the poorer quality beer was left, but I was not particularly impressed with the overall beer quality of what I tasted.  I admit that this might have been to do with me lacking in knowledge of the vast number of British brewers and I’ve vowed to do my research in the future.  Next year I’m going to go earlier in the week and come prepared with a list of fine beers to try.  What I am quite sure of is that the beer available at GBBF was nowhere near as adventurous or varied as what you might find at a festival in the Pacific Northwest.  I’m sure the various ales on offer were chock full of subtlety, but subtlety detection seems to disappear after a couple pints.

All the good stuff sold out at GBBF

All the good stuff sold out...

After a few disappointing pints, I stumbled upon the international bar where I found a few of my west coast favorites.  I took comfort in a bottle of one of my favorite beers, Deschutes Black Butte Porter.  I then went back to challenge myself with a 500ml bottle of Green Flash Double Stout.  You might say this did me in.  I’m once again going to complain about the propensity for festival organizers to hold events such as these during the day.  I wasn’t particularly inebriated at 7PM on Saturday, but what’s a slightly inebriated person going to do post GBBF at 7PM on a Saturday?  Carry on, that’s what.  Needless to say, the following Sunday was one of those “I’m never drinking again” days, which usually last me a week.  However, I’m in England now, so I only managed to take one day off.

Festival goers at GBBF

Festival goers at GBBF

All and all, it was a very interesting experience and a fun time, I’ll be back.  Next year, I’m going on a Wednesday night and I’m going to go prepared.  This strategy will hopefully help me come up with some non useless commentary in 2011.

Cheers,

Chris

Brewdog: The End of History

I’ve written about Brewdog and their quest to brew the world’s strongest beer in the past.  It seems they now have some competition in the race to the top and recently brewed an even stronger beer.  First Tactical Nuclear Penguin came in at 32% ABV, then Sink the Bismark at 41%, and now The End of History at 55%.  In case you were wondering, 55% ABV is extremely high for any alcoholic beverage, not just beer.  You would probably drink very small amounts of this from snifters and it would taste something like whiskey.  Only twelve bottles of End of History were made, each came in a dead squirrel and cost £500.  To learn about it’s making, read here.  Be sure to watch the video too, it’s quite funny.

Cheers,

Chris

The Stockholm Beer Scene

I visited some of my gracious extended family in Stockholm last weekend.  I wasn’t sure what to expect of Sweden since you don’t hear too much about it in regards to tourism.  I was thoroughly impressed with Stockhom.  It’s an amazingly beautiful city featuring picturesque architecture amongst the small islands that makeup the centre.  It’s exceptionally clean and I didn’t see any homeless people, which I found shocking coming from the hobotowns of Vancouver and, to a lesser extent, London.  And just as you may have heard, Swedish people are generally blond, tall, tanned, and athletic looking.  If that’s your sort of thing, you might consider them really, really good looking.  To top it all off, Sweden has its fair share of quality craft brewers.  If not for the seven months a year of cold and darkness, it just might be the perfect place.  It’s a bit expensive too, but then you get what you pay for.

Stocholm is pretty

Look how pretty Stockholm is

In Sweden, the liquor industry is intensely government regulated (even Absolut was owned by the Swedish government until recently), even more so than in Canada.  Only beer less than 3.5% ABV can be sold in grocery stores, all other liquor is sold in government stores called Systembolaget.  I went into one to check it out.  There are no shelves of wine and beer for people to grab and take to the checkout.  There are only showcases to let you know what they have.  Once you’ve made up your mind you order from a counter where the clerk goes into the back and assembles your order for you.  I’m guessing they don’t get many shoplifters.  Unlike in Canada where cold beer and wine stores exist to sell you alcohol at inflated prices after the government liquor stores close, Swedes just can’t buy liquor on Sundays.  This is not cool, but at least the stores have a good selection of Swedish and international beer for sale.

The counter at Systembolaget

The counter at Systembolaget

Behing the counter at Systembolaget

Behind the counter at Systembolaget

The beer showcase at Systembolaget

The beer showcase at Systembolaget

We ended up eating dinner at a cool restaurant that had an extensive craft beer list featuring mostly Swedish beers.  The restaurant was called Bakfickan and the food and beer were delightful.  I don’t remember what the beer we had was called, but it was tasty.  I had a really hard time with the Swedish language, reading it, pronouncing it, and remembering any instructions whatsoever.  We North Americans absolutely butcher Swedish, which I feel bad about because most Swedes speak excellent English with very little accent (the Ikea commercials back home are a giant lie). If you were wondering, the food in Stockholm is like what they sell at Ikea, except that it is of much higher quality.  I had meatballs with lingon berry sauce at Bafickan.  We also ate a lot of cold water fish and shrimp in Sweden, often with a dill mayo type sauce.  We found the food in Stockholm to be delicious in general.

Craft beer at Bakfickan

Craft beer at Bakfickan

Our last stop in Stockholm was to Akkurat, a very highly rated beer bar.  They had an impressive array of beer available on cask, on tap, and in bottles, including many Swedish beers and top quality stuff from around the world.  We went Swedish, but again I have no idea what it was.  It was good though.  This place is a must stop for any beer lover passing through Stockholm.

The bar at Akkurat

The bar at Akkurat

Stockholm is rad; you should visit it.

Cheers,

Chris