We may have hit 800 breweries the day before, but our London trip wasn’t over. There were still beers to drink, people to see and more breweries to add to The List.
We started our Friday with an early morning meet up with our friend Phil Lowry at Brew Wharf near Borough Market. Phil asked us to join him and Angelo Scarnera, Brew Wharf’s head brewer, as they brewed up something tasty. In the end, we didn’t help much (except to confirm that using Pioneer hops was a good idea), but we had a lovely morning catching up with Phil, debating American beer politics, and discussing the explosion in the London beer scene.
While hanging out at Brew Wharf, we talked with Phil about our day’s plans which were somewhat in flux. All Chris and I knew was that we wanted to end up at Duke’s Brew & Que, home to Beavertown Brewery. Phil suggested we walk the almost three mile route. Taking up his suggestion, we headed out into the cold. It was a great way to get a bit of exercise and see more parts of the city, especially the up and coming Shoreditch area.
From a number of friends, we had heard about an inaugural beer festival, Craft Beer Rising, that was happening Friday and Saturday. As luck would have it, our path to Beavertown took us past the festival.
Forty-five minutes after leaving Brew Wharf, we arrived at the historic Old Truman Brewery in East London’s Brick Lane. In the last dozen years, the vacant and derelict buildings on the 10-acre site have been refurbished and transformed into spectacular office, retail, leisure and event spaces. We were initially confused about where to go, but a security doorman pointed us in the right direction. Up a short set of dark stairs, we found ourselves at the entrance of a large white-washed warehouse.
Similar of our experience at Great British Beer Festival, we were initially confused by the unfamiliar selection of beers. While there were familiar names like Brains, Brewdog, Fullers and Thornbridge, we were completely at a loss with Two Cocks, Penpont, Offbeat and Dorset. Wanting to try new beers, we ended up randomly guessing based mainly on brewery or beer names catching our eye.
In the end, we sampled over a dozen beers. And despite trying a number of new beers, our stars came from a brewery we were already familiar with. Being a good Californian, Chris’ favorite beer was the keg version Thornbridge Halcyon, a very West Coast Style 7.4% ABV Imperial IPA. With a tagline of “hops, hops & more hops,” Chris also liked the 5.5% ABV Thwaites Thirteen Guns, which was served in the cask room. True to my love for German-styles, my star also came from Thornbridge: Tzara, a wonderfully crisp 4.8% ABV Köln style beer.
Having had our fill of English craft beer, we strolled down Brick Lane passing Shoreditch’s numerous hipster vintage clothing shops to arrive at the Brewdog Bar. I admit that I would have loved to stop in those shops, but Chris was on a mission and I know better than to interrupt a beergeek on a mission.
Despite not being a big beer-type of girl, I was looking forward to going to the Brewdog Bar. It seemed my best opportunity to try some of their not-so-wild-and-crazy beers that I know they have. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way, but it was a great stop nonetheless.
The bar was spacious and the wall of large windows added to the light feel of the place. I imagine it can get pretty packed, but on this late-Friday afternoon, there were only a handful of people chatting quietly over pints. Being Brewdog, there was the potential for this ultra-hip bar to be pretentious. While the bartenders were very hip looking and could easily fit in at Toronado, they were also surprisingly patient and helpful. With their help, I opted for the Libertine Black Ale. At 7%, it was a dark, rich and roasty beer with a heavy mouth feel. The bite of the Simcoe hops came through with a bitterness that proved too much for me. Chris helped me finish it after polishing off his Punk IPA.
Our stop at Brewdog was short and sweet and after just one beer, we were on our way to the final stop of our day: Duke’s Brew & Que, home to the Beavertown Brewery. Earlier in the day, Phil had confirmed that it was a great place to go. We hit the pavement to head to De Beauvoir Town.
We arrived around 4:30pm and food (awesome tasting Southern BBQ) didn’t start until 5pm. No worries, though. We sat down at a table near the bar and warmed up a bit over a few beers. Chris started with a beer from their regular line-up: Neck Oil, a 4.3% Black Country Best Bitter on cask. With some of the highest ABV’s we’d seen on the whole trip, I opted for the 6% Saison 34, a recently released experimental beer from the brewery’s Alpha Series. Using the Dupont strain of yeast, this beer was great!
I can’t say enough good things about Duke’s and Beavertown Brewery. With rustic wooden floors and the smoky smell of BBQ, the atmosphere was warm and inviting. The bartender Elle was super friendly and very helpful (even before we broke out the bottle of Pliny the Elder). As 5 o’clock approached and the dinner hour was commencing, the place started to fill up. It is very family friendly without being annoying and it gives you the sense of hanging out at a friend’s party.
We had a chance to chat with owner/brewer Logan Plant. He was very humble and spent probably 30-45 minutes chatting and tasting beers with us.
Among the tasty treats were Black Betty (7.4% black IPA), Smog Rocket (5.4% smoked porter), and 8-Ball Rye IPA, a 50 IBU 6.2% beer described as being a “mash up of sweet Carapils, spicy Rye and zest West Coast hops.” All of the beers were top-notch and the amazing thing is that the 4bbl brewhouse sits in the kitchen across from the BBQ smokers. (Note: The brewery has recently moved to a larger space, but Duke’s will continue to be Beavertown’s official tap.)
For dinner, we chose the BBQ platter called Duke’s Greatest Hits. It included beef rib, pork rib and pulled pork served with coleslaw, pickled red onions, 2 different BBQ sauces & Texas garlic toast. Everything tasted great and although it was very filling, we couldn’t pass up the “Chocolate Salami” dessert. Cheeky sounding, I know, and we really had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be slices of chocolate rolls, one black and one white, both delicious!
It was a wonderfully cozy end to a fun day. Overall, our London trip had felt like one big meet up with friends, whether the people were new friends, acquaintances or longtime mates of ours, we thoroughly enjoyed sharing beers with everyone. Before our trip, I had thought that London was not one of my favorite places to go (primarily because real ale is not my preferred beer), but my opinion has completely changed. With such an explosion in craft breweries, there is something for everyone’s taste. Even mine. Cheers to one and all for the warm hospitality and a jolly good time!