Being that I have spent a great deal of time over in the UK, I felt it only proper to seek out the effects of the American craft beer revolution within its borders. There are now over 800 microbreweries in England and it is time good craft beer is given it’s due credit in this country. Of course when searching for anything in the British Isles, there is no better place to start then the great city of London. For my journey into the city, I decided to bring a jolly US expat, my buddy Joe, along with me in attempt to fully educate him on the spectrum of what a beer should be.
While I have always been a massive fan of the Real Ales (on the cask), I have also been craving some of those in-your-face hoppy and malty beers from America. Luckily, I happened to find Favourite Beers nearby and stumbled upon Arbor Ales and Thornbridge Brewing Co. among others. Up to this point, I had not found anything on the cask or keg to satisfy my craft beer cravings. However, once in London, it did not take long to find seeds of the revolution being planted.
The first place we visited was the Cask Pub and Kitchen in Pimlico. We went there in hopes of finding a delicious beer or three and were not disappointed. Luckily for us, the pub was having a mini Norwegian festival and had about 6-7 selections from Haand Brewing Co. on keg as well as 4-5 from Ægir (what the hell is that first letter?) Brewing Co. Now if you have read any of our brew reviews you will know I have a love affair with HaandBryggeriet so I was ready to change my pants upon my first glimpse of the tap handles. How about some Røyk Uten Ild (smoke without fire) or instead some Fyr and Flamme (Dutch style IPA)?
Click on the mediocre quality photo of the Norwegian beer menu if you would like to peruse the details some of the beers.
Eventually, we decided to get more than some crisps in our belly and while disappointed we could not order one of the Cask’s gourmet burgers, the Sunday roast dinner provided enough bulk to soak up the Scandinavian malt beverages we had consumed. It was at this point of the night that Joe decided we would be missing my 5-a-side football match and any other pubs for the night when he ordered the Green Hopped IPA on the cask from Dark Star Brewery. I was completely blown away by the harsh, untamed hoppyness of this 6.5% Real Ale. There was an orgy of hop flavors, aromas and bitterness copulating on my tongue. The Green Hopped IPA is truly one of the best beers I have had this year. American Craft breweries may have changed the way we think about an IPA, but this British brewery has turned the concept on its head again. Unfortunately for all of us, this beer is out of season and will require Pliny the Younger-like patience for it’s release next year. After a few proper 20z British pints, we were ready to close this pub down. We finished off with a nice Norwegian Double IPA (the Dobbel Dose IPA) before stumbling to the tube and eventually making it to our couches (well Joe slept on a canine-bed of sorts) in Marylebone.
The Cask and Kitchen Pub is a must-visit for anyone searching for better beer in London!
The next day we visited the Euston Tap , (which I had conveniently stumbled upon the week before with my fiancee). The first thing you will notice about the Tap is the beautiful Georgian architecture of the building, an old guard house, as well as it’s convenient location by the Euston Rail Station. On my first visit, I was introduced to Magic Rock Brewing Co. and their beautiful Cannonball IPA which took me back to the American Pacific Coast. This time however, the bar was hungover from a “Black Friday” (it was a Monday) draught theme, so we were only able to sip dark roasted autumn beer. I was happy with ET’s selection of 20 plus keg beers and 8 cask ales, however, Joe and his new found love of hops was disappointed. I will say though, whether you sit downstairs or upstairs, the Euston Tap is truly one of the coolest places to sip a craft beer.
After our trip to Euston Road, we took the Underground Farringdon to visit the sister bar of Cask Pub and Kitchen, The Craft Beer Co. The Craft Beer Co. is different in that it does not really offer food and therefore the crowd seemed a bit more interesting because people were there only to drink. Much like it’s older sibling, the Craft Beer Co. has around 20 beers on draught and 15 on the hand-pump. We sampled an IPA from Tempest Brewing Co. as well as Caligula, their black IPA and then onto Dark Star’s American Pale Ale on the cask (again, superbly done). At this point my friend and his mate ordered some raspberry wheat beer and shrank their manhood while I stuck with the good stuff going for a hoppy red ale on the cask. After some delicious beer there is nothing like some dirty chicken and lamb from a kebabee across the street at the Chicken Cottage (I am in no way saying this stuff is delicious or healthy).
The next day involved me searching to satisfy my “gourmet burger and a craft beer” craving. Well, luckily for me, while taking night shots of Tower Bridge, I found The Drafthouse. It is literally down the street, on Tower Bridge road. While The Drafthouse did not necessarily have the ambiance, customer service, or prices I was looking for, it did have a decent selection of beer (bottles especially) from around the world. The only IPA on the draft however was the Meantime India Pale Ale, which was quite decent but somewhat lacking in what I have come to expect from an IPA as it was focused on British hops giving it spicy, peppery flavors rather than the citrus of American hops. Eventually I was able to enjoy some St. Lupulin Extra Pale Ale from Odell while enjoying my medium rare, smokey bacon, cheddar burger! The burger was everything I had been searching for since arriving in the UK and went perfectly with an american extra pale ale.
Lastly I made a pit stop at The Rake and was pleasantly surprised to find Magic Rock’s double IPA, Human Cannonball on draft, which was a fine restorative after walking all along the Thames. Conveniently for me, The Rake was in Vinopolis meaning that I could swing by The Whisky Exchange for a sample dram or two before purchasing some Scotch whisky straight from the barrel.
I did not even have time to visit the Meantime and Kernel Breweries among other things as well as several other spots in London promoting Craft Beer and Real Ales. There is so much for one to do in London without even involving a beer. It is a city I have visited many times in the last few years and my tripod-less photos do it no justice. I can only say that you will enjoy your visit to London, no matter how long or short and that you will be able to enjoy some delicious ale (or lager).